Waiting is an art form. And there are many varieties. Waiting with children in tow is its own specialty. Waiting alone in a strange place uses a different skill set. Waiting in a crowd and trying to look like you belong is very different from waiting up at night for someone to come home. Waiting in a confined space like in a car during a traffic jam demands another kind of patience. I’ve reached a point where I don’t mind waiting very often. If I pace it right, it can even be pleasant.
Right now I’m waiting in a hospital. Not to worry–nothing disastrous or horrible going on (we hope), but I’m here in the waiting room at Emergency waiting for my dad. I wish I didn’t have as much practice waiting in hospitals as I do.
My parents came to visit for a few days in order to overlap with a visit from my brother who had a job interview here in Wisconsin. (We didn’t get anywhere near enough time with my brother but it was wonderful to see him nonetheless.) They were all set to head home today, but then dad took an odd turn and needed to get checked out by a doctor to be safe before the long drive. So I took my parents to Urgent Care who referred us to Emergency, and now I’m waiting.
The most useful thing I’ve learned to grab before going anyplace where I suspect I might have to wait is my laptop. (Hence the blogging to kill some time.) Trips with kids to the hospital taught me to always grab my laptop and to keep DVDs in the bag. I also learned to keep a bag in the car with juice boxes, crackers, drawing supplies, and a book or two. I’ve also gotten good at using my hands as puppets.
When I have to wait in the car or on a stage I bring Sudoku puzzles. If I know I’m going somewhere I will have to wait for many hours alone I bring a book. When I don’t know how long I will have to wait I bring a project of indeterminate length. Today I brought with me my new address book so I could start copying over from the old one. That’s a good project that I can stop and start easily.
I think the trickiest place I’ve ever had to wait with children is on an airplane during a delay. There is only so much you can do in that kind of confinement, and when you’ve been forced to unexpectedly go through your whole bag of tricks before the flight has even started it’s deeply frustrating.
I told my parents as we were driving here that at least the new building we were heading toward was beautiful to wait in. When I was here with Quinn last year I was impressed with the open feel of the lobby and the view from the windows. But it turns out the Emergency Room is underneath all of that and this room is tiny and clean but the word beautiful does not spring to mind.
There are four televisions in this small space. All of them were blaring with different programs when we arrived. Nobody seemed to be watching any of them. I shut one off and nobody objected, so then I shut another one off. Now there is only one playing at the other end of the room near some people who may or may not be watching it, and that’s okay. But the basketball game and the makeover show and the whatever the other one was doing on top of that was too much. Especially since everyone seems to bring their own portable entertainment anyway. Everyone I can see has a phone to play on, and probably doesn’t need the TV noise interfering with that.
Speaking of phones, since I am the last person in the universe apparently who has no interest in owning a smart phone, I was unprepared to deal with my mom’s iPhone while we were at Urgent Care. We were waiting there when this unusual music started. Not typical waiting room music. Then my mom shifted her things and I realized it was coming from her purse. She has an iPhone that my sister-in-law gave her, and the thing started playing music. It probably took me a full minute to figure out what to do about it, and I ended up turning the volume all the way down. It’s probably still playing very quietly in my mom’s purse here in Emergency.
I have a friend who is pregnant, and every time I see her I’m reminded of what a special kind of wait that is. Some waiting is simply boring because there is no sense of anticipation, like being in line at the DMV where there isn’t anything particularly interesting at the end of the wait. Anticipation feels different if you are dreading a result or are excited about it. Pregnancy can be all of those things wrapped up into one. I remember dreading labor, fearing a little bit of what it would be like to actually have a baby to care for, but being terribly excited about becoming a mother, and also living through stretches where it was dull and I was ready for it to just be over.
Today was not the day I was expecting, but life seldom works that way. We forget that the run of the mill bits and pieces of day to day life is the closest we get to perfection. I’m always in a state of waiting to catch up enough that I can really start the things I want to do, but that will never happen. I remember after Aden was born waiting for the right time to start building violins again, and then it hit me that that perfect day would never come. There was never going to be a right time because there was always going to be something in the way. I had to simply do it and stop waiting.
Mona had a phase for a little while when she was smaller where anytime I said it was time to go she would run ahead and say, “What are we waiting for?!” What are we waiting for indeed.
Hey, here comes my dad! Time to go.