There’s an episode of Seinfeld where Elaine and her nonchalant boyfriend, Dave, sit next to each other on an aeroplane.
The couple exchanges romantic gestures, before settling in for the flight ahead.
Elaine picks up a book and begins to read, before noticing that Dave continues to stare into the back of the seat in front of him.
Bothered, she asks whether he would like some reading material.
He replies with a jockish ‘‘Nah, I’m good’’.
“Are you gonna take a nap?” Elaine asks.
“Nah,” Dave replies.
“You’re just going to sit there, staring at the back of the seat?” she says.
“Yeah,” he replies.
She tries to accept his reluctance to do anything other than stare at the seat, but a dispute follows, Elaine seemingly unable to handle her partner’s ability to just ... do ... nothing.
It may sound strange to say, but doing nothing takes a fair bit of practice.
In the regular world, with telephones firing off notifications each minute or two, emails arriving and real people (remember them?) sharing their wisdom, there is sometimes not a great deal of opportunity to do nothing.
Doing nothing on a long-haul flight requires a unique level of skill, practice, discipline.
It’s a rare ability.
Some, like Elaine from Seinfeld, struggle with just the idea.
But it also brings into question what ‘‘nothing’’ means.
‘‘What did you get up to?’’ you may be asked at the end of a lazy weekend.
‘‘Oh, nothing,’’ you might reply.
A ‘‘nothing weekend’’ could go as follows: Waking up, replying to a couple of texts, shower, read the paper, go for brunch, coffee, walk the dog, check emails, find your way to YouTube, find your way to eBay, bid on a shirt you’ll wear once, snack, make a few phone calls, watch a movie, snack further, put together a meal from disparate elements in the cupboard, pour a glass of wine, watch a film ... etc.
On a long-haul flight, in the confinements of your seat, that nothing is drawn into sharper focus.
You’re transplanting a human into a situation where the full scale of options for entertainment are limited to the company of those sitting adjacent to them (who most likely won’t be interested in a conversation), an in-flight entertainment smorgasbord (if one exists at all) and the lovely-sounding but elusive proposition of sleep.
On one memorable transatlantic flight, a guy next to me spent the better part of 10 hours staring into the back of the seat ahead.
I spent a minimal part of the 10 hours marvelling at his ability to spend 10 hours staring into the back of a seat.
Not long ago, a long flight that proved rather exciting involved enduring an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, followed by two terrible action films, getting through three or four chapters of a decent book and attempting a tough-level Sudoku.
Point being, doing nothing on a long-haul flight really is doing nothing.
It adds perspective.
What’s so bad about doing ‘‘nothing’’ on weekends anyway?
It makes you grateful, longing for all those ‘‘nothing days’’, where in actual fact you probably did plenty.