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photo of the relevant page

要在往常,我一定早待不住了,惦记着某某侦探的案件是不是有了突破,……
Google Translate: As usual, I must have been unable to stay any longer, wondering if there was a breakthrough in the case of Detective XX,...
标准教程HSK6上,87页

I don't understand what the part in bold above means. Maybe it's something along the lines of "As usual, I was definitely prematurely restless, ...". It's not clear at all to me.

Question: What does 早待不住了 mean in 要在往常,我一定早待不住了……?

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  • Can't stay (quietly) in the room any more. Or Can't hold myself to do something. – Zhang May 14 at 8:21
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  1. 要是 signifies a hypothetical construction. 往常 does not only mean ‘as usual’ (which only corresponds to , as in 通常, 正常, 常規); here specifies the past, as in 往日, 往事, 往昔. Together they mean ‘normally in the past’.

  2. is an adverb meaning ‘already’. Think of that as saying, something happened well in the past (early in the timeline).

    他早(就)離開了。 He left already.

  3. is a verb meaning ‘to stay’. 不住 is an add-on to it, literally meaning ‘not to a still’. Figuratively, 待不住 means you can’t contain yourself, or you’ve got itchy feet. Perhaps you're excited or anxious about something.

  4. The whole sentence means ‘I’ in the past would’ve not been able to control myself in coming up with the many racing thoughts in my head (unsolved cases, scientific breakthroughs, lottery etc.). My mind is so irritable that these thoughts would have occurred very easily and very soon (hence the use of ). But now my mind is completely at peace, so they are nowhere to be found.

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In this context:

早 = early --> sometime ago --> long ago --> have already

要在往常,我一定(就)待不住了

If it was like usual in the past, I certainly would have already been unable to stay (then)

Another example:

早 = early --> sometime ago --> long ago

(就)死了 = he had died long ago (then)

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"早待不住了" here doesn't means his body, but his thinking mind can not stop here, would thinking in different place

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要在往常,
Normally,
我一定早待不住了,
I would have already left long ago,
惦记着某某侦探的案件是不是有了突破,
because, usually, I am always thinking such and such a case maybe has a breakthrough,
科学家是否有了震惊世界的发现,
some scientists maybe made an astonishing discovery,
彩票大奖开了没有,
whether the big lottery result has been announced,
前两天的恐怖袭击到底是谁干的,
who perpetrated the terrorist attack two days ago,

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If we translate the whole story rather than a sentence, then it would mean the text in boldface:

...my mind has gradually settled down, otherwise, I won't be able to sit still against my curios nature, that always wanted to know....

要在往常 indicates curiosity is the writer's personal trait normally, but not this time, because a peaceful/calmer mind has helped/kept him stay put rather than immediate jump out to pursue answers. A very unusual reaction of the writer judged from his normal behaviors.

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