Can’t wait for all the waiting to end

Waiting at a train station in Beijing. Photo by Ho John Lee

By Melvin Durai

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of waiting. I’ve spent too much of my life waiting: waiting for the doctor to show up, waiting for the traffic light to turn green, waiting for my wife to finish shopping.

A survey conducted in Britain a few years ago found that the average man spends three weeks of his life waiting for his wife or girlfriend to finish shopping. I don’t know who this “average man” is, but he’s lucky. I’ve spent at least three months of my life waiting for my wife to finish shopping, and another three months waiting for her to return items she purchased.

The survey found that men wait in a variety of ways: some follow their significant others around as they browse in a store, others find a spot where they can sit and look at their phones, and a lucky few sneak away for a drink or snack, escaping from relationship-threatening questions such as, “Does this dress make me look fat?” (Spare a thought for the poor man who tried to be honest and answered, “No more than usual, dear.”)

Another British survey found that the average person spends a total of 47 days standing in queues in their lifetimes. I don’t know who this “average person” is, but they obviously don’t visit the post office much. Long lines can be found in many places these days: at checkout lanes in grocery stores, at sporting events and concerts, and at Bill Gates’ house ever since he put up the “Single again” sign.

If you’re a driver, you won’t be surprised to learn that you spend about two weeks of your life waiting for traffic lights to turn green. And another week waiting for the driver ahead of you to look up from their cellphone and notice the green light.

Some of the longest waiting times occur in hospitals. A woman in Tennessee recently waited 50 hours in a hospital emergency room before receiving treatment. An elderly man in British Columbia, Canada, spent three days in an ER waiting room before being admitted. It’s never a good sign when you enter a waiting room and see people lying around in their pajamas, eating Ramen from cups and asking what year it is.

I’ve probably spent two weeks of my life waiting for a doctor to see me. After arriving promptly at my appointment time, I usually sit in the waiting room for 30 minutes, until my name is called. Then I am taken to another room, which I like to call “Waiting Room 2.” It is here that I am told, “The doctor will be with you in a minute.” This is a lie, of course. The doctor has NEVER appeared in a minute.

If I am lucky, the doctor appears in 10 minutes. If I am unlucky, the doctor never appears. “We’re so sorry, but the doctor has to attend to an emergency. Would you like to re-schedule or would you like to be seen by someone else?”

“Someone else?” I ask. “Does this someone else have any medical training?”

“Please wait while I check on that.”

At this point, I have no choice but to re-schedule. Thankfully, this is a rare occurrence. More commonly, the doctor shows up after about 10 to 20 minutes. It’s clear to me that the doctor’s time is more valuable than mine. I am just a patient. A patient is expected to be patient.

If I were an important person such as a president or prime minister, I would not have to wait much. But as an ordinary person, I have to wait and wait and wait. By the time I die, I will have spent hundreds of days waiting.

And then I will have to wait a few more days for my funeral. No more waiting, please! Just put me in the ground already!

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