Connections: Lost Time

The obvious way to eat up two hours was — you guessed it — Starbucks

What would you do if you unexpectedly found yourself with two hours to kill on a Sunday morning in Manhattan? It didn’t seem civilized to call a friend, before 9 on a Sunday, with my old “flip phone” to ask if I could drop in. Art galleries were not likely to be open yet, and it was too early to go to a movie.

Chris and I had gone to a party on Saturday night celebrating a book of poetry by his sister Thayer Cory, and a friend had put us up for the night. On Sunday morning, Chris, who is on a committee that chooses the recipients of social-justice journalism awards, bustled off to one of its meetings. It came to pass that I missed the 10:15 a.m. Hampton Jitney, by a minute or two, and the next bus wouldn’t take off for two hours. 

People often curse the Jitney in such situations, but I adore the Jitney. I remember when Jim Davidson got it going, and one of its very first drivers, Sisco Barnard, was a friend. In those days, I used to go “to town” more frequently than I do in recent years, and being able to get off along Third Avenue way back then seemed like a very welcome convenience, when compared with the only other option, which was navigating Penn Station on the West Side.

So there I was. The obvious way to eat up two hours was — you guessed it — Starbucks. The problem was that I had just finished reading the book on the Kindle I was carrying, and I didn’t have another book in hand, and I couldn’t find a newsstand in the vicinity to buy a New York Times. The kiosk on 40th and Third was closed. 

Remember when there was a newsstand on practically every corner in Midtown? That is an example of a way in which times have changed for the worse: hardly any newsstands, and fewer newspapers.

I am electronically challenged and didn’t have a clue about how to download another book to read on the Kindle. Although Starbucks has Wi-Fi, I didn’t think anyone there would enjoy being asked to help. Starbucks is an oasis — at least if you aren’t attempting to “sit in Starbucks while black,” as the two young men in Philadelphia were doing last week, before they were unjustly arrested — but it isn’t like a bar or pub, where once upon a time customers chit-chatted with one another whether they know one another or not. Starbucks  people are generally preoccupied with their own private thoughts and occupations and cellphones.

The book I had just finished on the Kindle was Michael Chabon’s “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” one of his most well-known and popular novels, which was published in 2000 and won a Pulitzer Prize. I had found it thoroughly enjoyable, so, with nothing else to do, I reread the first chapter!

This probably sounds like I’m trying to tell a story about how much better the world was before the digital universe existed, when newspapers were a dime a dozen and strangers weren’t shy about saying “hello” — but that isn’t my point at all. The moral of this story is that for perhaps the first time it occurred to me that I might have had a more pleasant Sunday morning if I had been hooked up to the world via an iPhone. Yes, I’m finally going to get one. I might need to attend one of those remedial tech classes the libraries offer just to get comfortable with the on/off switch, but the grandkids will be happy.