December 3, 2020

Friends

Wednesday nights at 7.30pm was a sacred time when I was growing up. It was reserved for catching up with my 6 friends who lived in Manhattan and hung out together at a cafe called Central Perk. The Netflix generation will not understand the anticipation as we marked the passage of time from Wednesday to Wednesday during rating season when Friends was on TV. The longing was real.

It’s a concept that is alien to a world of on-demand TV, the product premise of which is to remove that longing. It’s a world we have become unused to waiting.

When we do ‘wait’ now, we expect transparency in the wait time. On hold at the bank, the robot tells us how long we are expected to wait. Order an Uber, we track the car to the moment of arrival to democratise the wait.

What, it seems, the purveyors of waiting have figured out is that waiting is OK, so long as we have information about when it will end. Knowledge about the wait gives us power over the wait.

2020 has thrust us into uncertainty on many fronts, but the disenfranchised ‘waiting’ on restrictions and border closures has been one of the harshest torments of covid. The torture of waiting, with the cruel and unusual condition of indeterminacy.

There have been times in 2020 when even the saintly patient among us have been heard muttering, “when is this going to end?”. Politicians trading blows about when borders could come down and friends could reunite – balancing the need for physical distancing with the need for physical connection.

The longing for the next instalment of the Friends TV show has been nothing compared to the longing to catch up with friends across the borders of Australia. We’ve questioned the policy, we’ve questioned the logic and humanity, and we have questioned the fabric of our Federation.

Heading into the traditional season of ‘being’ with friends and family, I don’t think we can question the longing. If there wasn’t real love and joy from our relationships – even if that relationship is with the freedom and adventure of travel – if that wasn’t real, neither would the longing be real.

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