Is there a quick way to learn to play chess? How did you get started playing chess?
If you really have nobody that can teach you chess, you can get the rules and some basic advice from the Wikibook, and for playing you can choose from a lot of free chess programs (e.g. Arena) or websites (e.g. chess tempo). Once you have some basic skills, you can try to play against humans as well (e.g. on chess cube).
But it's definitely more fun if you find someone in real life to learn from and to play with...
Find a good player who can teach you the rules and the basics, and then play with him. Playing is surely the easiest (and the most enjoyable) way to learn a game like chess: you'll improve quickly, even if at first you probably will get beaten very often. Then teach chess yourself to some friend of yours, or play with some beginner: this way you may play games with no difference of level (it can be frustrating losing every single game to a more experienced player!).
After that you may try starting playing online, in beginner's rooms of many sites. I'll suggest you to find a chess club near you, if there's any: you'll meet people with same passion as yours, and chess will become even more fun.
As a final advice, after having mastered the rules and played some games (20 to 100 more or less, it depends on you) go and read a beginner strategy-tactics book, there's plenty of them. Find some forum, and resources on the Net.
Just like this site. :)
To answer both your questions:
Chess can be learned in a very short period of time. It only takes five minutes to learn the basics. It is extremely hard to master, but you can get up and running with the basics in less time than you think. Playing with stronger players and practicing will get you better, but it takes lots of time. It depends on how good you want to be.
I started off just playing randomly, usually against my uncle who was a much stronger player than me.