Memories and Musings: Hurry-up and wait!

Published 8:09 am Thursday, February 29, 2024

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By Gene Gallelli

It dawned on me while sitting silently with random thoughts flying through my head like the pages of a calendar in a strong wind, that something we all do is wait. Waiting is the great equalizer, a common ground … a universal pain in the neck!

My patience for watching the clock while waiting has grown remarkably over my many years of standing in line, sitting in waiting rooms, and sorting through tons of mail looking for the check and getting mostly bills. But, alas, I’ve learned to spin many of those irritations into tolerable – if not pleasant – moments by humming a tune, shutting my eyes for a quick nap, or reading a week-old newspaper that is turning yellow or last year’s Sports Illustrated.

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Of course, the personnel working at the locations where you have to wait can make a tremendous difference in the quality of the experience you have. At times the receptionist or clerk fails to look you in the eye, mumble instructions, and hand you a clipboard with pages of check-off lists with myriad places to initial or sign. The pictures and signs adorning the walls of some waiting areas falsely describe a “happy” environment that’s totally different from the one you’re experiencing. Those are the times you feel just like another number.

The same and similar pictures with smiling families, and several posters saying “You are important to us!” also hang on the walls of establishments where the staffs smile, greet you by name, and make you feel like a member of the family. In those places, you feel the employees truly believe and perform in a manner consistent with the caring, happy messages hanging on the walls.

This column wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the “grand prize” of waiting horrors: appointments that are scheduled “sometime during the day” or “sometime in the morning or afternoon” or between any number of hours during the day. Give me a break! If I had used any of the aforementioned schedules during my education career, I would have been rightly tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a donkey!

One rather unusual type of waiting is what I like to call the “double-take wait.” We’ve all been there: You’re at the doctor’s for a checkup, get called back by a nurse who performs the “vitals” exam and sends you into a room to – guess what? – wait for the doctor. (Fortunately, my doctor and nurse are worth waiting for.)

Let’s face it, trying to avoid waiting is like trying to find a grocery parking lot in which someone hasn’t left a shopping cart in a parking space, especially when the cart is left only five feet away from a cart return.

In a world where finding differences seems to be the rage, it’s encouraging to find that the simple act of “waiting” is something we all do, and in my opinion that’s good. Also, it’s wise to remember that time cannot be saved or banked, it can only be spent. Therefore, it’s up to us prepare for waiting by taking that short snooze or by learning something new by reading or talking to someone who is also waiting.

Waiting uses up precious time, so let’s learn not to waste it.

Gene Gallelli was associate superintendent of the Dare County Schools for eight years. He received his doctor of education degree from East Carolina University, where he taught and supervised students studying to become school administrators.