I'll call it the Fidget Factor. I'm in an airplane temporarily trapped with 300-odd other souls, and I am noticing once again how people will do all sorts of things that don't need doing right then, just to kill time and FEEL productive.
Across the aisle from me, a man just spent severals minutes fussing in the overhead bin to pull out his notebook computer. Once he had it out, I watched him transfer some files from an SD card and burn them to a CD. Then he packed the computer back up and waged war anew on that overhead bin.
The operation of the computer didn't take one third as long as the unpacking and repacking. What was it that prompted him to do it now? Was he afraid that he wouldn't have time when we landed? That hardly seems possible. Once freed from the confines of the plane, the operation would require hardly any time at all.
What was it then? Boredom? He has been reading a large hardcover book most of the flight, and there is television and music just a two-dollar Delta-style headset away. Maybe he was just afraid of forgetting later. If that's the case, then I applaud his sense of urgency. I'm tired of forgetting things almost as much as my kids are tired of no milk for their cereal.
No, I think it's an urge to look and FEEL productive. He just wants to say later, "I took care of that on the plane." I suppose I could just ASK him, my mystery worker across the aisle, but to do so would just expose my own lack of any truly urgent to do during this flight.
Besides, I would much rather sit here and look productive, thumb-typing this blog post into my Treo.