Tuesday, March 22, 2016


I have never wanted a baseball game to go faster.  Or a wait at an airport Departure Lounge to go slower.

That second one doesn’t make sense; who wants a wait at an airport Departure Lounge to go slower?  It’s just that recently, I experienced those contrasting examples of sitting, and although time objectively proceeded at the same speed on both occasions, there was a recognizable difference in my reaction to them. 

I started wondering, “Why do I hate the wait at the airport Departure Lounge so much?” 

I actually figured it out.  It helped that I had a couple of hours to think about it.  Though I would have preferred tremendously not to have needed to.

It is not the egregious wasting of my time.  It is difficult complaining about the egregious wasting of your time knowing you squandered hundreds of hours wallowing in wall-to-wall coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial.

Nor was it the unswerving totalitarianism:

“You will sit in the molded plastic chair until we tell you get up!”

They are actually lightening up in that regard.  If you’re ticket’s stamped “Pre-check” – as older passengers’ tickets now regularly are – you no longer have to remove your shoes and your belt.  (Which will last only until terrorists recruit “Senior Citizen Suicide Bombers.”  (“Come on.  How long have you got anyway?”)

The real source of my fulminating irritation (sometimes I actually froth at the mouth) is the following:

The waste of time is externally imposed. 

It’s different if I voluntarily waste my time.  But how dare anyone waste my time for me! 

Enter, by contrast, the exquisite rendition of sitting:

Watching a ballgame. 

(Note:  These issues are connected.  We were confined to the torturous airport Departure Lounge awaiting a flight to Phoenix, to visit longtime friends and take in some Spring Training baseball.)

I realize that not everyone likes baseball.  Some people may actually prefer sitting at the airport Departure Lounge.  (“Can you recharge your iPad at a ballgame?”)  For me, watching a ballgame is a relaxing meditation.  Which, unlike actual meditation, offers the added advantage of peanuts, cold beer, and in this case, as we attended a Cubs game, authentic Chicago Italian beef sandwiches.

Plus, sometimes, something happens down on the field.

That’s an cheap shot.  To those understanding its intricacies, baseball involves simultaneous chess games.  Between the pitcher are the batter.  Between the fielders and the base runners.  Between the opposing managers, who may appear to be sitting in the dugout mainlining sunflower seeds, but are, in fact, calculating numerous moves ahead.  (When they are not hocking prodigious “loogies” and scratching themselves in inappropriate places.)

Plus, during Spring Training games, there is the additional personal drama.

I watched two “at-bats” in a row featuring aging ballplayers struggling desperately to extend their careers, followed immediately by a rookie whose name was not sewn on the back of his uniform, a telltale indicator that, barring a monumental Spring Training performance, he is designated – maybe permanently – to the “minors”. 

A disappointing performance meant the unalterable end of a dream. 

And I was watching it play out in front of me.

Added to these enlivening elements – proximate strangers engaging in interesting conversations, comfortable bathrooms (no more peeing in a trough) and, of course, the hint of spring in the air, which hits Arizona first before making its way to Los Angeles, a welcoming preview of Vernal attractions. 

It was a wonderful weekend, catching up with good friends, frequenting a hotel on an Indian reservation. 

Though I admit to one disappointment.

On my previous Spring Training excursions, my enjoyment was greatly enhanced by the company of my friend’s grandson, whose thorough understanding of baseball made me substantially savvier concerning the inner workings of the game.

This year, however, I was deprived of his companionship because while Dr M and I were watching the Cubs, my encyclopedic baseball guru, now twelve, was participating in an age-appropriate ballgame himself.

I hate it when other people’s lives interfere with my personal wishes.  Butt there you have it.  I had to watch the game without him, asking myself the questions I would normally have asked him, and discovering, not surprisingly, that I was ignorant of the answers.

The next day, however, I enjoyed the rewarding satisfaction of watching him play.  His team was soundly defeated, but as I told him after the game – and I meant it…

“When I looked at you out there, I could not tell whether you were winning or losing – you played exactly the same way.  It was a pleasure you watch you perform.”  (Also, his rocketing single between shortstop and third base shot past the infielders so quickly, they remained frozen statue-like in position, his execution so efficiently professional I thought I was back at the Cubs game.)

It’s interesting.  “Poisoning” is never good.  But “sitting” – sometimes it’s excruciating, and sometimes it’s sublime.  It’s like there should be two different words for it.

Maybe I should work on that.
Let’s see.

“Sitting” and… “scruciacating.”


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I find it helpful never to think of myself as "waiting". On security lines at the airport, I am not "waiting". I am reading The New Yorker; at some point security will interrupt me. In pre-departure airport lounges, I am working (usually). It's all about what you define as your primary activity.