I'm about 40% of the way through Ron Chernow's epic biography on Alexander Hamilton. It has been a banner year for me in regards to reading. In the last eight months, I've been able to plow through a biography on Mozart written by Marcia Davenport in 1932 (which is, needless to say, out of print; my mother, a librarian, fished it out of a stack of books her library were in the process of disposing of. The mere act of disposing of any books must've caused her great consternation. But I digress...), His Excellency, George Washington by Joseph Ellis, John Adams by David McCullough, 1776 by David McCullough, Alexander Hamilton, American by Richard Brookhiser, and last but not least, Traveling Music, by my personal hero, Neil Peart. With the exception of the Brookhiser and Neil Peart book, almost all of these works clock in at approximately 700 pages, so I feel like I'm more than able to do some seriously heavy lifting, intellectually speaking.
Whilst it is true that the last five months have been ones of leisure for me, courtesy of a certain large financial institution's decision to give me an early retirement (ahem...), the reason for my fairly prodigious consumption of the printed word is because I've mastered the art of productive "dead time". What is "dead time"? Simple. It is the half an hour you wait for the subway to come, and the time that you're on the subway waiting for your stop. It is the time that you're waiting in the doctor or dentist office for your name to be called. It is the time in the waiting room of Mr. Goodwrench (muffler, $400). It is the time in Penn Station, waiting for your train to arrive so you can depart the dirty city. (An exercise I no longer have to endure, as per my departure from the Isle of Manhattan and the subsequent purchase of my first wholly owned motor vehicle.) It's being stuck on a trans-continental flight. And it is riding on a bus throughout Central America for hours on end on roads that make the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway seem blissfully smooth. That's "dead time". We're all afflicted with it, be it waiting in DMV, or taking a bus back from college. How we use that "dead time" is a pretty important question, because I'd surmise that most people either play games on their cell phone, listen to their IPod, or sit around ruminating about how sh*tty it is to be so bored for so long. I don't know how anyone else does it, but I find that reading is the all-purpose elixir to the elimination of boredom, and never do I read more than when I have no choice but to kill a half an hour, two, three, five, or seven hours. Granted, I don't read for hours on end without a break. But having a book, particularly a dense one, alleviates a tremendous amount of boredom and stress.
A former girlfriend of mine of dubious sanity used to call me just to loudly complain about her delays on the bus, train, etc. My first reaction when this started happening was that she obviously was incapable of living in New York City. My second reaction was to tell her not to call me anymore, and to read a book if she hated waiting for mass transit. After all, I was victimized by the crappy service of the MTA as much as she was. She didn't take my advice, so I fired her*.
She didn't use her "dead time" wisely.
*To the members of the fairer sex, be assured that there were much more extenuating circumstances to her departure than her poor use of "dead time". Please pardon any perceived undertones of chauvinism, for they were not intended to convey such.