October 27, 2013

Why Standing in Line has Made Me Happier. ~ Lauren DeLay

I’m a terrible driver.

I’ll be the first to admit that I drive too fast, too aggressively and far too distractedly to be considered safe. My car insurance bill is higher than my car payment and I always seem to be speeding on the only streets which employ a speed van.

At red lights I merge into the right turn lane and then speed ahead of the other cars, cutting them off before they have a chance to realize the light has turned to green. Seeing them in my rear view mirror gives me (I hate to admit this) a true sense of accomplishment.

I drive like this for one reason. I am impatient.

By trade I am a teacher, the epitome of the patient master, but by birth (or choice, I haven’t quite figured this debate out yet) I am quite the opposite. It’s a drug. My impatience courses through me and turns me from a sane, likeable human being, into a crazed, frantic bitch. I can’t help it. Or so I thought.

My impatience doesn’t begin and end in between yellow lines.

That is merely a side effect of the delirium that sweeps through me when I am asked to wait. It pops up in the most mundane (and inappropriate) of places. The doctor’s office, the post office (any office for that matter), that tragic ‘scenario’ at the zoo (kid, line, 2011, tears), but most notably, the grocery store.

I am able to drive efficiently enough to the store, but once I arrive, my patience is tested beyond limit. I wait for the old decrepit to figure out how to tear off just one (and not 30) plastic bag for her lemons, I wait for the mom of two and the lost college student to create a gap in their parallel carts in aisle five, and worst of all, I wait for the coupon queen to finish checking out on her once a year shopping spree.

If more people treated the world like a game show, and participated in Supermarket Sweep on their casual grocery runs, we would all be a little happier. Or, once again, so I thought.

Recently, my local grocer decided to holla a personal “what’s up” in my direction with the installation of a plethora of self check stations. The glory of this addition is that, yes, although there might be a line, it is quicker and far less personable than the antiquated method. I wait for the light, rush over, scan my items with a speed a Jedi would envy and exit. Game over.

More recently, however, these machines malfunctioned.

To my surprise, after the test of all tests, perhaps to the degree of the bar, on my patience, there were only three scanners open, all of which were employed by human beings. Clearly I chose the smallest line, but after observing the scanner was the first cousin of Jesus, I stealthily moved to the next scanner, an adept and extremely muscular college student.

As I waited in line, and waited, and waited, I noticed something happening. I was talking to the man in front of me.

It happened casually enough—he pointed out the cracked screen on my super cool cellular phone and offered a suggestion for how to fix it economically. We kept talking, and talking, and before I knew it I was saying goodbye and loading my own load onto the conveyer belt.

After he left, I began talking to Jem, my overly friendly and excited scanner. I learned that he was in school to become a video game creator and he really wasn’t impressed by the new Grand Theft Auto.

Not thinking much of anything I walked out of the grocery store with a new lightness in my step. As I began to back out, I noticed that I allowed three cars to go behind me without so much as a grumble to myself. Something had happened.

That fateful experience of waiting in a line had forced me to connect with someone and something and from that waiting I became, happier.

I genuinely enjoyed my small moments with Jem and screen man and I wasn’t at all upset that it took an extra seven minutes and 54 seconds!

So I guess the point is: make it worth it. Every second.

Connect. Bypass the self check out.

And although you can’t have conversations and make those explicit connections at a red light, perhaps now, instead of trying to be the first through the intersection, you can catch a brief moment of enjoyment from the woman behind you in the blue Prius rocking out to Alanis Morissette.


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Ed: Catherine Monkman

{Photo: Flickr.}

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