Sunday, June 11, 2006

Just in Time Life

Just in Time was intended, I believe, to be a manufacturing philosophy. In short it states that in order to save storage space and therefore money, one should buy basic supplies just before they are used.

Today, it is hard to envision modern life without Just in Time. I buy groceries online for delivery the following day. I glean parenting tips from the Internet only when a problem arises. And, in perhaps the most perfect fulfillment of this philosophy, I order Chinese food to be delivered not two minutes before dinnertime. At least, that was how I lived—when I lived in the U.S. I was curious to see whether Just in Time was an American idea, wrapped up in the whole “time is money” concept or if it could be more global.

I’ve discovered that life in France is very Just in Time, but for very different reasons. I buy a week’s worth of milk because (1) it doesn't have to stay in the refrigerator to stay good and (2) it is, quite literally, all my arms can carry. I buy bread at the bakery every day because if I try to feed my kids day-old bread, they may lose a tooth. I buy meat at the butcher shop the day I will cook it because I only have room in the refrigerator for one or two upcoming meals.

In the end it seems that the ability to have things just in time makes modern life livable. I simply don’t have a saltcellar with enough food to last the next ten years. Frankly, who cares about the next ten years, anyway? I can only think about getting through the next ten minutes—Just in Time to make lunch.