Hurry up and wait.

I have been spending time in hospital waiting rooms and doctor’s waiting rooms recently, on my own behalf and for the purpose of waiting with others.  If you have been to one lately you may have noticed that the magazines are at least three years out of date.  This is not an oversight; it’s a warning.

It’s part of the human condition: waiting.  It’s such a vital part of life it is on no known school curriculum but incorporated into life lessons round the world from day one.  Babies wait to be fed, changed, burped and got up in the morning every day.  It’s built-in to the business of being human from birth because it’s one of the more difficult tasks on the planet and you cannot get the practice in soon enough.

Real waiting tends to be characterised by being of such indeterminate length that there is no point in starting any other activity.  One is obliged to major in Waiting with no side order of anything to relieve the interesting mixture of gut wrenching boredom and ankle-sweating fear, that are markers along the road of your Progress In Life Skills, class 1, Level: Intermediate to Really Impossible.

Has the disease gone away this time?
Is the problem really over?
Are the test results sufficiently convincing or all waffly and indeterminate again?
Can it be saved or do we have to knock it down and start again?
Is she going to be able to do this next step or not?
Have we got the grant?
Is there anyone nearby qualified to do this?
How bad is the damage?
Do you think he can be saved?

And – of course, saving the hardest question till last-

How long is this going to take?

If you have never asked any of these questions you must be from some other planet, in which case Welcome Stranger, I would take you to our leaders, but most of them are in a worse state than us.

As technological advances do their thing and mobile phones with connections to everything spread like acne across the face of the planet, we become more impatient and less well able to wait.  When you can summon up 100 uninformed opinions at the touch of a button, why wait in a long line outside the room of the trained expert?  Why, having received numerous letters marked ‘urgent’ and re arranged your entire life schedule for a day to be there on time, should you sit for two hours watching a receptionist shuffling papers?  Why does life make you hurry up and wait?  And what can you do, if you can do nothing except wait, while you’re doing it?

My Victorian grandmother was excellent at entertaining bored children with nothing.  Not for her the tired washing basket of plastic toys, heaving with interesting germs, in the corner of the waiting room.  She could make a little paper boat from one boiled sweet wrapper and teach you to do it too, so well that you got annoyed when they finally called you in.  She could bend her hand backwards, so that you could build walls with the wrinkled skin that she could demolish by straightening her hands out.  She could play finger games, cat’s cradle and many other pastimes with nothing and in silence so as not to disturb other waiters.  She could walk in step for miles and suddenly change her pace to make you laugh and skip to fall back into step.  She had extraordinary life skills and having raised five children and lost one was fully qualified in praying, hoping, patience and good old wait and see.

Yesterday, after quite a bit of waiting we found out that my son, who was attacked in the street, has a crack in the bone round his eye socket, which has been displaced by 2mm.  He was offered an operation to replace it perfectly but opted to wait and heal up, which I think was a very advanced decision.

Life is nothing if not educational, one of the harder lessons: Hurry up and wait, is demonstrably achievable.  This is good news because I have a lot of things to hurry up and wait for at present.

If you are doing this difficult lesson at the moment, I, a fellow student, wave to you across the classroom.  I would like to remind you that if learning is too easy, the lesson is rubbish, and if it is too fast, you probably have learned nothing at all.  Patience is a small seed which takes a long time to germinate and even longer to grow, you grow it by doing it and you practise it by practising it and when you have it, it will be beautiful and so will you.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ here for the learning

This entry was posted in Nostalgia and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *