I hate waiting in line. It takes patience to wait for anything. The child in me wants to ask, “When?” Hell for me is the same as stasis. I’m not an antsy person, most people think of me as calm. I can be calm, tranquil even. I’ve been known to bask in the serenity that comes from doing absolutely nothing. When I have a choice, being still is an easy option, yet I do not like to feel becalmed, beached or otherwise adrift in the Sargasso Sea waiting for a satisfactory trade wind. Under constricting circumstances, the Then part of my life story seems to never come, so I’m stuck crying out, “When!”
There are six great journalistic questions: Who, what, when, where, why, and how. The third in the list was the question I most asked as a kid. Learning patience is hard for anyone, especially when you are four or 94. As a kid whining to my mother I would hear, “If you ask again we won’t be going!” I wouldn’t be getting, having, or knowing either, depending upon the context. When my elderly mother-in-law asks ‘When’ I stay quiet, figuring I’ll have a while before she asks again. She may even forget the whole thing as she listens to her radio. When my own children asked ‘When’ I would say, ‘In twenty minutes.’ This arbitrary amount of time never satisfied them since it could end up meaning sometime next week for all they knew. Sometimes I’m not very helpful.
One of my grandkids loves watching for the garbage truck coming down the street. In his city, the sanitation drivers/workers are very predictable. I saw my little DNA carrier run to the window one morning for no apparent reason. Moments later I realized his little ears had picked up the characteristic screechy sound of the vehicle because there was the workman lifting the cans into the back hopper. My grandchild turned back to his living room play looking satisfied that his world was in order. He was learning to trust that sometimes the Whens of life fit into a schedule that can be planned for and predicted.
I don’t think we can blame technology on our lack of patience. Even as grown-ups we want our stuff now, not tomorrow. Putting in a call to get service for a broken appliance or delivery information can be problematic. We are usually given a window of time when an agent will arrive. Recently for me that ‘window’ was “Between 9am and 5pm on Tuesday” and I paced the day away.
Perhaps adults’ patience level has been eroded lately with all our systems, simply because we are frustrated by the slow approach of getting to that question of when. Confidence in necessary change is enhanced if the public can have a predictable timeline of action. As a citizen I don’t want to be told it will take a metaphorical twenty minutes if it really isn’t going to happen during this business/tourist/health/government cycle.
Then my trust goes in the garbage