“My name is Brad, and I’ll be your waiter.”
No, I’m not bringing you coffee and pie. That’s your server.
I’m the guy waiting patiently. I’ve been waiting for years. Two marriages, three kids, now one grandchild. He’s gonna make me wait at some point. He can’t help it. It’s in his genes.
I’m not sure when I first accepted this role, but I’m guessing it goes back to the birth of my first-born. She made us wait a couple of extra weeks, then through over 36 hours of labour, managing to fit her arrival in-between games four and five of the 1984 Nordiques versus Habs series, and home in time for the infamous Friday Night Massacre. I remember game four heading into overtime and hoping she wouldn’t interrupt. She stubbornly kept us waiting for another 24 hours, just to prove she could.
Since then, I cannot begin to calculate how much time I’ve spent waiting. I can guess that I’ve said the words, “Are you ready to go yet?” many hundreds of times. I don’t have empirical evidence to support my theory, but I bet I can get a large number of dads to agree on one thing:
It’s mostly dads that wait.
Look, I’m not trying to start a fight, but we have waiting down to an art. I’ve seen the signs – shoulders relaxed, a good wall to lean against, the sympathetic look of recognition and silent acknowledgement of solidarity. I see them outside stores, in arena lobbies, school parking lots, sitting in their driveways. In the groove, admitting that they likely cannot change the pace, so why even try? Hunker down, slow your breathing, lower your blood pressure, accept your fate.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes white-knuckle my way through it. “We need to be there when??” Calculating that it’s a 45-minute drive in good conditions, looking out at the snow, trying to time when to start the car and scrape the ice off, knowing that I’ll have snow on my jeans and won’t want to take my boots back off before we leave.
Car set to go, snow melting off my pants on to the floor, and fifteen minutes after my calculated ideal departure time…
“Are you ready to go yet?”
When I’m out on the road for work, waiting is different, separated into two categories: 1) This is in my control and 2) everything else. When going to a meeting, I show up early and then wait. I leave the hotel with lots of time to spare, stop to grab two large coffees, and get into the meeting room as soon as I can. I get to pick my seat, unpack what I need, open a coffee, and relax. In the zone, happy as a clam, if bivalve molluscs have reasons to meet. I watch people arrive, read the body language, make small talk. The last person rushing in and making apologies for being late? That’s not me.
Stuff outside my control takes a different approach, a little strategic planning. Phone charged? A book? Can I choose where I wait? Stash my coat, or keep with me? Snacks and water? Check, check and check. Let’s go! (Or not go, I guess.)
I hate waiting in a hotel room. When I’m ready to go, I’m ready to go. I’d rather be at the airport, with lounge access. Showing up before the other passengers means I get through Security faster and get to pick a good spot to pass the time. I’ve waited for hours in airports, calm and cool, reading my book, surfing social media, watching the snow building on the plane’s wing. I’m not panicking, but I’m paying attention. Watching the gate staff, checking arrivals and departures, then slowly working my way from the gate to the taxi stand and hoping the pubs are still open downtown.
I wait in traffic, I wait for answers, I wait for service. Negotiating is 97% waiting for people in another room. Take your time. I’m good. I can wait.
As years go by, my waiting has changed. Still good at it, but I try to cut actual wait times down. Can I do something while waiting? Maybe, but I can’t bet on it. I choose something I can walk away from on three minutes notice. Still, I do find a way to spend less time standing still, checking the clock.
Do I scheme a little to have my wife ready to leave on time? It’s a contest of wills and she’s a worthy competitor. What’s a sneakily calculated 15-minute cushion between loving spouses? Do I walk by her office and ask if she’s had a shower yet? Just happened to be in the area. Her bathroom clock is set 20 minutes fast to spur her on as her eyes see she’s running late. Her brain knows the clock’s been set 20 minutes fast for 12 years and refuses to be fooled. I’m downstairs, listening for her hair dryer and footsteps, trying to gauge the exact moment to reach for a jacket. Her stuff is already near the door, and I’ve casually mentioned the current time loudly, once or twice.
I’m not going to change her.
When I judge wrong and end up sweating at the front door for 20 minutes? That’s on me for being fooled. What was I thinking? I’m not gonna change her. She’s going to stop to put hand cream on, no matter what the time.
Not being on the road for 18 months has also changed the way I wait. Maybe it’s the endless waiting for things out of my control to get better that has finally convinced me. I feel less inclined to just accept my fate and see what happens over the next many months. My wife’s on board and we’re making a strategic plan, a good place to end up, and a plan to get there on time.
Time to stop waiting around. Let’s go.
(We may be five minutes late. She forgot her hand cream upstairs.)
Dad to daughters. Makes his wife laugh. Chief cook and bottle tilter. Proud owner of two sheds. Prefers looking through a lens, reading off paper, music over silence, movement over meditation. If there’s a hereafter, he hopes it has a waterfront view, nice lineup of cordless tools and a well-stocked workshop.