I’ve always been the guy who doesn’t walk if he can run. The guy who always feels the service is slow in any restaurant, the guy who gets irritated in slow-moving queues, and detests call-waiting on the telephone.
There’s not a lot I want in life … but, what I want, I want now.
However, during a lengthy period of illness over the past year, I’ve had to learn to wait months for appointments, to sit in waiting-rooms well past the appointed time, to sit waiting in a busy A&E room for four hours, and even sit by my hospital bed for two whole days after surgery, awaiting the gastroenterologist whose visit, a formality I was told, would confirm my being discharged from hospital … and who never, ever came.
Two days I sat there … and, bit by bit, ever so slowly, I stopped fuming, and complaining, and griping, and getting angry … and, eventually, learned, or was taught by circumstance, to have a bit of patience, and to appreciate that their were other people in that hospital whose needs and problems far outweighed any discomfort or annoyance I might be experiencing.
Being a patient helped to make me more patient.
So … there I was today, shopping in Tesco, and I reach the checkout with my trolley-load of shopping, having managed to avoid the compulsory welter of friendly chit-chats and conversations with the Tesco Regulars; that hardy band of middle-aged women and elderly men who seem to use their shopping as a social occasion for the interchange of gossip, character assassinations, and downright griping and whining concerning the activities and behaviour of young people today.
I eventually reach the checkout, and I notice an aisle, which has only one, elderly guy in its queue, and he has only a small amount of groceries on the conveyor belt.
I load my groceries on the conveyor, behind his, and listen to his ever-lengthening chat with the lady at the till, watch his slow fumblings as he produces his cash card, and his interminably slow attempts at punching in his pin number, overhearing snatches of rambling stories about his sister, her wee dog, and the current purchase of new dog food for its delectation … and on, and on, and on, and on …. for at least ten to fifteen minutes.
My calm exterior, as I stood there, totally belied the festering volcano of frustration and fuming impatience that fermented in a throbbing pressure-cooker of annoyance and carnaptious irritation.
Just one day earlier, on a shopping trip into Glasgow City Centre, I’d literally blown a mental gasket, and ended up shouting at another shopper, loudly, in the middle of a large department store, as the rudeness and lack of courtesy that people can impose on others is a red rag to my bullish behaviour … and, I was then really annoyed at myself for having so lost control, and also for having made Maggi quite uncomfortable in the process.
I have little or no “embarrassment factor” in these situations, and work on the principle that if rude, ill-mannered, discourteous boors were loudly informed with regards to their anti-social behaviour then it might just make them think twice before they do it again.
This, of course, can be perceived as loud boorish behaviour on my part … but that’s another debate … right?
En route, by car, to Cumbernauld Town Centre, I’d also twice complained and remarked on the dangerous driving we witnessed as cars pulled out in front of us at busy road junctions; determined to save thirty seconds waiting by charging forward, and slipping precariously between our car and an oncoming lorry, as they took life-threatening chances rather than simply waiting for a minute or so.
Oooh, it makes me so irate … but I so try not to get wound up nowadays.
So, I chilled at the Tesco checkout. I bit my lip. I smiled, and waited … and gurgled inside.
Eventually, the wee man with the tins of dog food packed his bags, paid the bill, and shuffled off. Hooray!! … And the check-out lady immediately apologised for the lengthy delay in dealing with him, and for all the conversation and chit-chat they’d shared … but, she explained:
“He’s such a nice wee man, but he’s always lived with his sister, and she’s been taken into hospital with a really serious illness, and he’s having to take care of himself, and the dog … and he’s no really used to all this. He comes to my checkout every time he’s shopping, giving me the latest update on his sister, and I get the feeling that maybe oor wee chats are the only conversation he gets on a day-to-day basis. He’s such a nice wee man, but I reckon he’s awful lonely”
Her words stopped me in my tracks, ‘cos behind my smiling façade, I’d actually had to physically restrain myself from growling at them: “Shut up. Take your shopping, and fuck off.” … and had literally given myself a damn good talking to about not getting so irritable and annoyed.
And, as a clincher, the shop assistant added:
“You’re very patient … there’s not enough of that about”
But she was right … I’d done it … and I was so glad that I had … glad I’d shut up and waited, and that that nice checkout lady had the time to give a wee moment of friendliness and caring to a lonely wee man, probably worried about his sister, and sadly on his own.
I could’ve spoiled his day, her day, and mine by complaining … however deservingly I might’ve deemed it … but the last six months have maybe started to teach me something.
I’m learning … I hope … to be more tolerant … to be more considerate … and, sometimes, to shut up, and wait.
And be a more patient patient.
Stu Who? – November 2010