At present, my patience feels less than awesome. In fact, I’m pretty sure every passing minute is one in which I more passionately swear off using the airline I’m currently waiting on, the internal dialogue becoming more heavily peppered with expletives, gradually ramping up from a disgruntled mutter to a one-sided screaming match. The only reason I could be assessed as patient is that I am not physically assaulting someone. Though surely I’ve thought about it.
Time. You get to start thinking about time when it’s being stolen from you. I contemplate the things I could have done with my day in these spare hours: read, write, walk down the street, grab coffee – anything other than what I’m currently doing, which basically amounts to counting the hairs on my arms while the clock counts down to some undetermined time.
The two older women sitting next to me have taken these last two hours as an opportunity to get to know one another, which I suppose is what one used to do in the civilized times before Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and every other social media platform that has irrevocably rendered us less sociable, you know, in real life. At the end of their exchange, a charming thing happens: they actually exchange phone numbers… on paper. Meanwhile, I sit alone, in my antisocial cocoon, texting a friend who is also delayed at another airport somewhere in the Midwest.
Our conversation veers into the topic of time in the abstract, of adjusting one’s expectations in the dating world as we get older. What we are talking about — in between then self-deprecating jokes and the “hahahas” — is settling, scratching things off a list we once saw absolute. I have not yet decided the significance of this markdown, if it’s the death of a dream-based idealism that was impossible to achieve from the outset, or if it’s simply a coming to grips with a reality that was always there. For the last decade, I’ve put stock in that dream-based idealism, and, at least partially because of it, I’ve wasted plenty of time.
Unlike right now, currently sitting in Terminal 5 of JFK and nursing a waiting-induced migraine, this other kind of wasted time just flies past you, undetectable as a ghost, as silent and creeping as carbon monoxide. One morning you’re 24 years old and living in Los Angeles with your boyfriend, and the next thing you know you’re five years older, decorating the Brooklyn apartment you live in alone. Time, like currency, is a manmade construct that panders to the need for control and order we do not have.
At the end of the day, the best we can be is patient. At least from the outside.