Long lines, commuting to work, waiting for a table in a favorite restaurant, waiting on our families, waiting for inspiration: these are just a few things most of us deal with daily, sometimes impatiently more often than happily. Some people, content to stand in line and wait, practice some sort of standing meditation to survive the experience or feign idle chit-chat with the persons standing next to them. And waiting can even be a Zen-like moment if one is able to rise above the irritation. I, however, am not a fan of waiting, to put it mildly. It’s not that I go ballistic if I have to wait, causing a riot or making a scene. I simply choose, usually, not to spend time foolishly that way.
Now if I’m standing in line for something very special that is not regularly available (the Treasures of Tutankhamen art tour back in the late 70s comes to mind…and no I didn’t wait in line, but only because the show wasn’t close to me). Airports? I get there early to avoid lines, prefer to carry on to avoid baggage lines at both ends, and ticket via the Internet. Restaurants? Tell me it’s “about a 45-minute wait” and I’ll respond “It’s about 5 minutes to another restaurant where we won’t have to wait.” Voting? I’m a fan of absentee balloting or early voting, although the 2004 election caused me a bit of angst and took over an hour to get through the early voting process. In my mind, however, it was important and worth the wait.
What it really comes down to is tolerance. I have a high level of patience and tolerance when the wait is justified and I’m aware of and elect to accept the wait. While that may seem like I’m a control freak, it’s more about the wait having value than a personal desire to control things. But what gets my gall is the unknown wait or worse, the lie-to-me wait, the one where they tell you “10 minutes” and slowly, progressively, this falsity morphs into an hour (or more!). It isn’t that I’m a prima don and think I’m above waiting on anything more that I’m acutely aware of how I spend time and frankly, in my mind waiting is not time spent wisely in most cases.
So when do I wait? Here’s a list of situations I’ve had the patience to endure and instances where I’d rather not and avoid like the plague whenever possible:
* Wise: Waiting at the airport for a loved one to walk through the terminal portal (waiting for a hug is never time spent foolishly!)
* Wise: Waiting in line for over an hour at the first showing of “The Fellowship of the Ring,” the first part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (and yes, I waited in line that long for the other two parts, and will wait even longer for “The Hobbit” film rumored to appear in the next few years).
* Wise: Taking my son early to his band concert resulting in an extra hour wait before the kids play, making us all proud parents (waiting in any form for your kids is always exempt from “should I or shouldn’t I” consideration).
* Wise: Waiting for Godot: a most excellent play and doesn’t belong in the list, technically, but I couldn’t resist the play on words!
* Foolish: Waiting in line at a restaurant that isn’t special or incredible…as in one chosen for no reason other than convenience or laziness.
* Foolish: TRAFFIC! Just about any wait in traffic is a bummer, but often necessary. That’s why God gave us talk-radio idiots …so we could transfer our traffic-intolerance indignation to those bozos spouting extreme-right- or extreme-left-wing tripe.
* Foolish: Standing in line for movie tickets (exception noted above, but made unnecessary in today’s Internet-everything world since one can buy tickets online, walk to the kiosk, punch a few numbers, and strut proudly (while feeling special) to the ticket puncher well ahead of those non-pro-active cretins back in snaking lines waiting to buy tickets the boring way).
* Foolish: Watching a TV show, becoming completely engrossed in the story and suddenly, startlingly seeing those unexpected yet dreadful words: “To Be Continued.” A slow, painful, death is too good for such TV producers. There ought to be a law!
* Foolish: Busting your ass to make a doctor’s appointment only to be rewarded with waiting well past your appointment time. Too bad we can’t bill them for our time spent foolishly waiting from their inefficiencies.
Ultimately, there’s no such thing as a life spend without waiting on something sometime. The trick is, I think, to make good judgments on when it makes sense to wait, when doing so is important enough to you to tolerate the inconvenience, and avoiding instances when it’s really time spent foolishly to wait. As a writer, of course, I can make the most out of any waiting by loosening the elastic band on my ever-present pocket moleskine, going to the next blank page, and putting motion to my hand. These little opportunities to capture thoughts can be golden moments, assuming one remembers to carry the dang journal at all times! For those times I can make do with waiting-room magazine inserts, napkins, or whatever’s handy to capture an unexpected epiphany. I may have to wait in line or in a chair occasionally, but I can’t afford to wait for those delicious epiphanies to reappear when it’s more convenient: doing so most likely means opportunity knocked and I couldn’t answer the door.
> PATIENCE, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue. – Ambrose Bierce (1842 – 1914), The Devil’s Dictionary
> “How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience would have achieved success?” – Elbert Hubbard (1856 – 1915)