I really don’t like waiting. I never have done. I’m an extremely impatient sort and when I make up my mind to do something or that I need something, I tend to want to do it now. Sound like quite a brat, don’t I? But I don’t think I am alone in this.
Waiting involves an anxiety about something totally out of your control. The result is generally out of your hands by the time you are compelled to wait to hear it. Think of the outcome of a job interview, or waiting to hear about an offer you’ve put in on a house. Once the interview is over, or the offer in, there is nothing to do but wait. Yet do we wait patiently? I certainly don’t. I go over and over in my head, what I said, questions I could have answered better, should we have upped our offer, etc etc, and even my dreams are plagued by anonymous ranks of interviewers or images of that moment on Location, Location, Location when Phil or Kirstie’s phone buzzes and you know it’s the estate agent calling. You can no longer influence the outcome of the decision, your fate is now in someone else’s hands, and it is an utterly helpless feeling.
What makes this all worse is that usually these periods waiting desperately for news are also fraught with anxiety about the future, because the news, when it comes, might be life-changing, such as the need to move half way across the country for a job, or to start looking for new schools for your children because you’re buying a house elsewhere. I suppose the waiting is never quite so awful if the eventual decision is not going to have much of an impact on your life. I have never suffered this kind of anxiety waiting for the mechanic to call and tell me what needs fixing for my car to pass my MOT (though that is fraught with its own financial worries usually!).
There can even be a certain amount of delusion involved, perhaps as a self-preservation mechanism. For example, when waiting to hear whether I had been accepted at the European University Institute in Florence to do my PhD, I managed to convince myself that actually, I didn’t want to go and live in Florence. I fixated on the fact that I had been for interview in a particularly dismal grey April, and that the city seemed far less green than London. I had decided to turn down the offer (if it came) and go back to Oxford instead. Or so I thought. When the email offer arrived I squealed with excitement and ran off to tell my colleagues I was moving to Florence, without a moment’s hesitation, surprising them and myself at the decision! Equally, after a particularly good interview for a job I thought I really wanted, which was hundreds of miles away in Edinburgh, I waited eagerly for the verdict, already looking at flats and scoping out great coffee shops in the city in which to write. When the news that I hadn’t got the job arrived, instead of being crushed, I was actually quite relieved! Again, my subconscious mind seems to have known something I didn’t, and with hindsight, it was totally right.
But it’s not just waiting for these huge, life-changing decisions that I hate. I am in a constant state of impatience, or so it feels sometimes. Waiting for the train home, every day, I am anxious just to get on and get away on my journey, even though I’m going to get home at the same time whether I expend this nervous energy or not. Waiting for the kettle to boil – I can’t just stand there. I clean the kitchen if at work, or empty the dishwasher or take the rubbish out if I’m home. I need to be doing something. I am terrible at doctors surgeries, and if I can’t find something to read and occupy me I get quite stressed out. I realise I am sounding very high maintenance here, perhaps a little neurotic, but it isn’t just me… my dog suffers too.
My funny little mongrel Billy first came into my life whilst living in Florence, and for the six months or so we spent together there, he went everywhere with me. To the beach at Baratti in the summer, to the restaurant in town in the evening, on errands to the market or into the centre of town, and on tourist sightseeing trips with visiting friends. He even spent a memorable time cavorting round the Leaning Tower in Pisa one night at 1 in the morning after I collected a friend from the airport and took them to see it at the best time of day – the middle of the night when there are no tourists to distract you from the magnificence of the buildings. He loved going everywhere with me.
He would happily sit outside Esselunga supermarket for half an hour while I did the weekly shop. He’d wait outside the ortolano while I picked up some fruit and veg and passed the time with the lovely little old man who ran it. He’d even calmly wait for me outside university while I ran in to print off some papers or drop off work with my supervisor. As long as he had a nice quiet spot to be tied up where nobody would bother him (except little old ladies who always seemed to want to feed him whatever meat products they had just purchased, which he was fine with), he would wait quietly. Except at the Post Office.
Now, the Italian Post Office is something very special. I would tell you how it all works, except I still don’t really know. There are multiple counters, each with a corresponding numbered ticket machine, and you had to take the number for the counter you needed. Except the rules on which counter to use seemed to change every time you were in there, usually just to post letters or small parcels. Heaven forbid I needed to do banking stuff. Anyway, you take your ticket, and you wait for it to be called. And wait. And wait. You witness numerous Italians getting upset and angry at having to wait, and others placating them, only to be the ones getting angry themselves when someone they think came in after them is getting served first. It is a hellish place. Often, your number will be called (hallelujah!), and you’ll saunter up to the counter smugly, only to be told you’re at the wrong one and you need to take a new number for another counter and start your wait all over again. I think my average visit time just to post a letter or two was something like 42 minutes. No wonder Billy would start to whine when we even approached the place. Twenty minutes in, I’d start to hear barking from outside. Then people would start asking, “whose dog?”. I would go out for a moment, try to quiet him, only to find my number had been passed and no, I couldn’t go next, I had to take a new number. I think three times Billy came to the Post Office with me. After that I started leaving him at home, much to his annoyance, but if he could have understood the alternative, I think he’d have been fine with it. He would still tremble whenever we went near it though, thus proving that even dogs hate waiting if asked to do it for too long.
There’s not an awful lot of point to this post. I am just venting my frustrations with yet again, being in the position of having to wait for some news which could be life-changing, or not. And I can’t tell you what that news is yet, but I hope it will be pretty exciting if it happens. IF it happens. Which is what I am waiting to find out.
How do you cope with waiting?