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.