I was waiting to see the nurse at my GP’s surgery recently. I had only been waiting 30 minutes past my appointment time, and it struck me that ‘waiting’ is such a common pastime for me, and I wondered how much of my life had slipped through this particular crack. At which point my name was called.
These days I wait mainly for doctors, usually consultants but also nurses, my GP, therapists and dentists. My trouble is an over-developed sense of punctuality. I always think I should get there with time to spare, just in case. It’s a shame that the person with whom I have an appointment usually doesn’t feel the same kind of obligation to me. So I sit, waiting for the great man/woman to bestow their favour on me. Often you can tell, very roughly, how long the wait is likely to be by the state of the magazines. Not that they are likely to contain anything useful or interesting
It was Oscar Wilde who said ‘punctuality is the thief of time.’ and although that sounds like an ready-made excuse, it has a ring of truth for sad parrots like me who spend a lot of time waiting.It’s not as if those corner curled magazines contain anything interesting or useful, but their age and general dog-earedishness gives a clue to the likelihood of being seen before you lose the will to live.
I ought not forget the other great hoover of time – waiting for someone to answer the ‘phone. Being told that my call is important to them is no consolation, especially if the consolers are insurance company oiks or utility company youths.
In the past I didn’t spend anything like the time I do now on medical matters, but I still managed to hang about for large chunks of time. At work meetings never started when they should have because of latecomers. I tried to get various chairmen to start at the advertised time regardless of who was late, but rarely was I successful, especially when he/she was a culprit. Getting to see my boss was also a marathon, and a small packet of sandwiches advisable.
And so it goes. Or doesn’t. Waiting for my wife to ready herself, for a favourite program to come on TV, for the garage to finish sorting out the car, or, more likely, looking for some creative accounting opportunities in constructing my bill, in restaurants, at the Post Office, to go to sleep, in the supermarket queue – especially when behind the slowest woman in the world who is sure she had a money-off voucher somewhere about her person, and so on.
I would have thought that after a lifetime’s practise at waiting, I would have become stoical. Regrettably not. With age comes added impatience and intolerance of delay, often accompanied by a great deal of tutting.
There is a poem by T S Eliot with the line ‘I have measured out my life in coffee spoons’. For me, replace ‘coffee spoons’ with ‘waiting rooms’ and you have it.
Which is all very well, but whom do I see to about getting all that time back now I really need it?