It's struck me on a few occasions lately how little used I am to not having anything to do.
Earlier this today I arrived in a conference room three minutes after the start time for the meeting I was rushing to, and found myself alone. Knowing who else was supposed to attend, I was pretty sure that they would show up eventually, but I had nothing in hand but my cup of coffee -- my laptop and notebook having been left behind at my desk since I didn't think I would need them at the meeting. It was oddly disconcerting to sit there with nothing to do, to read, to listen to for five minutes until people showed up.
I think this effect must especially kick in when one is in a man made environment -- a white walled corporate conference room being a prime example. My car radio died a while back, and since my normal commute (when I use my car -- which due to laziness and tight scheduling is unfortunately most of the time) is under ten minutes, I haven't bothered to get it replaced. But when I have to drive in to Austin or otherwise drive more than ten minutes, I run into exactly the same sort of phenomenon -- with an urge to either call someone or put in one earbud from my iPod or otherwise do something to relieve the silence.
It's not exactly silence that I find difficult. I'd be perfectly happy in a silent conference room with a book to read or an internet connection so I could browse or write. But after a time one becomes used to always having some sort of mental or sensory input. Reading or listening to music or writing or talking or experiencing all the little sights and sounds of the natural outdoors -- all of these provide grist for the mental mill. But that unnatural silence of a blank white room -- or even the instinctual sights, sounds and reflexes of long distance driving -- leave someone used to the constant interaction of the modern world feeling curiously restless.
Fortnightly Book, March 26
4 minutes ago