Killing time

How many minutes of our time do we spend waiting? For a bus, for an appointment, for a friend…

Maybe a person who is chronically late has the right idea.

I went to look up the appropriate name for the aforementioned “tardily inclined”, only to discover there is actually no such name in the English language. There were a few adjectives you could use to describe such a person, however: Unpunctual, inconsiderate, flaky, irresponsible, “timely impaired.”

The words “laggard”, “slacker” and “procrastinator” don’t necessarily work, but I did find one word that appealed to me: tidoptimist: “One who over-estimates the amount of time available to complete a task”. And if we have to fall back on adjectives, I would prefer, myself, to use: “tardive”.

But that isn’t what I intended to write about.

Side-tracked again.

It’s just that I was wondering how many days of my life have been spent waiting. And because I am the opposite of tardive, the answer would probably be years, at this point.

You know those people who are chronically early?

Apparently the English language does not even acknowledge that there can be such people. When I went searching online, it changed the word I had typed to “late” and took me back to tidoptimists.

Maybe I am a tidpessemist. I just coined a new word.

If I have to be somewhere, I will always plan to arrive 15 minutes early and, depending the distance and location I will work backwards to calculate my departure time.

I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve been late in my life, unless someone else was the cause.

Consequently, I have spent a lot of time waiting.

Most of it in airports and doctor’s offices.

But I usually go prepared.

Maybe I should calculate how many books I’ve read while waiting. That is never time wasted.

Now that I no longer live on either Long Island or outside Seattle, where one was apt to be kept lingering for lengthy periods, I don’t seem to spend as much time in waiting rooms.

So I no longer carry a book with me, resorting instead to joining the rest of the world by contemplating my not-so-smart phone. It still astonishes me what you can find at your fingertips.

But I don’t always do that, and I have often found myself placed “on hold” when I had no book, no magazine, no smart or otherwise kind of phone.

Those precious minutes of my life were, for the most part, not lost, however.

It’s amazing the things you can do to entertain yourself when need be.

I can remember sitting once in the doctor’s office, actually on the examining table with just a sheet and flimsy robe to cover me. The doctor got called away or whatever, do they ever tell you why or apologize?

There I sat, shivering, and cast my eyes around. I read the various notices, learned and promptly forgot the names of parts of my body I hadn’t known existed.

When the doctor still did not arrive, I resorted to lying back and looking at the ceiling. I counted the number of holes in each ceiling tile and then did it again. It wasn’t rivetingly exciting but it was something to do.

I remembered the days of waiting in Khartoum airport ( when I had resorted to counting flies. On that occasion I didn’t even know what day my wait might end.

But somewhere along the line I began to notice other things.

Usually it’s in a tiled surface, but it can be elsewhere, depending on light conditions.

The thought that it must be only me that sees these things was quickly dismissed as being way too egocentric. Anything I can do, after all, anyone can do better.

Without any effort on my part, I see shapes on empty surfaces. Mostly, unsurprisingly, it’s an animal.

But it can also be a flower or a tree, maybe a human form or perhaps an aeroplane, something of that nature.

The thing of it is, I can go back to the same place at another time and the shape I saw no longer takes form but something else does.

This happens daily. OK, I’ll say it, it happens a lot when I’m sitting on the loo.

A kind, understanding doctor told me, long ago, when I complained about my nerves being shredded by the irate public, to remember that I could always retreat to the ladies room. There was always, even in an airport, one place I could go for privacy.

As silly as it sounds, remembering that actually helped.

A girl spends a lot more time sitting in that place than does a guy and it gives you time to contemplate.

And that’s how I began to see shapes. So now I’m going to keep pencil and paper in the bathroom and start sketching…

This squirrel photo is not the best quality but I couldn’t resist the look on its face. The other pictures as you can no doubt guess are frost and the latest morning sky.

2 thoughts on “Killing time

  1. I see some lovely images in those frosty window panes. Each one is like a painting.

    I have found that time lags the slowest in the examining rooms of the doctor’s office. It’s not so bad in the waiting room. You can always watch the other people. But, in those small rooms, I have found myself doing the same things you have done, Carolyn. Kind of makes you wonder how prison inmates keep their sanity.

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