Putting on some wait

I’m generally patient over the long term, but I can be impatient in the short term. But, really, what’s the rush? Why the hurry? I’ve been asking myself this question more and more lately.

A new year is a good excuse to make a change, so in 2019 I’ve decided to put on some wait. In practice this means choosing the slower option whenever possible.

For example, when shopping online, I’m picking the slowest shipping option (I used to always pick the fastest one). Related, I’ve also cancelled my Amazon Prime membership. I only used it for fast shipping, so it’s of no use anymore.

When confronted with two lines at the grocery store, I’m choosing the longer one.

Even small things like waiting for the next walk symbol. Yeah there’s a good 8 seconds to get across the street, but it’s close enough to just wait.

Whenever there’s an opportunity to pick the wait, I’m picking it. And I’m not filling my time with other things I have to do while waiting – I’m genuinely waiting. Waiting while doing nothing. Idling. If I’m in line, and it’s moving slowly, I’m not reflexively reaching for my phone to soak up the dead space. I’m just enjoying having absolutely nothing to do.

In the end, after all this waiting, I suspect I won’t miss anything. I’ll just have waited. In fact, I think I’ll actually find something: Additional, special moments with nothing to do. Sacred emptiness, a space free of obligation and expectation. New time to simply observe.

In a world where everyone seems to be super busy all the time, bumping into more moments with nothing to do seems like a real discovery.

24 thoughts on “Putting on some wait

  1. Do you think about working or planning while a short waiting? Or just keep nothing to do and think as a short meditation? I would have a try this today.

  2. For some reason this reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld’s favorite thing about turning sixty years old. Paraphrasing:

    “Whenever somebody says, ‘Oh my gosh, turn around! You won’t believe it, I’ve never seen anything like it!’ I just say, ‘No thanks. I’ve probably already seen it.’ And I just keep walking.”

    You are absolutely right. You won’t miss anything.

  3. Agreed. Doing more, faster, harder doesn’t mean better. It’s a great way to shift the perspective.

  4. This is very interesting and thought-provoking. I’m going to give this a go myself. Thank you.

  5. I suspect you will see more folks that “need a hand.” The “help” could range from something minor like holding more doors for people who have their hands full (because you are not rushing around yourself) to a new type of help you have never rendered to a person before. You are giving yourself more time to really observe the world around you and then respond. My prediction is you will grow in compassion for people, will experience more joy and sadness, and will likely be moved to make some change happen in response.

    1. I was recently in NYC and (unfortunately) lost my iPhone X in the back of my cab during the drive to the city. I spent an entire week without one. Felt like I unplugged from the Matrix. Walking down the street present to everyone, in lines without a device, elevators, etc. Was also not pinged by Slack directly or inadvertently — was wonderful. I think taking the “slow” option is the next level of this. Definitely will take it on.

  6. It’s funny, I’ve been doing something like this for a long time and I didn’t really think about why until I read this. I never use the Drive Thru at Starbucks and restaurants, I always go in. I don’t mind that it takes longer.

    Now that I think about it, maybe it’s because I enjoy the personal experiences so much more. The workers at Starbucks all know me by name. I treat myself to McDonalds breakfast every Friday morning and its always the same folks working there. They recognize me and always give a warm welcome because of that. One time I had to wait a bit longer for my order and the girl behind the counter (who usually takes my order) threw in an extra hash brown without saying a word.

    Waiting can bring unknown benefits and more personal experiences into your life.

  7. I have done this. And it is quite powerful. Especially, when you see a crowded grocery checkout aisle and every counter is busy. You will find most shoppers trying to find the fastest line and see if they can game the system. Something has to be said about not giving a damn about that race and just standing in a line waiting for your turn.

  8. Winning back the moments. I think this could be a valuable insight into thinking deeper about Human-Centric UI/UX design patterns. So much of the world today is about speeding up interactions and transactions. Efficiency and effectiveness are not necessarily the same metric when we are talking about engagement.

  9. I do this sometimes, take the longer route for the sake of doing that, I tend to observe things differently.

  10. A week or so since reading this and I’ve thought of it a few times and it’s helped me appreciate the downtime, the slow moments of life. Thx!

  11. Waiting rooms at the Doctor’s office are the best – I welcome their inability to see me on time. No magazines or screens for me, just a wandering mind.

  12. I love this. It is an easy way to build quiet time into my life. Thank you.

    PS – I’d love to share it with my clients. Giving you the credit naturally. 🙂

  13. https://fs.blog/2012/04/david-foster-wallace-this-is-water/

    how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let’s get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what “day in day out” really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about.

    By way of example, let’s say it’s an average adult day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging, white-collar, college-graduate job, and you work hard for eight or ten hours, and at the end of the day you’re tired and somewhat stressed and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for an hour, and then hit the sack early because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there’s no food at home. You haven’t had time to shop this week because of your challenging job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It’s the end of the work day and the traffic is apt to be: very bad. So getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there, the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it’s the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping. And the store is hideously lit and infused with soul-killing muzak or corporate pop and it’s pretty much the last place you want to be but you can’t just get in and quickly out; you have to wander all over the huge, over-lit store’s confusing aisles to find the stuff you want and you have to manoeuvre your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts (et cetera, et cetera, cutting stuff out because this is a long ceremony) and eventually you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren’t enough check-out lanes open even though it’s the end-of-the-day rush. So the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating. But you can’t take your frustration out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at a job whose daily tedium and meaninglessness surpasses the imagination of any of us here at a prestigious college.

    But anyway, you finally get to the checkout line’s front, and you pay for your food, and you get told to “Have a nice day” in a voice that is the absolute voice of death. Then you have to take your creepy, flimsy, plastic bags of groceries in your cart with the one crazy wheel that pulls maddeningly to the left, all the way out through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive, rush-hour traffic, et cetera et cetera.

    Everyone here has done this, of course. But it hasn’t yet been part of you graduates’ actual life routine, day after week after month after year.

    But it will be. And many more dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines besides. But that is not the point. The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop. Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it’s going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way. And who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are, and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line. And look at how deeply and personally unfair this is….

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