The (Lost?) Art of Hanging Out

Take the time to take time because nobody else will do it for you.
— Anne Berest

I’ll start off by admitting that I am the worst offender. My career is deadline-driven and a day’s work is judged by checks on a checklist. Throughout my week, I manage to fit in exercise and food and television, but rarely do I take time to just hang out.

Parisians pointed this out to me. As Sam and I sat at a café in the middle of an afternoon, two women behind him caught up over a slow beer—one in work clothes and heels and the other with a baby in a stroller. The next day, Sam described a man behind me while we were at a sidewalk table. He has flowing hair, a dressy black shirt, his legs are crossed, he’s smoking a cigarette, drinking wine, and immersed in a serious phone call. Did I mention it’s 2 p.m. on a Wednesday?

Everywhere we went, we were so impressed at how many opportunities there were for us to grab a seat and a long café crême. One day we spread out our blanket in a park—Sam played guitar while I read and picked my head up occasionally to watch a group of college-aged girls. Books and binders amassed in front of them as questions and answers were tossed around their circle. I don’t speak French, but as they perused notes, smoked cigarettes, and inserted comments after exhales, they seemed to be debating politics and pulling apart policies. Not long after, I looked up and books had been packed away, they were engaged in a game of cards, still smoking, but now throwing cards into the center in between an incessant stream of chatter.

Sure, there’s the bread and café crêmes, and the history and collections of art were mind-blowing, but I left Paris with a clearer understanding of what it means to pause throughout the day and to gather in a public place. I learned the art of hanging out.

Travel, WritingKelly Chase