Depending on which study you come across on the Internet, estimates of the time the average person will spend waiting in line during her lifetime range anywhere from six months to ten years.
That’s a whole lot of hours spent in doctors’ offices, the checkout at the supermarket, the deli at the supermarket, airport security and (insert location here).
In our society of instant everything and high powered productivity, the standard reaction to this is impatience, frustration and angst over the opportunity cost of ‘wasted’ time.
I used to be an extremely impatient person and was guilty of all the things I see people doing when they’re forced to wait: sighing, rolling their eyes, shifting their weight, muttering under their breath and commenting on it to the other people in line.
Over the years, I’ve gradually adopted the attitude of knowing what to expect before I go into the situation, and preparing myself for it.
I even go so far as to enjoy myself.
As a writer, that’s time I can use to brainstorm new ideas or work on plot problems. It’s also a great opportunity to people watch, ‘write’ descriptions in my head of clothing, mannerisms and more. I’m also fascinated by the tattoos people have and get lots of ideas for my characters this way.
There’s more good news. No one (namely my teenage daughter, who I love dearly) can find me when I’m in line or ask me to cook something, wash something or give her a ride somewhere. I can read on my Kindle ap on my phone or peruse the magazines at the checkout or in the doc’s office.
Or, because I’m naturally talkative, I can chat with the people ahead or behind me. You’d be amazed at the different foods and products I’ve discovered by simply looking at what’s in their cart, and commenting, “That looks really good.” What can I say? I’m a writer. I’m curious.
Bottom line, realizing you’re going to have to wait in line, no matter how many time saving strategies you employ, is a fact of life. In my opinion, it’s a good opportunity to unplug and realize you can’t control everything. How liberating.
There are many ‘waiting in line’ types of situations in life. Over the years, the patience I’ve developed for lines has extended to my work and personal life, I’m happy to report. For example, when I’m on hold with the computer Help Desk at work, or when my mother calls me, cursing her Smartphone because she’s anti-technology, I simply accept that’s the way certain things are.
Overall, I’m a lot calmer than I was even a decade ago. And I’m still getting a lot done. I’m just a lot happier doing it.
Recently, I was at a writing conference and there were thousands of women attending. There were lines for meals, restrooms and meetings for the duration of the conference. A woman next to me chuckled and said something I thought summed it up perfectly: “I’m pretending I’m at Disney. I see a line, I’m getting in it.”
I like her attitude. Getting upset about waiting in line isn’t worth it to me.
I’m saving my energy for creating a character based on the forty something woman with a tattoo of her father’s face on her arm, who was waiting in line at the deli to buy olive loaf for her elderly aunt.
Rebecca E. Neely is a reader, storyteller, blogger and author. Careers, past and present, include freelance writing, accounting, mother, problem solver, doer and head bottle washer. Her latest novel is The Betrayer, Book 3 in the Crossing Realms paranormal romance series. Find Rebecca on Twitter @RebeccaNeely1.