I took the subway to Queens and got there a lot earlier than I had planned, so I thought I would kill some time at the library near the train station.
Playwright Dion Boucicault (1820-1890) is quoted in 1841 as having said “Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.”
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) said in 1854: “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.”
I was just browsing through some books and a girl approached me and asked me if I would help her find a book.
Wikipedia defines “killing time” as “primarily an idiomatic expression, meaning ‘spending time in an inconsequential manner,’ or ‘to pass time aimlessly.’” Aimless, as in without direction.
We use many expressions that treat time, an abstract concept, as if it were a solid thing – make time, waste time, use time, pass time, spend time, save time, etc. To the ancient Greeks time was anthropomorphized: “Father Time.” What would “killing time” have meant to them?
I don’t remember what book it was nor even the category or type of book it was that she was looking for, but I remember her long brown hair partly covering her left eye and her off-white sweater with a speck of elongated dust on her left shoulder. She wore a small silver cross around her neck and a Mickey Mouse watch which indicated that it was 11:23.
There are many expressions commonly used about time: “Good taste is timeless,” and “Time heals all wounds,” to name a couple.
I frantically drudged up from my cognitive recesses what little I knew about the Dewey Decimal System and found the book for her. She was wearing sandals – tan sandals, and faded jeans down to mid-ankle. Her smile revealed braces on her top row of teeth. Not the bottom.
We found the book and she thanked me profusely. I wanted to ask her for her phone number, or if she wanted to have a Coke with me or something.
But I didn’t.
The entire interaction took less than fifteen minutes. I think of it often. It happened over thirty years ago.
Dr. Bill, February, 2009