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Patience is a virt— oh, just get on with it


The frozen chicken pot pie — with “crust made from cauliflower!” — was starting to melt as I watched the shopper in front of me unload far too many purchases onto a conveyor belt in the “15 ITEMS OR FEWER” line at a local grocery store.

“16 ... 17 ... 18,” I counted to myself as this seemingly interminable wait continued as the cardboard encasing what would be that night’s dinner wilted and dripped in my grasp — which had the unfortunate side-effect of jostling my prostate awake from its late-afternoon nap.

“19 ... 20 ... 21 …”

My usual casual and carefree demeanor was eroding and had there not been three customers behind me in this particular line, I would have returned to the frozen foods aisle to replace the cauliflower crust(!) for the familiar, artificial article.

On the other hand, I did derive some professional pleasure from the store’s use of “FEWER” instead of “LESS” — even though the chances of such instructions ever being enforced were slim and fat.

“22 ... 23.”

The cashier greeted me with a pleasant but perfunctory “Thank you for your patience” … which only proved that we had never crossed paths before.

Maybe it’s the decades working in an environment that sets deadlines for the completion of assigned tasks, but I am not a patient person.

(I shall pause here, shifting my weight from one foot to the other, as you recover from the shock.)

I’d like to lay the blame for this character flaw where it truly belongs, on the character flaws of others — particularly those who take forever to sit down when boarding an airplane or (as we have discussed) finally getting to the front of the line at the coffee shop before considering their drink options — but I’ve come to realize that frustration can well deep in my soul even during interaction with non-humans.

For instance, the multitude of buttons that must be pushed to renew a prescription for anxiety medications.

Or how an online form to register a gasoline card will wipe out all the answers in properly filled-out spaces if you hit “SEND” before deciding whether you want periodic email offers of special deals.

Or, as I discovered this week, sitting helplessly as your vehicle (with you inside) is moved along a larger conveyor belt while water and soap and forced hot air pelt you from all sides — not to mention that heavy cloth tentacles that whap against you from various angles, as you sit literally and physically in neutral waiting for the entire experience to be over.

I’d happily eschew ever owning a self-driving car if someone (else) put their time and energy into developing a self-cleaning one.

And believe you me, on the subject of cars, the last thing you want to experience is having me as a backseat driver, especially when I’m riding shotgun when returning from a day-trip to Brookings.

(Don’t ask.)

It’s clear, though, that I acquired this tendency toward impatient through the nurture and nature of parental guidance.

My father, whose motto of “let’s get this over with” was all but tattooed across his forehead, once stopped Sunday dinner to ask whether those around the table had ever considered “how much time you waste chewing.”

Not to be outdone, my mother — on the rare occasion when she could convince her husband to waste time at a restaurant — once walked from the hostess stand where we were waiting to a couple of friends she spotted in the middle of the dining area … then announced in no uncertain terms that her sons were visiting from out of town, but that there wasn’t a place for us to sit.

In short order, two parties up and skedaddled — lest she made her way in their direction as they scoped out the dessert menu.

These days, however, we’re all trying to be a little bit kinder to our fellow travelers. That is, those of us who aren’t just trying.

We understand on an intelelctual level that restaurants are short-staffed and we might have to wait to be seated, even though there are three or four empty tables … right … over … there.

But far too many of our fellow travelers through this COVID-wildfire normalcy are still behaving like children crammed into the back of the station wagon, wailing “Are we there yet?”

The conditions under which we’ve been living for what seems like forever and a day have frayed nerves, forged tempers, and frustrated the most fidgety angels of our natures.

This, too, shall pass. Take a deep breath. Count to 10 (or 23 … can you believe it … 23!?!). Don’t sweat the small stuff … yeah, right, don’t sweat the small stuff … did you know that books 272 pages long? Who has time to read that?

Okay, so perhaps I’m not the best spirit animal to be dispensing wisdom under these circumstances.

As in most things, I’m going to start taking cues from the cat. She’s as impatient as I am; only, after she lets us know about … she saunters off to take a nap.

Sounds like good advice to me.

Mail Tribune columnist Robert Galvin is limited to 850 words or fewer at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com