I have been waiting. In an airport. For my flight. Before that I was waiting in line. For security. For passport control. For baggage drop-off. I have been waiting all morning. In line. My passport and my boarding pass have been checked four times. I believe they will be checked again. I no longer bother to put them away.
All this waiting in line must do something to us. We find our place in line and hold it. We are so docile. So accepting. So resigned. An achievement of civilization. If so, the British are way ahead. In the train stations, they queue up one by one, waiting for the trains to arrive:
So, yes an achievement of civilization–and yet maybe not:
What does it do to us, this waiting? Stuck in traffic in L.A. listening to KFWB news for the sig alerts? Waiting at the doctor’s office? Well, it shortens life expectancy for one thing. You can’t call waiting much of a life. Many times I’ve resolved to do something else while waiting—exercises (my left Achilles needs it) deep breathing, outlines for the next post or the next article. But too often I forget.
Earlier this morning, I made a point of striking up conversations—I was aiming for something beyond the usual small talk. I was willing to talk about anything. I even got into a discussion about the famous “hail-mary pass” by Colorado in that great 1994 Michigan game (and I don’t even follow football.)
But now, I’m thinking about waiting. A subjective attitude really. An attitude which says something like, “This is not really my life. My life is on hold. I am currently a placeholder for my life. My actual life will start up again in 30 minutes when I’m through with this line, when I get my tickets… my whatever.” Except not quite: The serial nature of the waiting (one line follows another) reminds us it’s not true.
What if there were a neurological condition which caused some people to look at life this way all the time? I mean that they would see each experience as a wait to be followed by another wait. The waits could be sectioned off. Invariably it would be waiting for something to end or something else to begin. Nothing else. Very much like simula life, actually. Such people would be placeholders all the time. “This is not really my life you know—I’m just a placeholder.”