Taxi Noir: Black Sabbatical
As the lockdown continues I’ve been thinking a lot about how time is used differently by different people. Some folk have an abundance of time while others feel there aren’t enough hours in the day. Until mid-March I’d been driving a cab full-time and doing lots of other things in my spare time. Overnight, I went from super-busy to having more time that I knew what to do with. It was overwhelming.
Actually, I did know what to do with my time: I was studying for a diploma in health and safety and writing magazine articles. But overwhelmed with having so much time at my disposal, and a long list of things I wanted to accomplish, I couldn’t focus. I tried drawing up a timetable of activities to fill my day. I’ve the attention span of a goldfish anyway, and overloaded with thoughts of what to do next I often found myself staring into space and doing nothing. I’d make endless mugs of coffee and look forward to my bi-weekly visit to Morrison’s. It was the highlight of the day. I was getting a lot done, but little more than when I just had a couple of hours to myself and the end of my working day
There’s a saying: “if you want something doing, ask a busy man.” I know what it means. You don’t give an important project to someone who can work through 200 episodes of The King of Queens recorded on his Freeview box and still have time on his hands. Ask this once-busy man something and all I can tell you about is Australian border controls, the price of antiques, and other useless information gleaned from daytime television. I had lost my sharpness, my sense of urgency. I needed deadlines. A friend asked me to help her with a health and safety risk assessment she had to do for work. This had an expiry date on it, so I was happy to put in on the list for the following morning. I looked forward to doing this little task. After lunch I was again overwhelmed with choosing what to do next.
I was happy though. I enjoyed cooking as it gave me something to look forward to twice a day. I enjoyed sitting in the garden watching the cat and rabbit run around on the lawn – listening to music on my headphones that I hadn’t played for years. I enjoyed the sun’s warmth getting stronger. I couldn’t find a work structure, but on some days I filled my days constructively. I’ve been reading, writing, learning French, and brewing beer. I did a spot of painting (walls and ceilings, not oil on canvas). I even took the furniture polish to my old guitars. I used to play bass in a rock covers and I’ve been using a 500 watt bass amp as a cat tree for the past five years.
I told myself I’d look back on this time as a golden period. Few working adults have extended periods of inactivity. I’ve had the odd month off due to some horrendous cab-related issues, but this is the longest period I’ve had off – and it isn’t over yet.
No need to feel guilty. I’m taking a sabbatical. I’m having some “Me” time. I could’ve applied for supermarket jobs in March, but on reflection my time would be better spent at home catching up on things and giving myself a spiritual springboard for when normality returns. What’s wrong with rest and relaxation anyway?
I’ve always wondered about these racks of books that form the background to any celebrity or expert home interview. Whenever an expert is filmed for a soundbite there are invariably bulging shelves of books on either side of the talking head. I haven’t analysed this phenomenon, but some people think there’s a hidden meaning, like KGB spooks marking out London pavements during the cold war. Perhaps the books are arranged purely to make the interviewee appear more intelligent or more of an expert?
I looked at my book rack yesterday, just in case someone from The Culture Show pops around for a surprise interview one morning. The resulting photographs captured my book arrangement exactly as found. If you can get in closely you’ll see mostly music and serial killer books. I’m not sure what this says about me, but probably not University Challenge material.