2018-02-28 / Opinion


Piddlin’ Around
by Bud Hearn

One of the signature pastimes of any true Southerner is piddling around. It’s a cultural art form.


It’s Saturday morning. I sit around the pool deck, piddling. How do I know it qualifies as piddling? Read on, I’ll tell you.

Maybe you’ve never thought about piddling. Yet, maybe you piddle without even knowing it. So, what’s piddling, you ask? Why, it’s a state of mind, the ultimate ‘it is what it is.’ It’s anything, and everything; the quintessential personal choice.

Piddling defies description or definition. If you have to ask if you’re piddling, then you’re not piddling. The true essence of piddling has nothing to do with planned activities. Pure and unadulterated piddling is serendipitous and adventitious. While it may appear as an activity, who would call watching paint dry an activity? But it could be piddling.

Piddling around is not necessarily work per se, though under critical observation it might appear as such. Piddling has cracked the code of many conundrums without effort. Things like figuring out the genius of a thermos bottle: How does it know what’s hot or cold?

Sometimes piddling might involve work, like clipping your toenails; but effort without meaningful purpose is not work. The thin line of separation between piddling and work is this: If it has purpose, it’s not piddling.

Someone may ask, “Why are you staring at that dead bug?”

You could say, “Just piddling, passing the time of day.”

To which they might reply that such pursuit is a stupid waste of time. You would know that person is not a piddler, but a moron. Piddling has no objective pursuits. You marvel at mankind’s gross ignorance in simple nuance.

Piddlers never sit idle, watching the clock’s minutes crawl by. But doing so in rocking chairs is acceptable behavior. Piddling actually arrests time, the tireless tyrant that demands burning calories to justify your meager existence. Exempt from this, of course, is popping Dentyne Chewing gum or blowing bubbles from Bazooka Bubble gum. Prized forms of piddling.

While piddling is not gender specific, it’s unmistakably identified by the atavistic footprints of boys, men and dogs. In our family’s hardware store of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, men stood at the counter honing their pocket knives on the whetstone for no other purpose other than shootin’ the breeze. That’s piddling.

True piddling is effort without contemplation. Engaging any part of your cognitive cortex is not a pure form of piddling. Piddling has mixed blood and a long chain of biological relatives. ‘Trifling’ is a distant cousin tainted by frivolous fascinations.

To trifle is sort of like twiddling your thumbs or popping your knuckles. My mother harped on the adverse effects of knuckle-popping, muttering something under her breath about my daddy’s knuckle-dragging side of the family. Her affirmation of the “I do” wedding vow rendered the complaint mute.

‘Plinking around’ is a wild branch grafted into the family tree by an adventurous but aberrant uncle who piddled a lot with bird dogs. In my youth I did a lot of plinking with my Daisy BB gun down at the city dump dinging tin cans and empty R. C. Cola bottles. In retrospect, it would have qualified for piddling except I was plinking to avoid mowing the lawn.

Piddling has a dark side. Two distant cousins, ‘Fiddling around’ and ‘ Fooling around’ have tarnished the Piddling family’s reputation. These incorrigible and wayward cognates prefer the low-rent roads of the piddling highway. Especially ‘Fooling around.’

Fruit falls not far from the family tree. ‘Fooling around’ is like following your cross- eyed third cousin on a depraved bacchanalian bender. You stagger through dark alleys and smoky dives. You wake up the next morning in a strange place with an even stranger companion. A bad hangover, a nose ring and a serious regret remind you that Piddling can have its downsides.

Piddling always attracts the ‘you’re-wasting time’ crowd. They load you with grievous guilt and lament like losers in the Saturday night card game:

The winners laugh and light cigars

And order another round;

The losers mourn and cry, “Deal on,”

In them no joy is found.

So, rest easy, dear piddler, your sins are forgiven. The Ultimate Arbiter of everything will show mercy on every idle hour of piddling.


Now back beside the pool. I piddle, putter, trifle, idle and generally waste time.

How? By doing nothing but being astonished by the erotic mating habits of two earthworms entwined in a lover’s embrace beneath my chair.

Now friends, that’s ‘Piddling around.’

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