I don’t like waiting. But I do sometimes enjoy learning something from waiting. In order to realize what a blessing it is (especially for someone as impatient as me) to live in Istanbul where life and every service we receive flows ever so quickly, it’s sufficient to take a trip abroad (or even just outside the city) once in a while. I’ve been in Texas for a week now and the biggest issue in our Turkish group is having to wait in long lines for everything…waiting for twenty, sometimes even forty minutes, for a simple cup of coffee or a nice meal, seems to have been enough to bring us Istanbulites to the brink of insanity. In this land, where everyone lives as if they were never in a rush, we are the only ones who are in a hurry. And so it’s clear that some part of our character and what we thought were our habits are actually determined by our social environment and conditions. Because how else could the Texans be so calm and easy while we expect our needs to be met immediately? Rather than smiling and patiently waiting, is the increasing agitation we feel toward the cashier, who is having a warm conversation with the customer before us, a situation only inherent to us? I like dexterous and practical people, receiving fast and fluid service, and doing my own work without procrastination. Going abroad and having to stand in line in order to realize that all these expectations are not a norm but a boon (at least to me) is a kind of meditation. Perhaps being untroubled is the symbol of trust towards life that is larger than ours; the representation of a belief that time is not as limited as we think, and that patience is just as wide as the earth we inhabit.
Perhaps what we call ennui is a black hole into which our own instincts push us with full awareness. That is why waiting, or having to focus on that particular space in time, is as distressing as it is precious because it raises our awareness to this fact. The English psychotherapist and writer Adam Phillips stated that, “Being a child means learning how to deal with boredom, while being an adult means not to deal with it at all.” This quote may seem to oppose the merits of waiting and boredom. But it actually encourages us to see the issue from another angle: compared to our bigger life tribulations, which we ignore or reject to climb out of, waiting passively in line at a café is definitely something that can be compensated.
Photo by Mara Vishniac Kohn