I hate waiting. I don’t like the hour lost here while I wait at the doctor’s office. I don’t like the long car line after school to pick my kids up. I hate the hour I have to wait for my son to finish his speech therapy session. I hate waiting for my sister who is always late and is perpetually “five minutes” from being ready which always means thirty minutes. I don’t know. It’s kind of funny because I’m not like this frantic person who tries to fill every minute of every day. But there’s something about waiting that I just can’t stand.
In a way, though, I’ve come to appreciate these times I hate so much. These dreadful moments are moments that end up being important somehow . . . to my creativity, to my continued struggle to understand and make sense of the world, of life, in some way. It’s time I spend reading, hoping I’ll find answers to the human struggle and experience. It’s time spent getting to know a character who suddenly shows up and trying to figure out why he showed up and what he has to tell me and how I’m going to tell his story and why. It’s time my mind wanders and starts the, “What if . . . “ that snowballs into a scene, or a story. It’s the time I use to observe and take things in, the way a cloud morphs, the way people walk, or talk, or stand, or interact, or what to make of an overheard conversation. In those moments, those dreaded, torturous moments of waiting, is when I do a lot of thinking and “writing” and figuring out. And as writers, I think we’re always trying to figure something out, right? Even with the knowledge that it may be impossible, even with full knowledge that we will never really figure it all out, but we try to make sense of bits of life here and there, reach some conclusion.
My observations while I waited for the flu shot this month:
An elderly woman reading a Nora Roberts novel. Her hands trembled a lot and she read while holding a bookmark for each line and mouthed all the words she read. Whenever she wasn’t looking at her book, she looked terrified.
A woman with veins on her feet that looked like bulging blue spiderwebs pressing outward from underneath her skin. I know I saw her two hours earlier when I first came into the store to check how long the wait, not because of her clothes or her face. But because of her feet.
An average man with reddish hair and reddish mustache who walked with the slightest of limps.
A young girl with a puffy pompom of a ponytail on top of her hair who entertained the mostly elderly people around her by dancing around and using the pharmacy area as a stage.
A woman who was 37 (I overheard her birthday while she talked to the pharmacist) but looked 27, but who walked very nervously and a bit self-consciously. As she stood talking to the pharmacist, she kept slipping one black flat off and finding it again with curled toes to slip it back on.
If I hadn’t had to wait for a while, I would have missed these people, these things they do. And I know, somehow, someway, these people help me. I would have missed how places that aren’t hospitals can still kind of have the same smell of a hospital and what does that mean . . . can any place be what we make of it? And I would miss a lot of moments like this, that make me think about life. That make their way into my stories. That help me find answers in some way, even as they fill my brain with more questions.
So, yeah, I’m grateful for these moments. And in general, for the little inconveniences in life that usually serve a greater purpose.