5 Life Lessons I Learned About Waiting in Line That You Can Take to the Bank
By: Miss Adventures
It was a Friday afternoon. It was about 6:12 that day. It was at least 100 degrees outside with the heat index accounted for. It was ridiculous. And where was I? I was, once again, waiting in line, outside, in the heat…for someone else. For about 45 minutes. But, that 45 minutes changed my perspective about waiting in line…probably forever.
We spend most of our adult lives waiting in line, don’t we? We wait in line at the grocery store, at Wal-Mart, dropping kids off at the bus stop, picking them up from the bus stop, dropping kids off at school, picking them up from school, and a million other places just sitting…aimlessly waiting in line…for something…for “our turn”. We fill this time waiting with Candy Crush, with Words with Friends and with updating our Facebook status in the name of just “killing” that dead time. And we hate it. Admit it. You hate it too. If you had to wait in a line (as I often have for a year now) without a cell phone, without a magazine rack, without some sort of external distraction, you hate waiting in line even more than you probably do right now, but I digress, I am not you, you are not me.
The thing about waiting in line is…
The minutes seem to morph into hours, the time spent aimlessly standing there seems to become unbearable. It weighs heavy on you like an anvil on a drowning sailor. Unless….unless you figure out how to get a breath of fresh air in that dead time, unless you figure out how to make that dead time come alive, hence, the blog.
Here’s the thing: that breath of fresh air is so simple that it often escapes our humanly grasp: Commonality.
You see, what I realized this week is that everyone who was in line for the same thing that I was in line for had one thing in common, and if I could speak to that, if I could do something to engage, to break up the drudgery of it all, the time would go by so much faster.
And it did.
One young lady was experiencing her first time in “the wait”. I guess I was the most “approachable” in the line, as I was the first one she came up to and introduced herself to. She asked me a million questions, all of which I answered, as best I could. Then, I noticed a bunch more people craning their necks to get answers. They were first timers too. They were all looking to me to get information. So I gave them what I could, as best I could…and suddenly, I was the den mother of this incredibly sweet Motely Crew. I was the one joking about how I was hoping to get everyone in a drum circle to make the time go by faster --- I don’t do drum circles, I’m Republican, so that’s funny…laugh. I was the one playing with babies and talking to kids in line and the one everyone asked questions of…all of a sudden.
I was also the one who said things that resonated with everyone in that damn line. I said things like:
“I don’t think they understand what it’s like to wait like this. I don’t think they understand the pain of it, of how much we sacrifice to wait, to take care of things, to put everything they have above us. The hours driving to and from, the exhaustion, the pain of it, how their decisions affected us in the worst possible way. I don’t think they can appreciate that yet. I don’t think they understand. I don’t think they know how lonely the holidays are, how horrible day to day life is, how overwhelming things can be when you are managing so much, and just trying to survive all at the same time. They are in this fishbowl, this thing where everything is handled and managed for them, they take freedom for granted, thinking it is this massive gift, when for those of us managing theirs, it’s a fucking curse. They take life for granted. They take everything for granted, especially you. You become the punching bag, you become the enemy, even when you have never been either one. But you take it, and you endure it and you are strong enough too, otherwise you won’t be in this fucking line, right now.”
And that’s when everyone’s head snaps to your direction…and nods.
That’s the moment when you “officially” become the den mother.
At 6:35 p.m. on a Friday.
That’s when they all say the same thing, “I know. That’s exactly how I felt/feel. Thank GOD I’m not the only one. I thought I was.”
Even though I wasn’t expecting this, or anticipating this, or even enjoying the thought of being out in the heat with a bunch of folks who I didn’t know, suddenly, I felt useful. I felt like I could give them something that they were craving, that I could somehow ease the anxiety I once felt when no one was there to answer those questions for me. For every time I wasn’t brave enough to ask.
And that made me feel good.
All from standing in a fucking line.
Then, I realized, I stand in a lot of lines I don’t contribute a damn thing to, and I could…I should. So, here are my five lessons learned from standing in line. And maybe these are lessons you can learn too.
1. Contribute something…anything. We are all so consumed, self-absorbed in our own shit that we don’t think about the person behind us, in front of us, the person at the register. If my 14-year-old-daugher has taught me anything, it’s about making other people feel special and important. As I watch her, I learn from her, because she is EXCEPTIONAL at this. When I grow up, I want to be more like her. So? I’m trying.
2. Don’t be an asshole. Sounds simple, right? If only it was. I have recently come to the conclusion that we are all assholes who want things for free, even if we don’t deserve them (myself included). I want be less of that kind of an asshole. You should too. If people do something for you, out of kindness, pay that shit forward. Or…at least try to.
3. Interact, don’t react. Compassion is a lost art. That is all. Learn it again. Do it better.
4. Seriously. Don’t be an asshole. Do I really need to say this again? I think I do. Because we can't help ourselves...it seems. So...work on this. I am. :)
5. Dead time goes faster when we make it alive. When you make time feel alive, it goes by SO FAST. If we just took a few seconds, a few minutes to make our dead time come alive, we have done our good deeds, we have done our pay it forwards in a million ways…just by interacting. Imagine that.
The things you learn by waiting in line might just amaze you.
What have you learned?
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