Waiting is a universal experience. We hope for better weather. We are idling at the departure gate. We are anxious to receive a medical diagnosis. We prepare for the birth of a child. Waiting, in other words, is an everyday occurrence, though how and what we wait for varies. Still, we barely reflect on what this state entails. It is even difficult to state what it is we do when we wait. Is it an activity or the absence of one? For the most part, what we remember about spending time in limbo—if we remember it at all—is a barrage of emotions, with frustration likely topping the list. While waiting, one might say, we are confronted with the realization that we are not always in command.
Put differently, however, waithood amounts to a temporally bounded condition in which time becomes actual, if not acute. Removed from their regular activities, those who wait often anticipate what will, may, or must come. In this sense, waiting is anything but wasted time. Waiting orients us toward the world and the future. What is more, waiting, though an individual experience, is collective. Utopia may be the only place where such intervals do not exist. Almost everywhere else, forms of waiting structure, organize, and coordinate social interactions.
This is why the question whether there is a history of waiting must be answered in the affirmative. The history I seek to uncover in this research intersects with the history of measuring time as well as building spaces. After all, separate rooms often harbor those who wait. Waiting, as I argue, is full of possibilities. And so is the history of waiting.