“Hanging out is not what it used to be” , or so I thought before coming to Beirut. I used to remember those long afternoons in my grandmother’s village when I was a kid, far away from Mexico City. I would sit down with her and her sister and “people watch” from the porch, while sipping a Coke or eating a homemade tortilla. The hours, days, weeks, would pass and we would give ourselves to those slow afternoons, just enjoying a cool breeze or each other’s company.
In Mexico City, such an activity was almost impossible, mostly because my house didn’t have a porch and people rarely walked in front of it. Also, in a fast-paced city such as Mexico there wasn’t really time to hang out like that anyway. So as I grew older, as a busy city girl, I would remember those afternoons with my grandma with nostalgia, the times when people would just hang out for the sake of it, without accomplishing much more than looking out or chatting about that evening’s supper.
When I came to Beirut, I had the chance to re-discover hanging out and I really admire Beirutis for keeping that ability. Beirut is in fact a big city, with traffic and all, but people still take the time to chat for hours on end, maybe smoking arghileh, eating some nuts or drinking their third of fourth cup of coffee. This is the case for men and women by the way, young and old.
The very sociable side of the Lebanese has them hanging out with people all the time. As a matter of fact, you can drop by your neighbors’ house anytime for a cup of coffee and a chat, without announcing yourself, or planning to meet up one week in advance -like you would in Mexico City. People invite you to stay for lunch, dinner, or both, just to hang out, without doing anything, getting anywhere or accomplishing a thing.
There is this juice bar in the corner of my street and people spend hours there, just drinking juice (they don’t sell anything else). I can’t imagine what someone can talk about for so long, but I guess someone who has lost the habit of “just hanging out”-like me- needs a bit of practice to master this art.
Some people would call this behavior “lazy”. But sometimes, I wonder if this being constantly busy, constantly on the run from one appointment to the other is in fact more of a disease than something “productive”.
After all, what is more revitalizing than a nice long afternoon with friends, talking about everything and nothing, relaxing and reinventing the world?