Impatience is not a virtue

4th May 2012 at 01:00

So farewell then, deferred gratification. Its death knell was the announcement that London will soon have its first cupcake ATM; a pink hole in the wall where customers with "late-night cravings" for overpriced cakes will be able to purchase their very own bun with swirls of neon frosting spunked all over its top.

The ATM is the brainchild of a Californian company that opened its first machine in Beverly Hills last month. It's a relief to know that peckish Beverly Hills residents will never again have to settle for jam on toast or the finger-scrapings from a jar of Nutella daubed on a digestive. Nowadays, it seems that having to wait a few hours for your nearest shop to open is tantamount to an abuse of human rights.

The belief that we deserve to have everything "now!" assiduously pervades every aspect of 21st-century life. If my son wants to hear a song, he immediately downloads it from iTunes. When I was his age, if I wanted to hear anything other than my dad's Shirley Bassey collection or Ghost Riders in the Sky, I had to walk to my local public telephone box and feed my pocket money into the slot on the off chance that Dial-a-Disc was playing something more interesting than Rolf Harris' Two Little Boys or the latest Peters and Lee song. If you wanted to listen to anything cool, you had to sell halter-neck tops in CA until you had saved enough money to buy Aladdin Sane.

We did things more slowly back then. If you were overweight, you went to Weight Watchers and waited. And if you ate Ryvita, cottage cheese and half a grapefruit for breakfast for three long years, you eventually lost half a pound.

Nowadays, there are quick-fix solutions for everything. As soon as you tip into your doctor's surgery, he is all for sucking out your blubber with a Dyson or clamping your gut with an elastic band. Or you can buy a range of radical meal-replacement programmes that deliver instant results. And while drinking milkshakes might indeed bring all the boys to the yard, they will soon scarper when they discover that your breath in ketosis smells like a Labrador's farts.

Now even parents-to-be are being offered instant gratification in the form of a 4D antenatal scan. Mums and dads desperate to see their baby's facial features are paying #163;200 a pop for a take-home DVD movie of their child in utero. Since their baby will inevitably look like Roger the Alien, it would make more sense to watch American Dad!

Our demand to know what the future holds won't end here. Some new educational agency is bound to exploit the antenatal market and offer parents GCSE predictions based on fetal length, cranial circumference and the motility of Daddy's sperm. And, of course, how much Mozart crossed the placenta during the final trimester.

Having just done a Year 7 parents' evening, I fear those days are not far off. Parents already want to know what little Eleanor will get for her GCSE based on her key stage 2 results and the six times I have seen her book. They remind me of American beauty pageant parents, but instead of prematurely dressing their kids in heels and false eyelashes, they are imagining them clutching 10 A*s and wearing a barrister's wig.

They catch their impatience from us, of course. Schools are notoriously bad at deferring gratification, evidenced by the fact that we have already counted this year's GCSE chickens before the controlled assessments have hatched.

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the North of England. @AnnethropeMs.

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