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Wasting Time


It’s Saturday morning and I’ve come downstairs to find my wife Jane sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee and reading a magazine.  I’ve been upstairs showering, dressing, and generally trying to decide how I want to waste my time today.

That’s what Jane calls it. Wasting time.  I’m okay with that.  I don’t have a problem wasting time.  In fact, a large part of my days off are spent contemplating how to waste as much of it as possible.  I’m good at it.

Jane does not always appreciate this aspect of my character.  For instance, this morning she has already run ten miles and is now having coffee in the kitchen.  I, on the other hand, have just gotten out of bed.

“So, what’s it going to be today?” she asks without looking up.  I imagine that she’s either plotting the overthrow of a small country or thinking about tearing out a wall somewhere and installing French doors.

“I can’t decide,” I admit.  “Maybe golfing.”  I grab a mug out of the cupboard and pour myself some coffee.  “Or surfing,” I add looking out the window.  It’s shaping up to be a beautiful day – full of possibilities.

That’s what Jane calls it. Wasting time.  I’m okay with that.  I don’t have a problem wasting time.  In fact, a large part of my days off are spent contemplating how to waste as much of it as possible.  I’m good at it.

“Not fishing?” she says without a hint of sarcasm and refreshes her coffee.  She still hasn’t looked up from her magazine and I can’t tell if she’s serious or just giving me a hard time.  She does that a lot.  Gives me a hard time.  She’s good at it.

“I don’t know,” I say and I mean it.

That’s the beauty of wasting time, you have no real agenda and anything pretty much suffices, as long as there is no clear goal and no set timetable.

This isn’t to say I don’t work hard.  I work very hard.  It’s just that I’m a firm believer in the work hard, nap often, school of thought.  This is very different from the work hard, play hard school.  Disciples of that particular institution tend toward investment bankers who climb mountains on the weekend.

Let me say here and now that climbing a mountain on the weekend is just work in disguise.  Climbing a mountain is not even remotely relaxing and is potentially deadly.  I find it very hard to relax when death is a plausible outcome.  

Because of the strenuous pace I keep during the week, I don’t move very quickly on the weekends.  I’m more of a shuffler by nature.  By the time the weekend rolls around, I’ve used up all my hustle and bustle and all I’ve got left is a little random moseying around.

On my days off, I lumber about, checking out this part of the yard, or sampling leftovers from the refrigerator.  I may lie down spontaneously and take a nap, or read three pages of a book I’ve already read several times while standing at the sink eating a pickle.  It really doesn’t matter.

The thing is, while I have a lot of interests, I would never go so far as to claim any particular passion for any of these interests.  Quite frankly, with all the things I get into, I’m spread a little too thin for passion.  

There are people who have passions though.  I know because I’ve read about them.  These are people who have found one thing that they do really well, and they’ve stuck with it.  And I have a lot of admiration for them.

People who are passionate about their hobbies do not approach it frivolously.  Not being all that passionate about any one thing in particular, reading about a hobby is, for me, a far more relaxing waste of time than actually participating in one.  This is namely due to the fact that since I don’t devote any significant portion of time to any one thing, I am by nature, a disciple of many things and a master of none.

I have more what you would call hobbies.  The word itself implies frivolity and a lightness of heart.  Which is exactly what I’m looking for on my days off – a little frivolous wasting of time.

The truth is, I am well known in my family for having a wide range of hobbies, none of which could be construed as overly productive.  All my life I’ve bounced from one hobby to the next, many of them quite strange.  When I was a ten, I spent the better part of a summer burning pictures of cowboys into two-by-fours with a magnifying glass.  What can I say?  It held my interest for a time.

I also read about a lot of different types of hobbies: from fly-fishing and surfing, to woodworking and beekeeping.  I get almost as much entertainment out of reading about an activity as I do by participating in one, sometimes even more so.

When you’re reading about, say fly-fishing, everything is fluid art and grace.  You read about a time when the author was fishing at dusk in Montana where the air was still, the sunset brilliant and the fish hungry. You can almost see the slow, beautiful arc of line as it flows back and forth overhead, sending a light spray of water into the air.  The angler is one with nature and everything is flawless.  The fish strikes, the man rears back, and the fish leaps out of the water in a powerful display of will.

What you don’t see is the guy who’s been reading the book, standing in his neighbors yard trying to whip a fly line back and forth (his yard being too small with lots of trees that hang down so that he’s already had to cut his line out a few tree limbs).

You also don’t get the inside scoop on how a beautiful arc of fishing line can become a rat’s nest with the flick of a wrist, or that when you’re out on the water, how easy it is for your delicate little hand-tied lure to slap the water with enough brute force to actually kill a fish.

Jane believes that in addition to wasting time, what I’m really after is just a creative way to spend as much money as possible while accomplishing nothing.  In fact, she contends that the more money it’s possible to spend on a particular hobby, the more I’m attracted to it.

“Not true,” I once argued.  “I’ve never expressed an interest in hang-gliding and I hear that’s very expensive.”

“We live at the beach,” she countered.  “If we lived anywhere near a mountain you’d be strapping yourself to a kite and leaping off into the wild blue yonder.”

“That’s ridiculous,” I told her, then immediately began thinking about how cool it would be to hang-glide: the thrill, the freedom, the sheer expense of it all.  I began to wonder how close the nearest mountain really was and what kind of cool gear one could accumulate.

Last year, for instance, I took up golf for absolutely no good reason.  I’d never before expressed any interest whatsoever.  But I try to not let little details like that hold me back.

Golf is a pretty simple sport in theory: little white ball, a couple of sticks with which to hit the ball, and a big green lawn with a hole at one end.  But you’d be surprised at how difficult it is and how much money you can spend.  It’s basically a billion dollar adult toy industry.  And it’s growing.  

Within a mile of my office there are no less than four retailers dedicated to one thing – golf.  Within ten miles of my home, there are fifteen beautifully manicured courses packed full of grown men chasing a little white ball into a hole.

I’m not really sure what the fascination is.  It’s a terribly difficult game.  It takes years to get even remotely good and even then you have to practice almost nonstop or you lose it all.  It’s sort of a cumulative thing.  Like alcoholism.

Add to that, that it takes between four and five hours on average to play eighteen holes and you have a tremendous amount of wasted time.  If you do it right, you can even ride in a cart and drink beer.  Not a bad way to spend the day if you ask me.

Even now, as I sit here in the kitchen, basking in the glow of my laptop, it’s getting a little late in the day and I have yet to do anything.  In fact, Jane just walked in and asked what I was doing.  I really have only one indoor hobby that’s worthy of a good quality wasting of time, and that’s watching TV.  

Jane doesn’t really like TV.  She says she can’t appreciate the value of watching fifteen to twenty programs simultaneously in a single half hour period.  

No sense of adventure if you ask me.

“So what are you doing,” she asks.

“I’m writing,” I say.

“What about?”

“Wasting time,” I tell her, then add quickly, “You’re in it.”

“The usual cynical wife role?” she asks.


“Make me sound thin,” she says and walks out of the room.

It’s actually too late to go golfing and I’m too tired to go surfing.  Maybe I’ll go stand and look out the window for a while.  It doesn’t really matter.  After all, I’ve already wasted half the day and I was raised to believe that you should never do anything halfway.  

Maybe I’ll just turn the TV on and take a nap.

About the author

David Todd McCarty

David Todd McCarty is a writer, director, photographer and cinematographer. He writes fiction and nonfiction essays as well as journalism. You can see his commercial work at http://www.hoppingfrogstudios.com

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Writer | Journalist | Storyteller


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