The Lost Art of Killing Time

Posted 08.16.2011

Keywest1 This past weekend, I had the great opportunity to spend a couple of days with the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Venturous on patrol in the Florida Straits.  I’m organizing my thoughts, pictures and videos from the trip and will have more to share on that in the days and weeks to come.

Today, I’m writing about the end of the trip. For operational reasons, the Captain needed to drop me off in Key West early Sunday morning about 10 hours earlier than the original plan of late afternoon. I stowed my bags at the Coast Guard station and set out for the day with my wallet, my cell phone and absolutely no plan whatsoever.

By the end of the day, I had:

  • seen where Hemingway wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls,
  • met a six toed descendant of one of his favorite cats,
  • climbed to the top of an old lighthouse,
  • had a long lunch and a few drinks,
  • saw the bar where Jimmy Buffet got his start,
  • talked with probably half a dozen nice people and
  • had a margarita in Papa’s favorite bar before walking back to the station to get my stuff and head for the airport.

Keywest2About halfway through the day, it occurred to me that I was literally killing time. I had nothing else to do. The earliest flight off the island was the one at 7:05 pm that I already had a ticket for. To conserve its battery, the only thing I used my cell phone for was looking up the address for Hemingway’s and taking pictures. Did not check a single email. When the sun got a little too hot, I moved to the shady side of the street. Time literally slowed down.

I hate to admit it, but I honestly cannot remember when I last killed a whole day by just wandering around. I read a column lately in which the author made the point that with mobile devices like smart phones always around for e-mail, Facebook, games and such,  boredom is headed for extinction.  There is always some sort of digital input to fill up the white space. For me, this past Sunday was a day for non-digital input. Keywest3I came away with a much more relaxed perspective and a bit of an ah-ha about how much time I spend plugged in and what the impact is of that.

I intend to get better at learning how to kill time every so often. Margaritas will be optional, not required.