Just Killing Time
You don’t have time to read this and I don’t have time to write this. I don’t have time to do anything I want to do because I am too busy doing things I have to do – or too busy doing the things I want to do that I don’t have time to do the things I need to do. It’s all about time.
It seems I’m always killing time, wasting it and running out of it. Someday, I won’t have to worry about time. I’ll have plenty of it when I no longer have any of it. Time exists only as long as I am alive to perceive it. While I am busy just killing time, time is just killing me.
I stand on a rocky beach and watch the sun go down. Quietly lapping the sandy shore, the water swirls up on the beach in melting, silver, glassy swells. Staring at them makes me dizzy. I stare at them anyway. The sky, streaked with shades of red, grow darker as the final minutes of daylight tick away. Tick, tick, tick, tick. Another day in the life ends on some deserted beach, in this tiny, forgotten, corner of a vast universe – a universe so vast it hurts to contemplate it. I do anyway and my head hurts. It’s just a dream, I think – and we always have time to dream.
The first rays of morning light jolt me. I get up. I have lots of things to do today. I have so much to do that I really don’t have time to wait for the coffee to brew. I do anyway. I have some time to kill while the coffee brews. I fiddle with the box of coffee filters – putting it away slowly – anything to kill time until the coffee is done. Three minutes is a long time to wait when you’re waiting for coffee. Three minutes goes by too quickly though when you’re in the company of someone special. Time is relative.
“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” (Henry Van Dyke)
Although none of us have much time, we spend an awful lot of time killing it. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I know that while I’m killing time, time is killing me. I can’t think of anything else to do but smile. Tears won’t change anything.
Now I’m just killing time waiting for the coffee to brew.
When the coffee is finally ready to drink, I don’t have time to drink it. I take a hot cup of it to a place I call my office. I’ve decided to try to drink it while I work. I have so much work to do I don’t know where to start. I waste time thinking about all the work there is to do. While I’m thinking about all the work there is to do, and wasting time, I am drinking the coffee that I don’t have time to drink. And it is already getting cold.
I waste more time and walk back into the kitchen and get more coffee. When I come back to my office I look at my schedule and see how much work I have to do today – so much work – so little time. And nothing is getting done.
But at least the coffee is hot. I drink it while I think about where to begin.
So far, this morning, I have done nothing but make coffee, drink coffee, and walk back and forth between my office and the coffee pot in the kitchen. I still don’t know where to start – there’s too much I need to do, too much I want to do, and not enough time to do the things I need to do. I finish the coffee and go get another cup. I think I’m addicted to coffee, but I guess there are worse things.
I’ll think about that some more when I get time. I laugh at myself. I’m so funny.
While on the way to the kitchen I look at my watch and notice how much time I have wasted. An hour ago I was just wasting time waiting for three minutes to pass so I could have a cup of coffee. An hour has passed and nothing to show for it but the coffee. So, I pour another cup and wonder if it is good for my blood pressure or not. I make a mental note to look that up when I get time. I laugh at myself again. I’m such an amusing guy. I’ll never remember my mental note – I don’t remember anything unless I write it down.
I feel like taking a walk to clear my mind. That’s what I’ll do. I have so much work to do today, a good walk would help me sort it all out. The sun is up and it’s a nice winter day. The birds who didn’t want to waste time flying south for the winter aren’t working today either – they’re killing time singing. I can hear them.
I realize that we must be having global warming. I don’t remember birds killing time and singing in the winter. It’s officially winter now – by the weather – by the calendar – by the clock. I’m frightened by that thought for a second. It is really winter – officially. Where did it come from? It seems just a day or two ago it was hot and I was coming in from my walks sweating. The sun somehow sneaked down to the Tropic of Capricorn and scientifically that makes it winter for me and summer for someone else.
I love musing and killing time.
That dazzles me. I can picture it all in my head. I conceptualize that imaginary line circling the globe that sits gathering dust in my tiny office. I wonder who ever found the time make the decision that put the Tropic of Capricorn on the globe. I wonder how they figured out where the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn – or the even the equator were to begin with – why do we need them?
I wonder who has that kind of time? It must have taken a lot of time to figure out all that stuff – and draw all those perfect circles around the ellipse that is our planet. I wonder why I even have a globe in my office – I never look at it. Well almost never.
I wonder how many more winters and summers I have left. Such morbid thoughts.
The work is piled up on the desk. Bills to pay, forms to fill, papers to read. I vaguely recall some mental notes I made yesterday but I cannot remember what they were. I’m sure these were important yesterday, but today, no so much. I don’t have a clue what they were.
I have plenty of things that need to be done and I’ve had enough coffee.
So much to do and I still don’t know where to start so I’m going to take that walk. I have no shoes on, and I don’t feel like taking time to put them on – it takes too long to tie them. So, I put on a coat and I get ready to put on my hat and I realize I’ve not combed my hair – what’s left of it. But it’s only a walk. Who’s going to see me? I can skip the hair. Maybe someday I’ll be completely bald. I bet being bald is a real time-saver. I always dreaded the thought of being bald. I might be a good thing though, come to think of it. It would be a time-saver. I need to save some time. I’ve killed enough of it.
I’ll give the bald idea some thought – later – when I have time.
In my coat and hat I look around for my shoes. I can’t remember where I put them. I need my shoes so I can take a walk, but I can’t remember where I left them. I waste more time looking for them. I finally find my shoes, put them on and tie them.
I have work to do and none of it is getting done.
I walk out the door. It’s a mild and sunny winter day. It’s a about as nice as a winter day gets. I wonder what happened to summer, it seems like it was summer just yesterday. It took longer for the coffee to brew than it took for summer to turn into winter. Time can be a funny thing – but I’m not laughing.
I’m walking now and I start caring less about time. I think of all the time I’ve killed today. I have made coffee, drank coffee, put on my coat, my hat, didn’t comb my hair, then put on my shoes, and then my watch. I have invested a lot of time thinking about all the work I have to do and where to start.
I am a master at killing time. I imagine prisoners serving life sentences and insane people are very good at killing time also. I wouldn’t call them masters, though. They are more victims of circumstance than masters. I am not a prisoner, but I might be insane.
One thing for sure, I am a master at killing time. I laugh at that because I know that time is killing me. It will absolutely, positively kill me some day. There is so much time in the universe I could never kill all of it. I can only kill the little bit that belongs to me- and I’m really very good at it.
I think about the dream I had last night all those opalescent wavelets washing away the beach in front of my sleeping eyes. I think about the fiery sunset as the sun sank into the sea. I wonder how long it took me to dream that dream? Seconds probably. Maybe just microseconds. Nanoseconds. Not long at all. Sleeping is a great way to kill time. When I think about it philosophically, sleep is like practicing to be dead. The more I sleep the more practice I get.
I wonder if everything is just a dream? I think that’s a Hindu thing – the dreams of Brahma, right? I make a mental note to check out the Hindu thing when I get time. I laugh at the thought of my mental notes.
Oblivious to the day, lost in my own thoughts, I walk down a quiet street, thinking about all the work I have to do and how much time I am killing.
I pass a park with empty swings. There are grills but no one is cooking. There are green benches but no one is sitting. There is no one in the park at all today. It’s a nice winter day, but the calendar keeps people indoors.
Someone paid for this park but no one uses it in winter – no matter how nice it is. It seems like a waste of time and tax dollars. I decide that I will use it. I paid for it – at least part of it. I sit down on a bench and think about all the things I have to do today and I still don’t know where to start. Right now, I decide to watch a jet streaking across the mostly blue sky. I wonder about the people on it, their lives, their towns, their wishes.
Then I close my eyes and try to think of nothing.
The yellow-orange wavelets glimmer and melt in the bright sunlight. They caress the sandy shore and sing watery lullabies. The soft mummer of the gentle rolling waves reminds me of days long ago when I was a child. I used to skip stones here – watching the skip over the waves. I look up and see the lighthouse. It is the same lighthouse I used to play on as a child. It stands a bleak, red and white obelisk, rising near the edge of the sea. I wonder if it still stands a working sentry to ships in peril on the sea? It probably has been replaced by a computer in an ugly, green box.
I am a grizzled, salt-hardened, sea captain, traversing a roiling sea through a dangerous and dense fog – on an ethereal, dark and moonless night. I tenaciously guide this great freighter over a dangerously shallow sea. I have the fate of many souls in my hands. I can barely see the lighthouse flashing through the fog but I see it enough. I hear the foghorn and turn the ship’s wheel hard starboard. I save the ship from a rocky reef. I’m a good captain. I am the best.
I open my eyes. The park is still empty. A truck passes by. It is loud. Very noisy. The driver is in a hurry to get somewhere. He was work to do and unlike me he is actually doing it. It reminds me that I have work to do – and a lot of it. I start walking home and think about all the work that is waiting for me when I get back to the office.
All that work, so much to do – I don’t even know where to start.
Finally, I realize that I don’t have enough time left in the day to finish any of the work I have to do today. I think of a poem I read a long time ago. It’s by Richard Le Gallienne.
…I meant to do my work today,
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me….
I think Richard Le Gallienne had lots of work to do that day – just like me. When he wrote that poem he was just killing time. Time killed him, though. But at least it didn’t kill his words.
I have a lot of work to do today but none of it will get done. Maybe I’ll get to it tomorrow – if I have one. Right now, I am just killing time.
And I know very well that while I am busy killing time, time is killing me.