Today, I had to wait for 45 minutes for something in a waiting room full of people in a place that was too hot with small windows. To most people that probably sounds quite tedious. However, I didn’t mind. I like waiting. That is strange. But I really do.
Why do I like waiting? That is today’s weird thought.
British people are good at waiting. We don’t mind, or we don’t show that we mind, to a point. If we do mind or get to the point when we start minding, we complain but only in a very jolly British way. We complain with humour. We complain apologetically. That is, if we complain at all. Mostly, we just put up and shut up.
I am British and I love waiting. I have my reasons. Firstly, if I am waiting then I am not engaged in real life. This is especially so if I have no phone signal (as was the case today). Nobody can get hold of me while I am waiting. They can wait. Bliss.
Secondly, waiting gives me thinking space. All I can do is think while I wait. Thinking is healthy. We all should stop and just think now and then. It’s amazing what your mind can come up with if left to just think.
Thirdly, I love reading really old copies of Women’s Weekly. Who doesn’t?
Fourthly, I love reading the random signs and notices that are always present in places of waiting: the adverts for coping with dementia, what to do if you think you have an STD, how much water you should drink a day, where the local support group for people with random unusual disease meet or the signs that tell you ‘please be patient if you have been waiting a long time’.
Finally, and most importantly, I love people watching and eavesdropping on those people. So for me, waiting is like being in the sweetie shop.
Today, while waiting, I heard all about one woman’s issues renovating her house (and what happened when the curtain rail fell down). I helped an elderly lady of 85 work out what day it is today. I amused a random man with my desperate need to know what a ‘Tilt Test’ is (he asked the receptionist for me, she wasn’t sure). I exchanged mutual carparking horror stories with a lady called Julie Davies. I watched as a doddery old man with a thatched head of pure white hair called John Thomas (the man, not the hair) was called into his appointment. I observed a lady called Florence Proctor amble past to her appointment shortly after John Thomas. I created a life for her in my head (lives in the country, higgldy piggldy house, too many books, cats, loves Radio 4, eats crumpets). I saw a youngish man called Paul with a hat get called into his appointment. I amused a random couple with my grammatical pedantry. I enjoyed waiting. It can be fun, if you make it fun.
If only I had had my sketch pad today, the adventures my pen and I would have had. As it was, I decided that an hour in a random waiting room would make for a great Radio 4 play or Samuel Beckett story. It is an existentialist’s dreamv- waiting for something you don’t want to experience, and waiting patiently at that, and more importantly, being forced to consider your mortality and meaning on this planet while waiting for that thing you don’t want to happen. Arguably, there isn’t anything more exentialist as that.
When my time waiting came to an end, 45 minutes after it began, I hate to admit it but I was sad. And I will miss my new friends: John, Julie, Florence and Paul to name but a few. Perhaps our paths will cross again, in another waiting room somewhere else.