Monday, March 21, 2011

The Art of Waiting

I’m not very good at waiting for things.  Everywhere I’ve worked there was always someone who would call me “Fast Eddie”.  I had an Uncle Eddie.  That was his name.  Mine is Ed.  I’d rather someone call me Mr. Ed than Fast Eddie.  Fast Eddie’s is a chain of pool halls in Texas and Louisiana.  But that’s a horse of another color.

One of the most difficult challenges I faced as a manager was waiting for things to get done.  Supremely confident, at least on the surface, I always believed I could do things faster and better than the person I was assigning the task.  Eventually, my supervisor challenged me to delegate, explaining the importance of not being spread too thin as corporate responsibilities increased.  He was right of course, and over the years I found ways of twisting the waiting into what I would call “managerial follow-up”.  That’s a fancy way of pushing people to get their task done sooner so I didn’t have to wait.

When I call customer support and find myself in the dreaded “queue” I punch every option on the keypad hoping to speak to a real person.  I don’t want to wait and I don’t want to hear some automated voice telling me how important my call is and to please hold.  If I were that important someone would have answered the phone.  I was thrilled when doctors started calling their waiting room a patient lounge and “on demand” would be the great invention of all time if it would only work.
I don’t like waiting in lines although I try to make the most of it by striking up a conversation with my "next-in-line" neighbor.  For example, when was the last time you walked in and out of a tax assessor’s office or the Department of Motor Vehicles?  It doesn’t happen.  So I pass the time by talking politics, or pretending I’m a rocket scientist for NASA or a government official.  The person next to me will never know and he/she might even have some bragging rights about meeting such a high level diplomat.

For some reason, I don’t mind talking to people while waiting for an elevator; but once we’re in the 4x4 cubicle, I’m staring at the numbers that glow with each floor.  When I get tired of looking up, I’ll look down at my shoes.  I’ll pass the time counting the “dings” and compare my count to the glowing lights.  I’ve missed my stop more often than I care to admit.

Instant coffee isn’t fast enough for me.  Starbucks is torture.  A drive-through line?  Perish the thought, especially after the battle of a mumbling order taker.  Besides, it’s tough to read the menu options under that kind of pressure.  Supermarket lines are probably the worst.  I try not to shop at Kroger, because their “Express Lane” is for twenty items or less.  HEB’s “Express Lane” is ten items or less.  Now stores are throwing a wrinkle into the equation with self-checkout.  On the surface, it looks great.  With only one or two items, I can zip in and out.  Except I’ve yet to use one of those self-service kiosks without needing help from the one assistant responsible for all six machines.  That’s five other people ahead of me and that means I’m once again, waiting.

Today, I’m expecting an email with a job offer.  Make no mistake, “expecting” is a fancy word for “waiting”.  Want to take a guess how I feel about that?  Pretty damn good.  Except, of course, for the waiting.

Enhanced by Zemanta