Waiting and Social Interaction
In our fast-paced society, waiting is not something that people like to do. For people who rely on public transportation, waiting is built into everyday life. But if your daily routine doesn’t involve a lot of waiting, it takes you away from the rhythm of life.
Put in a situation where you have to wait, maybe you don’t mind it for a bit. You might like a few quiet moments to yourself. Maybe you meditate while you wait. Perhaps you get reflective and write a poem. But there’s so much to entertain us while we wait, like listening to music, tweeting, or exploring for a new app. I wonder if anyone truly likes to be alone with their own thoughts for an extended period of time.
Recently, I had an interesting experience with waiting. I waited, and waited, and waited some more at a hospital with my wife on a day when our son had surgery. Throughout the day, I couldn’t help but notice what people were doing while they waited. And it occurred to me that waiting involves a lot of social interaction.
I had the company of my wife, so naturally we talked a lot. But we also interacted with other parents. All of us were waiting for our children to have some type of surgery, so that led to talk about what procedure our children needed. There were also compliments passed back and forth about the cuteness of each other’s kids. Along with a nod or a smile, it’s another way to acknowledge other parents. Also, let’s be honest, you always feel good when someone says your kid is cute. When a person says something nice about your kid, it validates a part of you.
Although most people waited in pairs, a few parents had no one with them. One mother waited next to me while her son was in surgery. She called someone and angrily said “He just had surgery! I can’t leave here to come and get you!” I acted as if I hadn’t overheard her brief call. We ended up saying a few things to each other—nothing special—which reminded me that everyday life involves a lot of mundane interactions.
I looked around the room, and observed that everyone was engaged with something—one man was playing with a Nintendo DS, several people were watching television, others were eating, and I was reading a newspaper (I can’t believe they still make newspapers). It stood out to me that mostly everyone’s hands were occupied: mainly by cell phones, of course, but also with items like coffee cups. What would we do with our hands if cell phones and coffee cups were banned?
Waiting with others helped the day go faster. Suddenly, we were notified that our son’s surgery was completed. Only one parent was allowed to visit while he was in recovery. My wife hurried off to see him, so I was left alone, but only for a moment. I sent text messages to my parents and in-laws to tell them surgery went well. Am I really texting to let them know their grandson is okay? That was more or less my thought as I fired off the texts. But when I am surrounded by people, I don’t like to publicly air a phone conversation. With time on my hands, I continued looking around, making observations. That’s when the idea for this blog post struck me, so I searched the waiting room for a pen. I couldn’t find one, so I used the notepad tool in my cell phone to type a few thoughts.
Finally, I was allowed to see my son. The waiting was over. It always feels good when you don’t have to wait any longer. As pictured, I held him close in a rocking chair. The picture isn’t the best quality, but, after all, he was what I was waiting for. After a nurse and physician’s assistant checked him over, we were allowed to go. So we left the hospital, and life went back to normal. Life returned to its busy and hectic state.
As I worked on this blog, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ song “The Waiting” played in my head. The song speaks to a different kind of waiting than what I write about here, but the line “the waiting is the hardest part” applies to many forms of waiting. It’s true, waiting is really hard to do. But being with other people makes the waiting a little easier.
All of this is meant to say: even waiting is social.