On Waiting

There are different types of waiting. There’s excited, anticipatory waiting—like waiting for Christmas to come. There’s the should-I-be-worried-waiting?—when it’s late at night and your child is still not home. You know, the two AM crazies? There’s the trying-not-not-to-think-about-it-and-so-it’s—all-you-can-think-about-anxious waiting as you wait for the results of a job interview or audition. There’s the even more anxious no-I’m-not-going-to-think-about-it waiting when you wait for the results of a medical test.

Waiting can be routine or boring—like in lines at the department of motor vehicles, grocery stores, or doctor’s office. Waiting can be totally exasperating—the “on hold” phone calls when you wait to be connected “to the next available representative.” A few days ago a friend told me of her recent experience in getting a new mobile phone plan. She said she became best friends with “Colin” after having to spend hours with him on the phone as they went through her records and various options as she disputed a bill and tried to get a new plan. She was relentless, however, and made herself French Toast and did laundry while she talked to him. She emerged triumphant from her long ordeal, as she wore down Colin and got the best possible deal. Hey, you do what you have to do! It’s possible I may have danced around my kitchen once or twice while on hold. Come on, who hasn’t done that?

I have to confess that sometimes I look forward to being in a situation in which I know I will have to wait–OK, NEVER those from hell on-hold phone waits—but maybe, for instance, waiting at a hair salon. That type of waiting gives me an excuse to sit and read a book and not have to do other tasks. When our daughters were little, I often read books to them at doctor’s offices, and we played games, too. My younger daughter loved to play a game she invented called “Fishies and Sharks.” It involved just using our hands to make the fish and sharks, and there were songs that the fish and sharks sang. I can’t say more, or she may never talk to me again.  When the girls were older, and I took them to piano and voice lessons, I always brought a book to read. They often read or did homework, as well, while they waited. Of course, the choice of books should be considered. I remember trying desperately not to cry or sob aloud as I read The Lovely Bones during one daughter’s piano lesson.  Yay books!

Although Kindles and other e-readers make it easier to have a book readily available, waiting areas of all types now make it more difficult to read because there are so many distractions. Apparently Americans can no longer wait anywhere unless we are entertained with televisions, music, and movie theater pre-show experiences—and of course, our phones. My husband and I usually arrive early at the movies. We always allow time for traffic problems, or sometimes we go out to eat first. I hate to rush in at the last minute and worry that we’ll not find seats or miss something. As a result, we’re usually there extra early, which does allow us plenty of time to buy cups of coffee. But we now also have to listen—or try to tune out–the totally inane shows that precede even the commercials and the movie trailers. Does anyone enjoy those “shows?” It was so much more pleasant when the movie theater simply played soft classical music or jazz before the movie started. (Sorry for getting dangerously close to a “good old days” rant. I apologize.)

Do you bring a book with you when you know you’re going to wait somewhere?  Do you ever have a problem deciding which book to bring?  Rory Gilmore on The Gilmore Girls always had a difficult time packing all of the books she wanted to read.

Kindles, Nooks, and iPads make it easier to carry many books with you, but you still have to decide which one you want to read. Do you text people or talk on the phone while you’re waiting? Do you play games? What do you do while you’re waiting? Inquiring minds want to know.

But–you don’t have to answer right away. I’ll wait. There’s a book I want to finish reading anyway.

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7 thoughts on “On Waiting

  1. I can relate to every one of your classifications of waiting, particularly the boring kind. Before I call a bureaucratic agency or Comcast, let’s say, I prepare by perching in front of my computer, so I can at least do bill pay online. Or, if I’m in the mood, paint my nails while using the land-line.

    If I am waiting in line to pick up grandkids at school, I usually either spend time reading/deleting emails on my iPhone or skimming a short article in The New Yorker. If it’s a very short wait, I can at least scan the current issue for the cartoons–my favorite, Roz Chast. I never play games either on my iPhone or laptop. They seem pointless to me though I would never judge those who enjoy such a pastime.

    John Milton (wow, I’m taking a huge leap here) discusses a different type of waiting in his famous sonnet, On His Blindness in which exclaims: “God doth not need
    Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
    Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best . . .
    They also serve who only stand and wait.”
    One interpretation: High achievements are not the only to measure one’s worth. Those who feel useless perhaps because of an impediment have merit and can be of service too (as they develop patience).

    I guess I got a little carried away here!

    This post is a gem. Next time you are in “wait” mode, I’m sure you could write a lovely companion sonnet entitled “On Waiting.”

    • Thank you so much for the kind words and praise, Marian–and for the reminder of the Milton sonnet. I’m happy that you have the confidence that I could write a companion sonnet! Ha!
      (Did you know Milton also wrote about divorce?)

      I enjoyed reading about your waiting activities. I don’t play games either on my phone or laptop, and desperately ignore those Facebook requests to play Candy Crush or whatever. 🙂

  2. Milton wrote the Doctrine and Discipline on Divorce, but I know it wasn’t a part of any of my course syllabi. I wonder if you have included these treatises in any of your writings. Hmmm

    I agree, Candy Crush or Words with Friends I steadfastly eschew too.

  3. Wow, you nailed it in the first paragraph! I hope you got a video (or two… or three…) of the Fishies and Sharks time. 😉 Perhaps another day you can tell us a “fictional” story about a girl and her mom playing this, and tell us what they did. (wink, wink) And I also would have loved for you to go further with the good old days rant. I’m right there with ya, sister! 😉 I do not bring a book or my Nook to places like the doctor or car shop, because when I read a book, I like to be undistracted and I don’t like to have to stop. I also refuse to take phone calls or play on the phone then, too. Usually in those cases, I prefer a magazine. If I get interrupted, it’s only a short article, so I won’t feel like I’m missing much. 🙂 Excellent post! 😀

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