The cafe was busy, with plenty of people to watch and details to observe, piles of pretty cakes and jars of biscuits and cute little succulents growing in random vessels but I felt at a loss, my attention drawn again and again to the phone in my bag.
As I wrestled with the urge to scroll through Instagram, which ironically contains many of the same images I had before my eyes – piles of biscuits, cute succulents etc, it occurred to me – waiting is no longer something we accept as part of life but something to we avoid with the touch of a screen.
On that day, I chose to stay in the waiting zone and I was surprised how fast my brain relaxed into it. I was waiting, so I didn’t need to do anything else – and it felt pretty good.
Not so long ago, these empty moments of waiting were built into our days naturally but now, with no real need to ever wait, does anyone do it anymore?
Tony Sweeting is sitting on a park bench in Littleton Gardens in Bega when I spot him. He’s in a classic waiting pose, leaning against the back of the bench with one arm, gazing around him on a sunny winter’s day.
What are you waiting for, Tony? – “I’m waiting for my partner to do some shopping and bring us some coffee. I like to observe people and contemplate things while I’m waiting. For example, it looks like they are growing potatoes behind this bench, which is odd for a park but I really do think they are potatoes.”
Do you usually bring out your phone while you are waiting? – “Not usually. I might check the weather. Phones are useful for when you need to meet up with someone but mostly I love that no-one rings me – fantastic! I do keep it turned on, though.”
Anything else you are waiting for? – “I think I’m waiting to be put in a box! That’s the next big step for me. My grandma lived to be 106 and she was pretty good until the end – but I don’t know if I’d want to live that long. Her body wasn’t much use to her but mentally she was ok. Time has expired too quickly.”
Tanya Mullett-Hoskins and her sister Tya are waiting on a park bench with shopping bags when I sit down near them. Tanya is waving to cars driving by while Tya opens the new phone she has just bought and occasionally rocks the pram containing her sleeping 8-month-old son.
What are you waiting for, Tanya? – “I’m waiting for my mum to finish shopping.”
Do you usually bring out your phone while you are waiting? – “Nope, cos I’m in year seven and I don’t have one yet.”
Anything else you are waiting for? – “I’m waiting for mum to buy me a phone! I’m waiting for my sister to come back, I’m waiting for my nephew to get older and I’m waiting to get a job. I want to be a baker and bake cakes.”
Down the track I meet Joyce Pails in Eden, knitting a scarf at the Snug Cove Wharf while she waits for her husband and his mates.
What are you waiting for, Joyce? – “I’m waiting for the men to stop fishing!”
Do you usually bring out your phone while you are waiting? – “No, I leave it at home. My kids think I should take it out with me but I don’t!”
Anything else you are waiting for? – “I’m waiting for Eden to come back to life after the cannery closed and all the fishing stopped. It used to be that the boats were so thick here, you could walk across them from one side of the port to the other. I think only one or two boats go out now.”
So what are you waiting for? Put your phone away and take up residence on a park bench for a few minutes. Look around. Smile at people.
We live in an amazing place, with amazing people, in an amazing time.