How to wait for things, from an ex-New Yorker
Social distancing means cleaning out Google Drive, where I found this piece I wrote last year while living in New York City. I wanted to keep a cheeky tone, but wrote out of a place of true frustration as I kept finding myself in scenarios where I had to — God forbid — wait for something. I love reading this a year later from a more intentional and paced Southern California life, not to mention while living shelter-in-place.
It’s Saturday night and I’m walking down Essex Street as slowly as a New Yorker possibly can without looking suspicious. I meander pass some graffiti and never-ending construction, staring sadly at the new Target that recently opened. I’d been out all day, took my time getting ready, and even blow-dried my hair. Regardless, it is 7:58 and I’m just walking up to my neighbor’s apartment. His dinner party starts at 8.
In a world of “Sorry! My meeting went over, be there in 10!” and “Can you believe the trains are running local?!” I’ve found that punctuality is not a commonly shared value.
While waiting, I used to mindlessly poke around on social media, double-tapping photos of infinity pools in Indonesia. Or, pass those minutes mentally ticking off the reasons this person is incompetent at time management. While it’s easy to fill this time with distractions, I wanted intentional and purposeful ways to fill my moments of waiting.
So what’s a chronically punctual person to do?
Be ready to wait.
Is this accepting defeat? No! However, the reality is that unless you decide to be purposefully late (which I’ve tried with varying degrees of success) you will spend time waiting for people. Life happens, and not everyone has the foresight to add an extra 20 minutes to the time Google Maps gives to get anywhere via the F train on a Saturday night. Next time you’re caught waiting, be ready for it with a positive attitude.
Consider the person you are waiting for, and what you want them to take away from your interaction.
You’re about to share time with a person of some significance in your life. Perhaps you are having a tedious but necessary meeting, or maybe it’s meeting someone special you’ve been looking forward to seeing all day. Either way, consider how you want to spend this time. How do you want this person feel? What is important for you to communicate? What do they want to know? What do you want them to take away from your time together? You’ve chosen to dedicate part of your day to this person, so make the most of it.
Reflect on your day.
In my own life, I’m starting to create more moments to reflect and meditate on my actions and words. We constantly fill our days with activities, moving from one thing to the next without stopping. I have to intentionally make space to think about how my interactions are affecting the people around me, and check in with my own emotions. If I’m caught waiting, instead of letting my mind wander and frustration creep in, I like to ask myself the following:
What went well? What is going poorly? What would I change? What do I want to do differently tomorrow?
Stillness can seem antithetical in a culture where experiences and productivity are idolized. Quiet, silence, and simply being are often overlooked. Instead of filling every second with something new, take in the moment and sit in quiet and appreciate your surroundings. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but a moment of waiting is the perfect time to embrace that slightly awkward stillness and simply observe and appreciate the world around you.
Lastly, passive-aggressively text the person you’re waiting for.
Kidding. ish. In seriousness, don’t be afraid to communicate the value of your time to the people in your life. Even writing this, I still struggle to not take someone’s lateness as a measure of how much they respect me and value my time. Everyone has different standards for punctuality (or none at all) and voicing your expectations can help avoid unnecessary frustration.
Instead of viewing time waited as time wasted, I’m using these strategies to take those moment captive and change my own perspective. We will never live in a world where everyone is punctual, but we can be proactive, understanding and flexible.