By Louise Ure
We’ve all experienced it … in airport lounges, in waiting rooms, alone at a tiny bistro table waiting for your guest. It’s down time. That short forced period, often without internet access, when we are left alone with our thoughts.
These days my down time is often to be had at a hospital bedside or in one of those straight back metal chairs at the foot of a chemotherapy infusion chair. Conversation is not required. Just presence. Just being there so that when the eyes open they land on something loving and supportive.
And some of those times I don’t want to be alone with my thoughts. I need to be distracted.
Many of you know about my love of crossword puzzles. I can do them in ink. In three foreign languages. Quickly. They are my go-to down time staple. Not much to carry; I’ve even got all the New York Times crossword puzzles on my iPhone, although I miss the look of blue ink on newsprint when they’re completed. My favorite new clue? “What’s three less than once? (Four letters)” Check the bottom of the blog for the answer if you don’t know it.
Reading, of course, is a natural for down time, but I almost don’t want it to be a good book. I want something putdownable. Forgettable. Something I won’t remember as being associated with that day in the oncologist’s office.
During another trying time in my life I once read straight through every single one of the Diane Mott Davidson books, cutesy names, recipes and all. I loved them for the distracting froth that they were but have no desire to revisit those books or days.
I watch others for ideas on how to use this time, their haggard faces make them look like experts. The Russian lady skims rosary beads through her fingers like she’s shelling peas. The Asian man with a shock of white hair like a coxcomb is sleeping.
My friend Brian does Sudoku, which I’ve never warmed to. Why on earth would a number puzzle be so much more difficult for me than crosswords when each square is just a symbol after all? Why is it impenetrable for me to figure out the order of the numbers 1 through 10 while I can easily do it for a 10-letter word like “gesundheit?”
Some folks watch TV if it’s available. The offices and airport gates I frequent rarely have a program or channel that I’m interested in. Others find distraction in music, the ear buds leaking a tinny rhythm when you sit next to them. I don’t see many knitters anymore, but maybe that’s just California.
I dare say many of you writer-types like to work on a draft or jot notes about character and dialogue. I call that work, not down time.
I also don’t count idle cell phone conversations as acceptable uses of down time. Those are the natterings of people afraid to be alone, to be quiet, to be serene. They are a pestilence to the rest of us.
As you can tell, my friends, this is a week of waiting. Waiting for the curtain to rise. Waiting for the other shoe to fall. Waiting for news. For decisions. For an answer.
While we wait, tell me how you spend that forced down time. And if it’s reading, what kind of book? A comfort read? A “can’t put it down”?
* “What is three less than once?” Ocho. Read the word “once” as Spanish.