Judith Armatta

Judith Armatta is a lawyer, journalist and human rights activist

Waiting for Time to Pass

I remember standing in my Den Haag flat, staring out the balcony doors, seeing nothing. I was wishing for time to pass, for the endless days of a trial I was monitoring to finally end so I could go home. I’d been at the Tribunal three long years, and there was no end in sight. I missed my partner, friends, and family. I missed Oregon’s giant fir trees and its scrubby pines. Den Haag was a sweet village with cobbled and bricked roads, canals, boutiques, museums, cafes. It was not a hardship post like Belgrade. But I wanted time to pass. It struck me how appalling it was to wish my years to pass more quickly, for what’s at the end but death. I didn’t want that. I wanted an imaginary future, where I was always happy, loving, and loved, where beauty abounded, life was interesting, I was never bored or burdened with other people’s sorrows.

It is now sixteen years later and I find myself wishing these days would pass, these days of confinement, of being locked down, locked away from friends and family. I’m older and there’s not so much time left. Will I yet sip cappuccino or Turkish coffee at Marino’s funky Bosnian café? Talk with Zoa for hours at Monti’s about politics, philosophy, and family, snacking on a blueberry almond scone? Will my favorite restaurants still exist? My precious Jade District is shut down and people are afraid of anything Asian, especially Chinese. Will we lose Ocean City, HK Café, and Pure Spice? Will my local farmers’ market, where we shop for fruit and veggies but also go to meet neighbors and listen to music, open as the crops come in? Will the crops come in? Who will harvest them?  Is there a visit to the Academy Theater in my future? Do I have a future? I have an “underlying medical condition” and I am over 65 (by quite a bit).  

I do not want to wish time to pass. There’s so little of it left. But I am not in prison. I am not surrounded by grey cement walls in a 6 X 10 foot cell. I am not confined in solitary. My beloved Kate is with me, as she was not in Den Haag. We have a lovely house (these days, it is well-lived in and I trip over stacks of books, shoes, and displaced chairs). Our refrigerator and freezer are finally getting cleaned out. Our pantry still holds nourishment and cookies. I can sit in my overstuffed chair patterned with books and read from the hundreds I have not yet read and reread any of those I cannot remember having read. Kate will always be here for dinner. We can walk together in our neighborhood and occasionally up Mt. Tabor when others stay home – a boon of all those rainy days. There is Britbox on our TV, though streaming is a challenge at times, as are most technical devices in my vicinity – the printer is broken, the computer has three dozen programs on it that won’t close, most of my photos are inaccessible, entire files vanish when I save them to my three terabyte thumb drive. (I think fondly of the old days when I just turned on the TV and a screen appeared. I could twist a knob and select from four channels, but then PBS only showed British mysteries and comedies on certain nights, not Friday evening at seven or whenever we have time and inclination to watch. Nothing is perfect.) I can watch the squirrels gobble up corn and sunflower seeds on our side porch, though I’ve run out of squirrel food and they’re not so fond of bird seed, of which I have 44 pounds. But then there are birds to watch. Kate, for the first time we’ve lived here, has planted a garden. Every day at least once she rushes outside to see whether any sprouts have pushed up their wee heads. She’s keeping worms in a compost bucket and assiduously cutting up veggie and fruit scraps. We have a few flowers. The tulips are up. The geraniums and primroses that wintered over continue to display their multicolored petals, while the jasmine drapes over the neighbors’ fence, safely dispensing fragrance through the air with no chance of carrying a virus (I don’t think). I saw a fat, black and white bumble bee the other day, foraging on the ground. I don’t know why. We are warm. We eat well. We have gloves and masks (bought several years ago for cleaning and preventing wildfire smoke inhalation).

A bounteous life. Why would anyone want time to pass quickly? We don’t know what May, June, or July will bring. We only always ever have today, now, this minute. A mix of abundance and loss. Today I am given the opportunity to observe and accept what is – with equanimity, and possibly joy. Am I up to it?


It’s only the latest. First there was my desktop computer. Then it was the new laptop. Before that, it was the television. And, of course, my cell phone. The latest is my printer/copier. None of them are fond of me. They find ways to disturb my peace and to make me sound like a raving maniac. Very successful, they are.

Confession first. I am a Luddite. I miss my electric typewriter. I miss a landline. I miss a television with only four channels and a dial. I called the first computer I used “Murphy” after Murphy’s law (whatever can go wrong will go wrong). You young folks keep “improving” technology, then try to explain it to us Luddites from another era using your tech terms that make instructions read like Mandarin or Gaelic spoken backward. I do not live with anyone under the age of 40. I do not have an IT person at my beck and call. I’m on my own with changes (should I mention that I hate Microsoft 10?) and glitches and major breakdowns. Now, without the ability to take a device to someone with tech expertise, I’m really on my own—an unhappy prospect for my partner who must listen to me rant and rave. I haven’t yet destroyed anything.

Which brings me to the latest breakdown. My printer/copier. It was working fine until I tried to stop it in the middle of a print job. It didn’t like it. Though it eventually started again, it didn’t last long. Soon, I got the dreaded flashing light and ERROR MESSAGE: “An error has occurred. The printer needs repair. Turn the device off and unplug the power cord from the power supply [i.e. electric outlet]. Then see the manual and contact the service center.”

I looked through the entire 100 page manual but found no advice for this problem. The service center was closed. I went on-line and watched several videos, showing me how to fix this particular problem, one video was in German. In another, a very pleasant woman demonstrated a trick, which unfortunately didn’t work for me. She suggested the company programs this error into their printers so that people will buy new ones (assuming we would be stupid enough to buy the same brand!). My favorite video was by a fellow who started by laying out the tools I would need, beginning with a bottle of beer. So far so good. Then, a screwdriver, an electric screwdriver, and a hammer. He proceeded to take a swig of beer, then to unscrew parts of the printer. I was a little disconcerted when he took the beer outside, then returned for the printer which he placed in his firepit. He opened the printer cover and poured beer all over it. Next, he walked over to a woodpile and selected a large log and proceeded to smash it on top of the computer. He wasn’t done. He picked up the hammer and struck the printer over and over and over until it was a jumble of plastic and he was well satisfied. He finished the beer.

I haven’t been that brave yet, but I do have a hammer.