Nothing Better to Do

Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

This is based on a memory of my prepandemic past. I hope those days will return soon.

Right off the bat, I will confess that I am a serial lingerer.

Before you get too excited let me explain. The verb to linger according to the dictionary means  “ to take longer than usual to leave”. I don’t hear it used much anymore and that is sad because I suspect that lingering has gone out of fashion in many places. 

I have special use of the word. I linger in my favorite cafes in Barranco, a suburb of Lima, Peru. The lingering occurs in some of my hangouts with friends and one or two cups of coffee. Sure the coffee is good, but the best part is the talk with friends. Also, the realization that I have nothing better to do. 

My neighbor Pedro, a master at lingering,  used to set out every morning in his bright yellow, ancient Mercedes to meet up with his friends. That was the most important part of his life. All morning was devoted to this pursuit.   Until one day, he couldn’t anymore because he was too sick. Not long after, he died.  But he lingered to the very last. 

Lingering means that you have nothing better to do. And that is a good thing. It also happens in my home.  We linger over a good meal and this is the time for some of the best discussions. Again there is nothing better to do. 

 Lingering is a lost art in some circles. These are the people who always have something better to do. I remember an acquaintance in Bakersfield, California. When I asked if we might get together for coffee, he whipped out his Blackberry ( this was a long time ago) and said  “ I have time at 3:00 three weeks from now.”

 Needless to say, we never met for that coffee. 

Time-obsessed cultures like the United States put lingering low on the list of priorities. I’ve never heard any of the gurus of time management say that you should allocate space for lingering. Stong opponents of lingering are fast-food restaurants in the U.S. where the average time spent is 12.5 minutes consuming a meal and departing. 

Here in Barranco, our hangouts never prod us to leave. We are welcome as long as we want. So we don’t get glances from the servers or frequent interruptions asking if we want anything else. We stay as long as we want and it is fine. In the U.S. and other places, I am sure that they have calculated the turnover rate and potential profit of the restaurant. So they don’t really want anybody to stay too long. A pity. 

Well, if you are a serious lingerer, or think that you have the potential to become one,  I can recommend Peru as a great place to engage in what can become your favorite activity.

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