Inspiration sometimes comes from nowhere. By that I mean nowhere expected, otherwise you would have searched for it there, wouldn’t you? On a plane again, only seven days since the last one I sat down in and already the world looks a different shape. Perhaps not a whole shape but at least a different surface – no maybe, a different material. Who knows? I forget there are so many other ways for things to change other than shape, that’s probably my Formalist education seeping in and overriding any common sense. Things can be different by being of a different age, being made of a different material, having an altered density or being in a state of decay or flux. Things just seem different.
When I sat on the dusty grey seat of the airport waiting lounge, I wished for time to stop. Since my youth (can I call it that if I’m still in it?) I have often wished for time to stop. I’ve thought, if I could only possess a small remote control for reality that had a pause button, right next to the fast-forward, re-wind and stop buttons plus the record, well then life would be grand. When I was revising for my final examinations at university I wanted to press pause for as long as it took me to read about thirty books. It would have helped but been unnecessary, in the end.
A distinct memory I have of when time stood still, or that is, time gave me an opportunity to look at it passing from an outsider’s perspective actually occurred to me in my final exam. The final final examination, that is the last exam I ever took at university anyways. It was a paper on Southern African Hunter-Gatherers and it was a subject I’d enjoyed but couldn’t see taking any further. It was the last question on the paper, and the stupendous clock with the overly-large beige face and italicised roman numerals that squiggled laughed down at me. The hands moved with the passage of time and I saw it all for what it was which was an exam, one part of life that I would never repeat (like with the rest of life) but this moment particularly made itself visible because it was so blatant, and in that banal. I was mid-sentence, ‘As watering-holes are integral to the survival of a tribe when one became unusable due to an ecological factor such as drought, the social –‘
When I placed my pen down and looked at that clock the hands were pointing at almost half-past three. If the clock had been digital it would have blinked 14:27. I waited for three whole minutes looking at that clock soaking in time, watching people scribble furiously or glance up at the window deep in thought or maybe anxiety. I didn’t meet anybody’s eye, which made me feel like I had the power over that moment, an outsider looking in. Time looks like it stands still when you’re not in amongst it, living it. I smiled back at the clock, and said to it inside my head, ‘At least I ended on the word “social”, which you have to admit was the point to take away from my degree, wasn’t it?’ and then some bellow of an archaic echo resounded through the room and I heard a majestic sigh and groan exhaled by all examinees including myself. How sweet those three minutes are in my memory; admittedly only made sweet with the filter of nostalgia which at this juncture in my life is as poignant as photoshop.
On a sidenote, I’m not even willing to consider if life is boring. Does that make me naïve or in a permanent state of denial and youthful angst and arrogance? Maybe life is the three B’s: boring, blatant and banal and everything we do, like flailing and crying and buying sofas, is trying to avert our attention away from it.
I sat in the airport waiting lounge on a dusty grey chair wanting to stop time. Then an announcement went bing-bong and called all passengers flying on this (my) particular flight to come and queue for boarding. I sat there and watched this pile of people line up and I became sort of grateful because travelling across time-zones is actually the only real way to pause time, or at least fuck with it in a way that isn’t human. Unnatural. I will in effect be pausing time now by boarding this plane, and I’ll wile away some hours up there that will be unaccounted for and therefore lost. I’ll meet a man who sits in a chair next to mine, and we’ll speak about philosophy and be able to converse in both languages and I’ll feel grateful for time gained and time lost. All in good sport.