I had to laugh at my own absurdity last week during a four-minute wait at a fast-food drive-thru. I caught myself rolling my eyes at the delay and considering a different, readily available menu item, one that wouldn’t require me to pull to the side for four minutes.
Instead I waited, and in doing so realized how ridiculous I was being, how ridiculous we all are in this age of immediacy that’s chipping away at our patience.
The modern conveniences of online banking, call-ahead seating, text messages, digital photos, instant, downloaded movies and e-mail have made any other line or delay simply unacceptable. We won’t wait for anything anymore.
I hang up if a digital voice tells me my “hold time” is anything longer than 30 seconds for a customer service call.
We’ll often turn right instead of waiting at a red light, push an elevator call button 15 times when waiting in a lobby and don’t get me started on the supermarket checkout lanes.
I know I’m not the only one who walks the length of the checkout section, quickly evaluating the orders on each conveyor belt, the amount of produce that has to be entered manually and the efficiency of the cashier. We’ll even strategically position our shopping companion in another line when the fastest option isn’t immediately apparent, then we’ll develop an instant hatred for anyone writing a check or insisting on a discount that didn’t show up on the register.
And anyone appallingly brazen enough to sneak 17 items through the express lane is risking life and limb.
When did we become so frantic?
Remember busy signals, when we had to wait, god forbid, for someone to finish a conversation with someone else before they’d speak with us?
Remember the tedium of rewinding a tape, waiting for photos to be developed and mentally calculating how many days it would take for a much-anticipated letter to cross the country in a mailbag?
Technological and other types of advances have made life faster, but they’ve also accentuated the residual delays that now seem to torment us.
Since when is my life too important to wait four minutes for a cheeseburger — or for anything —especially when the burger was for my son, who had asked me to do him a favor by grabbing him a cheeseburger after he was home all day where we had left him a virtually empty fridge.
I’m glad I had that four minutes to spend in the fast-food drive-thru lane because it really made me stop and think.
Sometimes you need to breath in, breath out and move on. Every once in a while you need to live on island time.
And from time to time, there’s nothing wrong with going slow.
That’s what having patience is all about.
Jeff Hage is the editor of the Princeton Union-Eagle. Reach him by e-mail at [email protected].