Bookish Questions: Idle Time & What It Says About Us


Let me start with a distinction between “Idle” and “Free” time. In my mind, free time is time when you’re free to do anything you like for leisure, while idle time is those moments between activities, such as waiting in line, commuting to and from work, waiting for the bus. It’s basically the time you have between activities you either have to do or have chosen to do.

If I think through my day, I spend some idle time talking with my husband over a cup of coffee every morning, post waking and prior to getting ready for the day ahead.

What I do during my commute to and from work depends on how I’m getting there. Most days I prefer to walk, and while many of the people walking with me prefer to have headphones in, I always listen to the world around me. Same thing if I bike, but that’s more for safety reasons than an actual decision that I like one thing over another.

If I take the bus or train I always have my kindle with me. I tend to leave pretty early in the morning and can snag a seat without too much difficulty, in which case I always read. Others around me tend to listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks, while a smaller faction read physical books or ebooks, then there is a smaller group still that does none of the above and watches traffic as we speed toward our destination.

Dr Hops commutes just under an hour to his lab twice a day, and is a huge advocate of Podcasts, and I always get a rundown of the things he heard that day when we sit down for dinner. One of his favorite quotes is below and is also how he sees things. He loves that each podcast is a different topic that he would never have known about had it not been featured. He loves knowing a little about everything, and it colors his choice of idle time activities.

It’s what I do–I drink and I know things.
–T. Lannister (Game of Thrones)

I have a friend who puts together playlists the night before so they are constantly trying out new music. I have yet to hear of a band and them not already have them on one of these playlists ready to go.

If I have a later morning because of errands or dog related appointments, the train and bus are normally too crowded to sit, and I almost always have a coffee with me, so I’m stuck holding on for dear life as the MBTA shuttles me through Boston traffic. For a while I listened to audiobooks, but I don’t like being confined to only finishing a story during a particular time, and I always end up reading the book, leaving me with nothing to do on the commute once again.

Sometimes I people watch and wonder where my fellow commuters are heading. If I see someone else reading a book, I always try to see the title.

What do you do during idle time, waiting in lines or on your morning commute?  

What do you think our choice of activities during those little stolen minutes says about us?

How much do you think our idle and free time activities overlap?