Did you know that studies have concluded that the average American spend 5 years of their lives, waiting in line? Wow. I was surprised to read that, though I probably shouldn't have been.
I was thinking about this yesterday as I waited for the light to change on my way to the grocery store. It's kind of a funny thing that while I am not an especially patient person overall, I don't seem to have a problem waiting in line. Most of us have been queuing in one sort of line or another since primary school where we lined up to get on and off the bus, to leave the classroom for recess and, then very very quickly for fire drills.
Of course as a child, waiting patiently is a learned skill but we had plenty of practice learning it because it seemed that we were always waiting for something. The wait for Christmas Morning was eternal. Waiting for permission to leave the table after dinner wasn't quite as bad but waiting for a boring class to end really was interminable. We would fidget at our desks, eyes on that enormous class at the front of the room watching that stubborn second hand take it's jolly time (unintended pun) to move from one numeral to the next with a decisive "Click". We waited to take our turns during games, we waited for the weekend and we waited for summer break. We waved our hands in the air trying to get the teacher's attention when we wanted permission to speak and did the pee-pee dance waiting our turn for the bathroom.
And of course children wait with such anticipation be adults so that they can do as they please only to then be both shocked and disappointed to learn that that is not entirely the case. As adults, we are still always waiting. Biding our time is just another part of the human condition I suppose.
Gardeners wait for the perfect time of year to plant and then to harvest. Workers eagerly await their payday. Performers wait for their cue to go onstage. Teenagers wait for someone to call (or text nowadays I suppose) to ask them out. Interviewees wait to hear if they got the job. Worried parents of young drivers wait to hear that their kids got home safely each night.
We wait in traffic of course, at the gas station pump and in lines at the grocery store. You wait for someone to pull out in a busy parking lot and you wait your turn at the hot dog stand. A photographer patiently waits for the perfect shot and we wait for the return elevator. And lord knows we wait at the airport.
Clearly it's true. We spend a lot of time in lives, waiting for something or someone. There is a famous French play, by Samuel Beckett, "Waiting for Godot". I don't know if you've ever seen it. I have. I guess I am not sophisticated enough to appreciate it because it was one of the most boring plays I've ever seen. The worst of it being that "Godot" never actually shows up. At least not during the play. Maybe he is one of those people who are always late to everything.
You would think with all the waiting we do, that we would be better at it. You've seen the people in cars on the road that are determined to not have to wait. They zoom up in the breakdown lane to be closer to the front when faced with a line of cars. They incessantly beep at you while you are waiting for the old lady with a walker to cross in front of you. They pull out with anger and roar around you if you are going the actual speed limit on a narrow, winding, country road. Geez people, calm down!
Standing in line at the movies or the hardware ware store full grown adults wiggle and squirm like a 3 year old who needs to go potty. They jingle the change in their pockets, sigh very loudly and repeatedly, mutter and mumble under their breathe, hop from lane to lane hoping that a different lane might go faster, and they stand FAR too closely to the person in front of them.
To all of them I say, "Chill". You have been waiting for things your entire life. You should be a champion at it by now. Consider it a skill, an art form. In fact, "waiting" is expressed in all sorts of art.
In music: The Beach Boys, "Waiting for You"; Tom Petty, "The Waiting"; The Kinks, "Tired of Waiting for You" and The Flaming Lips, "Waiting for Superman" just to mention a few.
In paintings: "Waiting for His Return" by William Ladd Taylor; "Two Women at a Window" by Bartholome Murillo and "Awaiting the Suitor" by Gustave Leonard de Jonghe are several examples.
The theme shows up in dance, in theatre, in sculpture, in literature and real life, every single day of our lives. It seems that we are destined to always be waiting. It would serve us well to learn to be better at it.
For me it's kind of Zen. I'm nosy, I look in other people's carts to see what they are buying, I check out the ceiling, the floors and the contents of the impulse goods rack by the register. I read the covers of all of the magazines and check out what everybody around me is wearing. I day dream a little bit and make mental lists of other things, people and places. I might check my phone for messages or see if my shoe laces are still properly tied (often they are not).
Back in the day when I was standing in line with small children and/or babies, I was absolutely not bored. Children are never boring. Their behavior can fall anywhere from delightful to aggravating but they are never ever boring. So if there are little kids near me, I am definitely going to be entertained. I might strike up a conversation with the person behind me or in front of me. If there is musak going that I can actually hear (rare occasion to be fair) I might sing along quietly. Yeah, I confess, I'm that lady.
I guess the point here is that if you are going to spend as much as five years of your life waiting, you may as well embrace it. Find a way to not be the guy behind me in the grocery store yesterday jamming his cart into the backs of my legs in his impatience. Try to not be the girl who beepitybeepbeeped me while I waited for people to cross the street in front of me at the green light. Yes it was our green light. That does not mean I am allowed to run over people. The same girl also flipped me off as she squealed the car around me to get by nearly clipping the pedestrians as she zoomed past by the way. Do not be the cranky lady yelling at the cashier about the line being slow. I promise you, the cashier is already well aware of the long line and there is nothing she can do about it.
Learn to wait with patience, good humour and grace. And if you are feeling it, a little bit of silliness wouldn't go amiss.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.