Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lady in Waiting

Yesterday I was a Lady in Waiting. This is the anatomy of an exercise in waiting and patience.

It starts at DMV, where experience has taught me that if you cannot wait three weeks to get an appointment, your best bet is to be there when the doors open. I've been known to be in and out within 45 minutes using this approach.

But when I arrived at about ten til eight, the line was already a couple dozen long, and the doors were not even open yet. My first instinct was to get back in the van and drive to Napa DMV, where I can get in and out in 40 minutes any time of day. But I wasn't up for the drive. How bad could it be? I do a quick survey of the paperwork in the hands of those who came before me and determined at most, maybe 10 of them were there for the same reason as I was. "This is totally doable," I tell myself.

Finally, a uniformed security guard opened the door and the line lurched forward. Just as it comes to a stop again an elderly woman asks me if she can cut in front of me. I look at the line that now snaked along the sidewalk, an additional 40 people long, and pat her frail shoulder saying, "I was waiting for you, I'm so glad you got here on time." Winking, I make space for her in front of me.

The line progresses as each party in front of me makes their case at the "START HERE" desk and receives a number for the service specific to their needs. And finally I receive my number as well: G008. Only 7 others in front of me, and it only took 17 minutes to get this far.

So, I sit down, pull out my mobile device and start looking for interesting items to ReTweet. Then I read some news, check a few emails, correspond with a colleague and check the clock again: fourty-two minutes since they opened the door. Looking up I notice that they are only on number 3 in my category and the line for the "START HERE" desk is still easily 50 people long. I read some more email and forward more tweets, but now check the clock every ten minutes or so. I see people who were in line behind me leave, happy to have finished their business, and still, there is no movement in my category. I started to become anxious and wonder, "Why aren't they calling the 'G' numbers?"

At one hour twenty minutes in I overhear the "START HERE" clerk say they are having a problem with the equipment required for my kind of transaction. It could take a while. She starts telling people to come back later. I look at the line that is still trailing out the door and then at my crumpled ticket I stuffed in my wallet and think about how maybe a drive to the wine country wouldn't have been so bad.

At the two hour mark I'm making a conscious effort to not begin heavy sighing and other signs of impatience. "It will happen when it happens," I tell myself. And finally at the 2 hour 20 minute mark it does. My number is called and I'm out the door within 20 minutes.

This wait was followed by another eight to nine minutes of hold time trying to get a doctor's appointment, waiting in line at the bank (7 minutes), at the grocery store (4 minutes), the doctors office (25 minutes), the lab (20 minutes) and the pharmacy (25 minutes).

I'm usually pretty good about waiting. It's a skill I picked up while stationed in Italy.

In Italy there are two kinds of waiting. The first involves a gaggle that produces an order based on the position of shoulders and elbows. Show no fear, and watch out for the Grannies, they're exceptionally skilled at getting to the front of these clusters.

The second kind of waiting is more enigmatic. One waits for an unspecified amount of time until the event you seek occurs. This event could be the crossing of trains, the length of a five-course meal, or the wait for death. It's a wait one cannot control, thus the wait is like a gift of unexpected time, to have a cigarette, another glass of wine, or to contemplate life thus far.

I was reminded of that kind of wait while I waited for a chance to write these things here, as I wait for the ferry I'm on right now, to traverse the gray choppy waters of the San Francisco Bay.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sick of being sick

I truly hate being sick. I should have known this was coming, seeing how I jinxed myself a couple months ago by declaring, "No I haven't really been sick in almost four years!" Right then and there I should have knocked on wood, gone outside, spun around three times and spit, and then sacrificed a live chicken. But even if I had done those things, I'd probably still be sick. I'm sure it was a powerful jinx, but at least I'd of had fresh chicken for soup.

We all know the signs as well as the precautions, some of which I obviously allowed to lapse. I ran out of Emergen-C at the most inopportune moment. I failed to sanitize my hands after using the handrail at the BART station. I forgot to hold my breath on public transit, don my MOPP gear, and pull out the Bubble-Boy suit I secretly bought on E-bay. And now as a result of this inattention to detail, I am a pariah. People hear me talk with a deepened voice that comes through my nose and they know. The nice one's at least sympathize before they slyly edge away, which makes me feel as though I should wear a sign around my neck. It should be one of those diamond shaped caution signs that reads "Warning! Rhino Virus XING." As it is,
I'm the recipient of both consolation and remedy suggestions. "Try some Hot & Sour soup, a wasabi sandwich, herbal tea or an OTC cocktail that will remind you why they put 'child safe tops' on them."

On the plus side, I did catch up on a bit of reading while stuck in bed. And I got to watch my choice of DVDs as my 11-year-old brought me cup after cup of hot tea with honey. And even though I'm over the body aches, chills, fever and insane headache, it's the dregs if you will, that are the worst: the lingering congestion that just won't go away and the coughing fits that alarm friend and stranger alike. That coupled with an accumulating amount of work, professional and household, prompt an internal battle between what is reasonable, what is necessary, and what is recommended. "Stay home when your sick!" a poster told me on the bus. "Sure!" I say. No problem. But then, suffer the aftermath as well.

Oddly, as miserable as I've been, I can't help but think maybe the microbes conspired with the universe to find a way to tell my body and mind, "STOP! YOU'RE DOING TOO MUCH." Maybe the annoying buzzing in my head is just a way to quiet the chaos of an over-tasked mind to the point where all I can really hear is my own complaints of misery and thus write them here.

So I think I'll call it even. Cost of Rhino Virus: 4 days in bed; one bottle cough syrup; cough drops; OTC meds; hot tea; two pots of soup; countless tissues; hand sanitizer and almost a week's work lost at home and in the office. Finding clarity of mind to resume this blog: Priceless.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Jobs are making a comeback

Jobs are making a comeback. I started noticing anecdotal hints of this in retail windows a few weeks ago. From bagel shops to high end sports stores, retailers it seems are willing to take a little risk by hiring more help.

Perhaps the most telling indicators of a recovering economy are the smaller purchases. Things like bagels and coffee not made at home. Things that we know we can do without, but like to have. It's a start, a good gradual start, and maybe that's just what we need: good reminders that anything worth having takes work and struggle and time.