By Tim McGrath
Wait – as in delay: pause, holdup, postponement, setback, deferral, lag, slowdown, foot-dragging – from Merriam-Webster Thesaurus
You know the message that goes something like this: “Due to heavy call volume, longer than normal wait times are expected. We’re sorry for the inconvenience. Someone will be with you soon. Your business is VERY important to us. You are currently caller number…”. Then the tinny, muddled elevator music starts in. Not a big deal, really. Leave the volume on the phone turned up, and keep doing whatever it is we’re doing at the time. Eventually a voice answers, and we’re in business. That is, if we’re paying attention. There have been times when the voice comes and I miss it because I walked out of the room for a millisecond, or the call just dropped for some unknown, but assuredly sinister, reason. Mildly annoying, but just the way it is. First world problem, I remind myself.
This one really was a jaw dropper. I don’t remember what the business was any longer, yet when I called and realized a live person wasn’t going to answer, I prepared myself for the usual blah, blah, blah message assuring me I’m a valued customer. When it got to the part where they say “Your business is very important to us. You are currently caller number …”, the reassuring voice said number 541. 541! I am not making this up. I could drive to Chicago and back and still not be near the top of the list. I had to laugh at the absurdity of it. It made me wonder if someone on the other end was scooting their roller chair around the edge of their cubicle, asking the person in the next one over, “Hey Stu, check this out. I’m going to tell this guy he’s caller number 541. What a hoot; man, I love this job!” Devilish.
I guess when it’s all said and done, we just don’t like to wait. How many times have I been the first car at the stoplight, it turns green, and if I don’t instantly roar off, someone behind me in line honks their irritation at me, the slowpoke in the front of the line. Same kind of thing with the tailgaters out there. Doesn’t matter how fast I’m going over the speed limit, there’s that one (or more) person who zooms in tight just waiting to pass, inching in closer and closer to my back bumper, obviously wishing I was off in the ditch somewhere. Then when there’s the teensiest opening in traffic, roars around me, oblivious to the danger they pose to everyone else around them. Or, what about when deciding which checkout line to get in, do I always seem to pick the slowest one. Not just the slower one, the slowest. The one with the coupon lady in front of me, who hauls out her George Costanza sized wallet of coupons, riffles through them, looking for the five cents off coupon for the jar of mayonnaise only to have it be the wrong one or outdated. Then the pleading with the cashier to, just this once, honor the coupon. Honestly though, it is kind of fun to turn and watch the disbelief on the faces of the other long suffering shoppers in line behind me as the scene unfolds. We all want to scream in coupon lady’s direction, ”Lady, get the app, they’re all on there!” No one does, yet I think we’re all yelling it inside our heads. A little guilty pleasure on my part, I guess.
As responsible citizens though, we do have to admit there are times when waiting is good. Developing patience is a virtue; a serene attitude helps reduce stress and anxiety. Can’t always get what we want when we want it. That’s not how life works. It’s not good to be so entitled and pampered that little inconveniences cause us to blow a gasket. Remember when we were kids? We couldn’t wait for Christmas. In spite of knowing we shouldn’t, how many times did we sneak around looking for mom’s secret hidey hole of Christmas that she thought was impenetrable, find it, then immediately regret it. And it really is a good thing kids have to wait to drive until they’re 16. Not to mention when the drinking age was raised from 18 to 21. Lots of reminders that we just have to be patient and learn to take our turn. We’ll get there in the end. And yet, in spite of all this, I’ll bet most of us really, really don’t like to wait.
Here's one that happened to fall in our laps just recently…
It was time to wrap up another fantastic visit to northern Colorado with son, and daughter-in-law. The plan was to catch the 6:35 shuttle from Ft. Collins to Denver International. The trip would get us there around 7:45; plenty of time to enjoy coffee and a leisurely breakfast prior to our 9:55 flight to Grand Rapids. And to top it off, it was a direct flight. Two-and-a-half hours and we’d be touching down in Grand Rapids. No waiting for endless hours in layovers at some cavernous, mind numbing airport. How can you beat that?
As everyone on the early morning shuttle settled in, Ricky, our driver, stood and told us about the trip. “We have to stop in Loveland to pick up a few passengers, then on to Denver International. Looks like there might be some weather and traffic down there, but it should be cleared up by the time we get there. You’ve got the easy part. Just settle back and enjoy the ride. We’ll be there in about an hour!” That’s when a little bell inside my head tinkled it’s warning that “a little weather and traffic” may be, in reality, anything but. It’s mid-November in Colorado, after all. Yet looking out the window at the beautifully radiant sunrise that was just unfolding, put any hand wringing on hold. Looks like clear sailing ahead.
After picking up the remaining passengers in Loveland, we hopped back on the interstate. As we rolled along, I noticed the lady sitting in front of me tap the guy sitting next to her and showing him her phone. “Look at this. You have got to be kidding me,” she said. I glanced at her phone and noticed Google maps open. I took out my phone, opened the same app, and saw a good portion of the rest of our trip was a red line– major slowdown, to the tune of at least 45 extra minutes. And that’s when we came to an almost complete stop. The road in front of us was a sheet of glare ice as far as I could see. Denver had had snow earlier that morning, and it was completely snarling traffic. Guess they hadn’t got it cleared up by the time we got here….
The longer we inched along, the more palpable the rising anxiety on the bus. Phones were out in unison checking, checking, and more checking. I have to admit I did my own checking trying to mentally calculate when we finally get to the airport will we have enough time to clear security, hop the train, and get to our gate before takeoff? The lady in front of me was already checking options. And they weren’t good, apparently. I checked our options, too. The only other flight from DEN – GRR today didn’t get us back to Grand Rapids until 11:30 tonight, with the added bonus of having to fly into Chicago O’Hare, with about a four hour layover. No, No, No, not Chicago O’Hare! I silently whimpered. The waiting was taking its toll.
The hourish trip was now stretching to over two and a half hours. But just on cue, at 9:00, the circus tent looking silhouette of Denver International rose in the distance like a beacon shining on a dark night. We’re almost there. As we approached the drop off spot, one sensible woman encouraged us all to, “Give a big round of applause for Ricky. He got us all safely here!” Which he had, and we did. Job well done, Ricky. Let’s hope our fellow travelers also cough up some big tips for his efforts. “Just sit tight, folks,” Ricky exhorted. “I know we’re running a little bit behind schedule, but does anyone have any questions?” Oh no, please Lord, don’t let anyone have questions, I pleaded. Looking around at the group, it was clear almost everyone had the same thought. “So can you tell me again where I’m supposed to go?’ a woman near the front asked with hand raised. She’d asked the same thing two-and-a-half hours ago just prior to leaving Ft. Collins. Ricky patiently told her he’d help her after he got us all off the bus and on our way. Everyone clambered down and went to the back of the shuttle to retrieve our bags. It was now 9:15. There’s no way, no way we’re going to make it, I fretted.
Scurrying off with our bags, we entered the labyrinth of DEN. No time for a bathroom, got to get through security, get the train to B gate, find B18, and hope to Heaven they haven’t shut the door. Knowing that getting through security at Denver International can be a horror show of waiting in miles long lines, all we could do is hope that because we have TSA Pre Check, it wouldn’t be too long. And thankfully, it wasn’t. Got through the initial checkpoint, now on to the screening. I have knee replacements which requires me to go through the full body scanner. I climbed in, dutifully crossed my raised arms, stood with feet apart on the yellow footpads, and waited. The slider door closed, then opened. The TSA agent motioned me forward, and said,” Sir, you’ll have to remove your boots, we’re picking up something.” Oh great, I fumed. Finding nothing, he sent me on my way. Usually by this time Cheryl is waiting for me with our bags, but she was nowhere to be seen. That’s odd, I thought. I wondered if they’d taken her aside for something. I waited. I kept waiting, trying not to listen to the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland laughing in my ear, ”Oh your fur and whiskers! You’re late, you’re late. You’re late for a very important date!” And then, there she was, waiting in the full body scanner line. Just waiting. She had got sent from the metal detector scanner because she kept tripping the alarm. On to the full body scanner you go, young lady. When she finally made it through, all she said was, “Boots”. There were some other adjectives thrown in, but those are probably better left unsaid. You can fill them in for yourself. 9:40. Hmmm, we might just be able to pull this off. “C’mon, we can do this!” I said.
Juking in and out of other travelers we sprinted, OJ Simpson style, for the train taking us to the B gates. We hopped on, it took off at warp speed, and we arrived at the B gates. It was now 9:45. Don’t they usually close the plane doors 10 minutes before takeoff? No matter, we’re going to make this! Zooming in and around the dawdlers on the moving sidewalk, we finally saw it, gate B18, all the way down at the end of the hall. Of course. 9:50.
Huffing our way to the gate, we saw the door was still open. We’d made it by the hair of our chinny chin chins. “We made it,” was all I said. The gate agent greeted us warmly.” You didn’t need to hurry, sir, there’s others still coming. They’re holding the plane for a bit!” Oh.
“Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite. Or waiting around for Friday night or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil or a better break or a string of pearls or a pair of pants or a wig with curls or another chance. Everyone is just waiting.” - Dr. Seuss
You said it.
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