Waiting, waiting, waiting…

by Steve Brock on April 15, 2014

Delft CafeI’m normally about as excited by the prospect of waiting as I am of going to the dentist, seeing the friendly neighborhood-roaming Jehovah’s Witnesses approach my front door or having a water pipe – upstairs – burst.

I change lines at the store and lanes on the freeway at least twice (usually ending up worse off) and I will enter 1:11 on the microwave instead of 1:00 (alas, our microwave doesn’t offer the coveted “1 min.” button) just to save a few milliseconds required to move my finger the 2 inches to the other keys. Getting someplace too early is, to me, a greater violation than paying retail. Delayed flights? Don’t ask.

It’s not that I am inherently impatient. Okay, I am. But I like to think that I’m optimizing life: I’d rather be spending time on all those wonderful things that delight rather than standing in some line somewhere for longer than I should because someone in front of me isn’t, well, optimizing life.

So imagine my reaction last summer when faced with the prospect of waiting seven hours for my oldest son to attend a concert. Not any concert. The North Sea Jazz Festival (one of the jazz world’s top gatherings each year in Rotterdam, Netherlands). He had been looking forward to this as the highlight of our European trip. Which was great for him but left my wife, younger son and me…waiting.

Actually, we used the time well by driving out to see a jam-packed Dutch beach and the major sites of The Hague before stopping in the quaint town of Delft.

This beautiful old city – home of the famous blue and white china that bears its name – was a joy to explore: the main square, churches, canals and windy streets. All of these made for a great way to spend our time as we waited for my oldest son.

Most of the shops and points of interest closed by 6 PM and we still had over three hours to wait. So we found a small tree-lined square several blocks from the more touristy main square, selected a restaurant both by sight and due to a guidebook recommendation and sat down at an outdoor table for dinner.

For three hours.

Yes, I know the Europeans do this all the time. But me? Three hours just sitting there?

Sure, the meal was extremely good: salad leisurely followed by the main course (barbecued pork something: our waiter’s excellent English failed to find the word for this part of the pig put he reassured me it was a noble – and tasty – section. He was right.) Eventually, dessert and coffee, all spread out over three hours. Three hours just waiting.

The funny part? When it was finally time to go, we were not ready.

We’d had great conversations among ourselves, with our waiter, with another waitress who was delighted when we gave her the page from the guidebook with the restaurant’s write up, and even nearby couples were also enjoying their leisurely meals.

By the time we picked up our son at the jazz festival, the three of us who had “endured” the lengthy wait all wondered the same thing: Why don’t we do that more often?

I can still be impatient. But I realize that waiting isn’t the issue. It’s how you do it that can make it feel like a curse…or an amazing blessing.

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