Recently, I was in line at a drive-up ATM, behind a man who was obviously conducting several banking transactions. He was definitely taking longer than usual and another car pulled up behind me as I waited. When I glanced in my rear-view mirror, I could see the woman behind me shaking her head and getting more and more agitated. Suddenly, she pulled out of line and roared across the parking lot to the walk-up ATM. Ignoring several dozen empty parking spots, she parked in the driving lane right in front of the bank, jumped out and ran up the the ATM. I guess she was in a hurry to do her banking.
When did we begin to believe that having to wait, even for a few minutes, was such a bad thing? When did it become a huge imposition to have to actually stop for a red light, or wait in traffic for a few seconds while the car in front of us tries to make a left-turn? When did we begin to think that we deserve everything we want right this very second, and heaven help anyone who happens to get in our way?
I know there are times when we all get impatient. When I’m in line at the grocery store and the person in front of me hands the checkout clerk a thick wad of coupons, and then argues vehemently and at great length when the clerk scans them and declares that most of them are expired, I feel impatient. I do believe that people who behave that way are being inconsiderate to the rest of us. But waiting in line is still a part of the personal shopping experience, and it’s really not that bad. (There’s a reason the grocery stores display the tabloids by the check out counters: it gives us something to read while we wait.)
For me, it helps to put things into perspective, and remember that the world does not revolve around me and wasn’t designed to enable me to rush forward at top speed all day long. Year ago, my family was driving to Chicago to visit my parents. We’d been zipping right along for most of the trip, when suddenly the highway traffic came to a complete halt. We sat for forty-five minutes without moving an inch, for no reason we could see. Both my husband and I complained bitterly, especially after our young son told us that he was going to need a bathroom break very soon. We were all feeling well and truly sorry for ourselves, and angry that the authorities hadn’t managed to get the traffic moving yet.
Then we noticed the Med-Vac helicopters flying overhead and realized that there must have been a really bad accident ahead. Obviously several people were hurt so badly that needed to be flown to the nearest hospital. And just like that, our anger and indignation about sitting on the highway for so long disappeared. Getting to Chicago “on time” didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore.
I believe we are quickly becoming a society of people who operate on the false assumption that immediate gratification is something we are entitled to. We aren’t. Sometimes we do have to wait in a slow line, and sometimes we are going to have our busy schedule interrupted by other people and things we can’t control. When that happens, we can choose to fly into a self-centered rage, or we can take a few deep breaths and realize that sometimes, these things just happen. And that learning to wait patiently now and then isn’t really such a bad thing.