Wait For It
TAoN No. 114: Don't "kill" time; enliven it. Plus a new icebreaker, Lost Objects news, and more
—> Statement, before we get underway: I realize this is a trying time and there is much going on that is a lot more important than this newsletter. This issue of TAoN does not address current events at all; if you prefer to skip it, I get that. Here’s hoping for a saner world soon.
—> Question, before we get underway: Are you a Wikipedia editor/contributor? If so, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks!
JÉSHOOTS via Pexels
I hate being late; it stresses me out.
I also used to hate being early — so frustrating to be stuck killing time waiting for someone else to show up. And, to be honest, I still look down on lateness; it’s rude!
But, I’ve tried to change my attitude toward waiting. I actually write about this a little bit in the book, when I mention artist Marina Abramović’s Goldberg. An excerpt:
In theory, the main event was a performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, as played by Igor Levit. But to some extent the real attraction was the prelude. Attendees were required to arrive thirty minutes before the show and sit silently in the venue, wearing noise-canceling headphones. This was a sort of mental palate cleanser.
Doesn’t that sound kind of awesome? Couldn’t we all use a mental palate cleanser now and again?
Ever since I learned about this performance, I’ve tried to treat showing up early as, in fact, giving myself a tiny vacation. If whoever I’m meeting is late, well, my vacation gets slightly less tiny.
I was reminded of this in part by a recent Washington Post article about how to pass time at the airport during a flight delay. Let’s face it, flight delays are even worse than late people. But I love the spirit of some of the suggestions: take a long walk, visit the airport chapel, ride the tram, commit an act of kindness, talk to a stranger. It all makes being stuck in travel limbo into something that sounds like an adventure!
So here’s your challenge:
Next time you get stuck waiting, figure out how to make the most of it. Treat it as a moment to relax; treat it as an opportunity to observe; treat it as time given to you as a gift; indulge in anticipating the payoff of whatever you’re waiting for.
Don’t “kill” that time. Revel in it. Enliven it.
Practice creative waiting.
Note: I would also like to acknowledge the reader who wrote to me about a cool observational ritual used while waiting at stoplights. Unfortunately I misplaced your email — but you are partly responsible for inspiring this item! Thank you!
The Art of Noticing is Rob Walker’s newsletter about attention, creativity, and staying human. Your support makes it possible.
Noticing is about other people, too. The Icebreaker series aims to help with that. There’s a central collection spot for all the icebreakers to date, here.
Today’s icebreaker comes from reader Elise Granata:
As a child, what was your third space – the space you felt you belonged, that wasn't home or school? What about as a teen? A young adult?
Elise adds: “This came out of me joking that the mall (more specifically, the Hot Topic t-shirt section) was my third space as a teen. This was in close competition with the pet store in the strip mall by my house that a friend and I would go to regularly after school, because we didn't have to buy anything to be there, and we struck up an odd but friendly relationship with the owner! Weird times.”
I love it. And for me the answer would probably be either the record store, or the house of a certain friend.
As usual, I’m still working through the disorganized backlog of icebreaker submissions. But as always, I want more:
—> ATTENTION MANY RECENTLY NEW READERS:
Please send your favorite icebreaker (whether you made it up or found it elsewhere) to email@example.com
In forthcoming Thursday subscriber-only editions, I’ll have a notebook-style roundup of recent ideas and inspiration from June, and then a dive into the new Matt Richtel book about creativity, Inspired.
Last Thursday I wrote about The Alien Exercise(s) (don’t miss the comments on that one), and before that about a Hero of Noticing who makes potholes into art. For access to past and future Thursday posts, discussion threads, and other surprises, become a paid subscriber.
The next free Monday edition in two weeks!
In Other News
LOST OBJECTS in NYC. This Thursday June 30 at indie bookstore McNally Jackson Seaport Lost Objects launch event. Josh Glenn, along with LO contributors Dan Fox, Mimi Lipson, Debbie Millman, Stephen O’Connor, and Lucy Sante, will share lost-objects stories and insights. I wish I could be there! You should go! RSVP (required) here.
In my BRANDED column for Fast Company, I wrote about how the joke airline brand Spirit has become a coveted property and Spotify flexing over the apparent end of the Joe Rogan controversy.
“A comics journalist tells the story of an effort to increase COVID vaccination rates in Chicago's House Ball community.” Excellent work from old pal of TAoN Josh Neufeld.
Earth.fm: nature sounds from all over the world. Via.
Since I’ve written more than once about creative responses to potholes I hereby acknowledge branded pothole repair. Mixed feelings.
Where have all the Long John Silver’s gone? I have a weakness for fast food, but this chain is/was the absolute worst. So naturally I love that someone has written an appreciation.
Nature and the City reading list, from the Places newsletter.
Okay that’s it!
As always, I value your feedback (suggestions, critiques, positive reinforcement, constructive insults, etc.), as well as your tips or stories or personal noticing rituals, things we need a word for, and of course your icebreakers: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or use the comments.
—> Or just click the heart symbol. That always makes my day.
And thanks for reading …
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All this by Rob Walker PO Box 171, 748 Mehle St., Arabi LA 70032
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The last time I had a long flight delay (terminal D, LGA) I spent a long time imagining everything I saw (the seats, rugs, concession counters, planes outside the window) were alive and conscious and working hard--doing their best to make us all feel happy and comfortable. It was really fun!
Yes, I always build in “margins “ of time on either side of appointments. When I have extra, I feel like I gave myself a gift of a stress free bubble. I try to use that as the gift it is by observing, noting, even stretching. Anything but scrolling my phone! 😵💫