Last weekend I stayed up many, many hours past my bedtime waiting for my youngest son to come home from his girlfriend’s Prom. Okay, to be perfectly honest, I was in the living room, sitting in my recliner and glancing repeatedly at the clock, but I may not have been completely awake the entire time (a slobber dribble running down my chin at one point seemed to indicate recent slumber). But when I was awake, I was surfing through limited late-night TV options and thinking about all the time I’ve spent over the years flipping through channels, thumbing through magazines, staring into space, counting ceiling tiles, watching the clock . . . and waiting. And waiting some more.
I’m not very good at relaxing, and I’m even worse at being patient, so most of this waiting usually seems like a tremendous waste of valuable time. In fact, statisticians estimate that in a life span of 70 years, most people will have spent at least three years waiting . . . stagnant . . . in limbo. I’m not sure how these “statisticians” arrived at their estimate, and if they had included me in their survey, then I’m sure my wait times alone could have driven up the average.
Of course, like so many of you, I have waited with anxious anticipation for a variety of big life events–waiting to turn 16 so I could get a driver’s license and my first taste of freedom, waiting to turn 18 so I could vote and be a responsible citizen, waiting to turn 21 so I could be an irresponsible moron and do in Missouri what I’d legally been crossing the river to do in Illinois for two years–and waiting for graduation and a wedding and the subsequent births of three children. And there have been a variety of “little” events that I have looked forward to as well–waiting for the weekend, for spring break, for summer vacation, for chocolate chip cookies to come out of the oven. But these are all activities that haven’t required “down time”– other tasks could still be accomplished while waiting for these events to arrive, and the end results always made the delay worthwhile.
The same cannot be said for some of the frequent annoyances that steal precious minutes from my day and force me to do deep breathing exercises and beach visualizations in order to curb my frustrations.
Waiting in the doctor’s office is one of my biggest annoyances, and I don’t think it’s fair (or accurate) to take a blood pressure reading AFTER I’ve been forced to sit for over an hour, surrounded by sick people with germs different from my own while pretending not to eavesdrop on the long list of ailments they want to discuss with anyone unfortunate enough to be in the near vicinity. (So you–lady with the megaphone voice, the pancaked make-up, and the polyester blouse unbuttoned to reveal way too much of your sagging cleavage–I really don’t want to know that you’re here because of your night sweats and hot flashes. I would much rather imagine that you’re a poorly disguised cougar, here to confirm a surprise pregnancy with the 24-year-old slacker boy from next door–who just happens to be the son of your former best friend.)
Even worse, I think, is the continued wait after the nurse calls me back and deposits me in Exam Room 5 because I now have the false hope that my wait is over. Silly me. After I have stripped down to my socks and wrapped myself in a paper gown, I shiver in the frigid air while trying in vain to ignore the ticking clock–there are no reading materials in Exam Room 5, no other patients to make up stories about, not even my own file to snoop through. (There are, however, posters of cute little kitties in a bucket, a nurse brandishing a foot-long needle and extolling the importance of flu vaccines, and another one displaying internal organs encased in belly blubber–these are supposed to make me feel better?!) Eventually I hear the doctor’s voice in the hallway and feel a fleeting sense of relief–until I hear another door open and close and the doctor’s voice disappearing behind it.
Waiting in line is another major irritant for me. If I’m lucky, the truck spewing diesel fumes in front of me at the drive-up window will at least have an interesting assortment of bumper stickers to occupy my interest (“Some days it’s not even worth chewing through the restraints.” “Life is tough. It’s tougher if you’re stupid.” “My day is not complete until I’ve punched a complete stranger.”). But I can read only so many National Enquirer headlines in the grocery store check-out line before feeling the overwhelming urge to smash a jar of kosher dills against my forehead–people actually believe this stuff? (“Noah’s Ark Found on Mars!” “Mermaid Found in Sardine Can–She’s Alive!” “Michael Jackson’s Love Child Found in Buddhist Monastery!”). I have found a more engrossing, more enjoyable way to spend the long wait time is to analyze the purchases of the customer in front of me (whipped cream, butcher knife, toilet plunger, chocolate syrup, five cans of Fancy Feast cat food, Cheerios, tube socks . . . hmmm . . . interesting)–until I realize the customer in line behind me is probably analyzing my purchases. Uh-oh.
The worst line of all is the one winding into the hallway outside of the women’s bathroom. Regardless of the venue, there never seem to be enough stalls to accommodate the swirling mass of squirming women all needing to empty their bulging bladders at the exact same time. Some of the braver, younger ones may make idle chit chat, check their cell phone messages, or reapply their lipstick to pass the time, but many of us older ladies know from experience the importance of keeping legs crossed and maintaining complete focus on the task at hand.
And there are other waits that can be just as frustrating, pushing my patience to its very limit–like waiting for an extremely large file to download on an extremely slow computer, waiting for a real person to pick up the phone–and answer my one simple question–after I’ve punched in half a dozen computerized commands, or waiting for a late, guaranteed-to-be-mind-numbing meeting to finally begin (when it’s already ten minutes past the scheduled start time) and to finally end (when it’s already gone twenty minutes past the scheduled ending time). Waiting for inspiration has also been a problem of late, as well as waiting for 9 p.m. to arrive so I can finally go to bed without feeling too much like an old lady–and then waiting for the fatigue that is plaguing my body to overtake my caffeinated brain as well so that I can close my eyes and keep them closed.
And, worst of all, I’m still waiting (not so patiently) for Brad Pitt and/or George Clooney to return my calls. I’d settle for either one.