November 6, 2005
The other day I was in the supermarket, waiting in line to pay
for my carrot. An elderly woman was in front of me holding a lime.
We looked at each other and smiled. That's when I realised: I'm 90.
When you're elderly, you don't mind waiting in line for 20 minutes.
What's the rush? Then the elderly woman looked at her watch. Why
would she do that? Was there somewhere she had to be? Someone
waiting for her to get home with the lime? Or a party she had to
get to? This bothered me. She had somewhere to be. It ruined the
Usually I enjoy standing in line quietly. It's where I do my best thinking about where it all went wrong. Standing in line is acceptable time out.
Sometimes I think about other things, like why the line I'm in isn't moving and the one next to me is - but I never feel like switching because if a line isn't moving, that's the one I want to be in. The other night I went out to dinner with a friend and she put her mobile on the table. So I put my phone on it too. Hers rang. Mine didn't. Hers rang again. Mine didn't. I put mine away. The only thing worse than a mobile on the table that rings is a mobile on the table that doesn't. Liza and I talk about this all the time. She has a friend, Andy, who is never without his BlackBerry. This summer, I was in a car with him for three hours stuck in traffic. Something I didn't mind. Except, the entire time, he was working. Between making deals and his social life, it was nonstop. "I can't do Tuesday: I've got a book party at six and an opening after. Wednesday I can do... after the premiere." It was awful. Who wants to hear that? At one point, I was so excited because my phone rang. It was my father. Asking if I'd taken care of my taxes yet.
I've always wondered what it would feel like to be one of those people who has so many people needing their attention that they complain about it all the time. There are people who say, "There just aren't enough hours in the day," and whenever I hear that I think: "What on earth are you talking about?" There are plenty of hours in the day. They just keep coming, one after the other.
I bet if I was someone who had a BlackBerry or a tan or, better
yet, a BlackBerry and a tan, I'd be eager for whatever line I was
standing in to move quicker. But then I'd start thinking how much I
missed the time in my life when I had 20 minutes to spare.
After I purchased my carrot, I was walking home when I was confronted by a blockade of people walking three abreast. How is someone meant to get past three people taking up the entire pavement? "Excuse me!" I shouted and elbowed past. I'd just spent 20 minutes in line. I might not have had anywhere I needed to be, but I had to get there as soon as possible.