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The Column

The Waiting is the Hardest Part
12/15/02

I hate waiting. I hate waiting more than burnt pizza, cold weather, and wearing wet socks combined. Of course, if I were waiting for burnt pizza in cold weather with wet socks, that'd be much worse than just waiting. But I still hate waiting.

I am an impatient person. And what's worse, I'm a New Yorker. I'm not sure if that chicken came before that egg, but I do know that being a New Yorker makes you more impatient, and being impatient makes you more of a New Yorker. I'm so impatient, I'm annoyed that I've only finished two paragraphs of this column.

I hate waiting in any form. I hate waiting for my train, and then I hate waiting while I'm on the train. I hate waiting for a phone call, and I hate waiting on hold when I'm the one who calls. I hate waiting to meet someone, and well, I really hate waiting to meet someone. And above all else, I hate waiting on lines. At the post office, at the movies, at a baseball game, for the bathroom. Lines are one of the things I hate most, because not only am I waiting, I am standing. I know that hate is a strong word. But I'm too impatient to look up another one.

There's that commercial with Catherine Zeta Jones where she talks about a bored guy waiting on line for something, and she hands him a phone. When I first saw it, I figured he'd pass the time by playing video games on it or by making a few calls. No - he dials his buddy and has him put his phone up to the TV for a kung fu marathon. I don't know if I've ever been bored enough to listen to kung fu, but I did sympathize with his desire to get off that line.

But worse than lines is the idea of a slow-person-in-front-of-me (otherwise known as a SPIFOM). Often, I'll be on a stairway, or trying to walk on a subway platform, or making my way down a crowded street, and the person in front of me is a turtle. They are not green, and they do not have a shell (usually), but I have met plenty of turtles that have a better ability to move out of the way when someone is trying to pass. So I wait for the SPIFOM to move, and they do not. The person in front of me is so slow that I have time to mock their sluggishness to whomever is standing next to me. You may find that rude, but so is being a turtle on a busy sidewalk. And it would be much ruder if I actually placed both hands on the SPIFOM's shoulders and gave a hearty shove, which I've thought about doing quite often. When you are stuck behind a SPIFOM, you have plenty of time to think.

What all of this comes down to is that waiting equals boredom. A lot of people enjoy the alone time, but I'm not all that interesting to myself. I've already heard all my stories, and I never really need to ask how my day was. I know how my day was. It was boring, because I spent half of it waiting.

In college, I didn't wait much because I didn't have time to. I had my classes, and my friends, and my extracurriculars, and my jobs, and occasional time to eat and sleep. Sure, I would have to wait for a few things--mainly appointments with advisors--but actual time to sit and do nothing was so rare that I was thrilled. Now, my life is based around sitting and doing nothing, so sitting longer and doing more nothing isn't such a reprieve.

Doctors have waiting rooms, which try to help you wait by offering unpleasant chairs and substandard magazines. It's a nice thought, but cracked vinyl and a six-month old issue of Prevention don't help the cause. Then I'm just as bored as I was before, only more uncomfortable. Though I'm not sure which makes me uncomfortable - cracked vinyl or reading Prevention. And once my name is finally called and I exit the waiting room, I'm sent to an examination room where I wait some more. But now I'm waiting in my underwear with the door slightly open, which is slightly more comfortable than reading Prevention.

I know that I sound bitter and jaded in this column, and I expect lots of e-mail telling me that I should lighten up. But I don't mind - see, I can check my e-mail on my phone, which gives me something to do while I'm in line at the post office, at the movies, at a baseball game, or for the bathroom. Or even while a particularly slow SPIFOM is in front of me. Besides, writing those e-mails will give all of you something to do instead of sitting around. I know you're bored - you'd have to be to read this far.

So go ahead and send those letters. I'll wait.

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