Delayed Response: The Art of Waiting from the Ancient to the Instant World

Muddled hodgepodge of a book that was not successful in its attempt to find commonality in the act/art of waiting. Mostly I’m fascinated by the pneumatic tubes which were essential to delivering mail in NYC, Philly, Paris, London, and the reason I picked up this book. But Farman uses a not-well-defined concept (we’ve always waited, it has an impact on our lives) as an excuse for trips to Japan and Australia in addition to chasing Civil War battlefields and musing about the Hubble telescope. What a weird and patched-up book whose seams are fraying and tattered. There’s a whole discourse on the design of computer icons to indicate waiting.

Paris used the pneumatic tube mailing system from 1866-1984; London launched it in 1853 and it was used in the U.S. from 1893 to 1953 to shoot mail quickly across town from one station to another. Farman dazzles himself by discovering that one of these stations (Station A) is now an Apple Store, fitting nicely into his story about instant messaging and how making people wait in line for their products creates desirability.  Anyway, the system was decommissioned in the 1950s because the tubes were expensive to maintain and trucks could handle large quantities of mail cross-town.

Tubes were also used in department stores (clerks take the money for your purchase and shoot it to another floor, getting your receipt and change back by way of tube as well), the NYPL library, banks, and hospitals.

Some guy thought he’d figured out the solution to more cheaply laying fiber across NYC by utilizing the existing pneumatic tube system, but nope, much cheaper to just dig shallow trenches. Also, post-9/11 the actual schematics of the tube system became impossible to access due to terrorist threat.