The Long Wait
March 31, 2018
We “sprang ahead” three weeks ago and yet many are still waiting for spring-like temperatures. For those celebrating the Easter weekend, today is Easter Even or Eve, known liturgically as the Great Easter Vigil, a time of waiting for the words of a man crucified to become true, waiting to see if he really could defeat death at its own game. For those celebrating Passover, this is a period of eight days celebrating deliverance and freedom, something many in the Jewish faith are still waiting to become their reality.
It is always tricky to combine Easter and Passover. Both are major holidays in two religions of the Abrahamic faith and yet, both represent times of trial and racial and religious discrimination. We tend to gloss over the fact that the man known as Jesus of Nazareth was killed for being Jewish. Many today try to combine the Passover Seder meal with the Christian Holy Week without acknowledging the guilt of the Roman Empire in carrying out the execution of someone simply for preaching the Jewish teachings. Others simply sigh and continue their own great vigil in waiting for world peace.
David Maister, in his paper “The Psychology of Waiting Lines” believes that the actual length of time one waits has very little to do with how long the wait seems to be. Maister lists eight factors that make our wait much longer than it really is.
1. Unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time. When you have something to distract yourself, time passes more quickly. This is why some hotels put mirrors by the elevators. Many people like to look at themselves and this distracts them so they don’t realize how long they are waiting for the elevator.
2. People want to get started. Restaurants give you a menu while you wait, and often doctors’ assistants will put you in the examination room twenty-five minutes before any exam actually begins.
3. Anxiety makes waits seem longer. Perception determines our thinking. If you think you’ve chosen the slowest line at the drugstore, or you’re worried about getting a seat on the plane, the wait will seem longer.
4. Uncertain waits are longer than known, finite waits. People wait more calmly when they’re told, “The doctor will see you in thirty minutes” than when they’re told, “The doctor will see you soon.” Maister gives the illustration of a phenomenon that is very typical. When we arrive someplace thirty minutes early, we wait with perfect patience because we know we got there early. However, three minutes after the scheduled appointment time we begin to feel annoyed and wonder “Just how long am I going to have to wait?”
5. Unexplained waits are longer than explained waits. Customers tend wait more patiently for the pizza guy when there’s a thunderstorm than when the sky is clear.
6. Unfair waits are longer than equitable waits. People want their waits to be fair. Crowded subway platforms are one example where there’s no clear, fair way to determine who gets on the next car. The “FIFO” rule (first in, first out) is a great rule, when it works. Often though certain people need attention more urgently, or certain people are more valuable customers. Then how long our wait is and how equitable who waits becomes uncertain and can be seen as being unfair.
7. The more valuable the service, the longer the customer will wait. As a general rule we will wait longer to talk to a doctor than to talk to a sales clerk. People will willingly stand in line longer to buy an iPad than to buy a toothbrush.
8. Solo waits feel longer than group waits. The more people engage with each other, the less they notice the wait time. In fact, in some situations like buying a ticket or going through a security checkpoint, waiting in line is part of the experience. The adage misery loves company certainly is true when we are waiting.
So can waiting ever be beneficial? The spiritualist will answer a resounding yes and those in religion should as well. Whether one’s deity is one of many or the single omnipotent deity of the Abrahamic faiths, the common factor is all is the essence of waiting and the lessons we gain. Waiting is not something fate has put into the world to annoy us. It can be the best thing we will ever experience.
Using the eight factor Maister lists, we can see valuable insights and lessons to be learned. I am going to begin with number eight and work backwards. Often taking an annoyance and turning it around is the key to gaining insight and growth.
8. Solo waits feel longer than group waits. We all live on this planet together. When we connect one with another, we are taking great strides towards world peace and a better living for everyone. Kindness is the art of reaching out to others and when we connect we are showing benevolence and humanity to each other and to ourselves.
7. The more valuable the service, the longer the customer will wait. Sometimes we find ourselves doing something simply because it is trendy or fashionable. When we have to wait to do it, we have the opportunity to examine our motives and desires. Waiting gives us the chance to question our faithfulness in being authentic to our goals and desires.
6. Unfair waits are longer than equitable waits. Patience is often defines as being able to endure. What really comes into play is our ego. Are we too good to wait while another is being served? Most of us would say no but do our actions really illustrate that if we become impatient?
5. Unexplained waits are longer than explained waits. Self-control is discipline and sometimes it is harder to discipline ourselves than our children. No one knows everything and we have no real knowledge of all the factors that might be affecting our wait. Mastering ourselves is often the first step to not only peace in our own lives and community but success in our living.
4. Uncertain waits are longer than known, finite waits. Trust – the one word that makes living so difficult. It is hope and confidence, dependence and reliance, conviction and faith. Waiting is often who we are put into action.
3. Anxiety makes waits seem longer. Peace within will reflect peace in our actions. How we overcome anxiety really speaks to who we are as a person, as a nation, as all of humankind.
2. People want to get started. Patience is required when one is waiting. We often fail to realize that the wait might be our first step to the realization of our intentions.
1. Unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time. Joy can be found in each second. Too often we are busy rushing from one place to another, one project to the next. When we wait, we are given time to enjoy our world and our day. Instead of counting the second, we need to count the smiles around us, the flowers in the window, and the sounds of life around us.
Those of the Jewish faith are still waiting to live completely in freedom without derision as are those of other faiths. Many Christians have forgotten that the grace they seek is simply theirs for the praying. As a world we have overlooked that the key to world peace is in our waiting upon each other with dignity and generosity, kindness and forbearance, honesty and respect. The biggest vigil of all is waiting for each of us to explore the humanity within our souls and then live it.