A Lesson in Patience
The TV blared sports casts just outside the door. Various magazines and newspapers were scattered haphazardly across the tables. The walls were covered with a matte light grey paint and fluorescent lighting glared down from white Styrofoam looking dropped ceiling tiles. The whole effect was one of cold austerity.
The room was warm and stuffy. Not a lot of air circulation going on. I had left my water bottle in the car which was now inaccessible, and my throat felt parched. The TV was droning on about acid reflux disease and I considered checking out the games on the computers around the corner.
An elderly gentleman entered the room with a middle-aged woman, wife or caretaker, maybe both, it was hard to tell. He sat in a chair in the well-lit area. She gently insisted that he get up again and move to the other side of the table out of the glare of the overhead light.
“You will be more comfortable,” she said.
“I can sleep anywhere,” he jibed, as he pulled himself to his feet. He moved over to the chair she pointed out, his socked and sandaled feet shuffling along the carpeted floor.
She sat down at the table in the seat he had just vacated and watched him settle in. She was unsmiling, her cheeks a ruddy pink, and brown hair curled over the collar of her jacket. Then she stood and walked over to the adjacent table picking up several magazines and a newspaper.
“They have Road and Track here. Or today’s paper, if you want them,” she said, holding out the selection.
“I’ll just sleep,” he answered, and pulled the rim of his green and tan baseball cap down over sparse, white eyebrows and pale, red-rimmed eyes. Large pink-edged ears and thin wisps of white hair stuck out from under the cap as his breathing slowed and deepened.
His care-taker wore a brilliantly striped sweater, jeans and black leather walking shoes. Her brown, pouchy leather bag sat on the table in front of her. She flipped absently through a women’s magazine reading with one hand folded under the side of her chin, jaw resting on her knuckles. Her wedding and engagement ring, obviously long-time residents, sat upon her finger, occasionally sparkling in the glare of the lights. She read quietly, patiently waiting, as we all waited. Some of us not so patiently despite the paragon of patience before me.
The elderly gentleman snored gently, proving that he could indeed, sleep anywhere.
Someone had changed the channel on the TV and a soap opera filled the room with erotomania and desperate conversations about kidnapped sisters. I found it hard not to get caught up in it. I peered around the doorway to see two other waitees in the next room. Settling back into my chair I could hear their occasional comments to each other about the unfolding soapy histrionics taking place in front of them.
I glanced about at the unchanging greyness of the room about me, filled with the panicked voices of the TV actors creating drama, heartache and murder for entertainment. Then the program went to commercial break and strains of “You Are My Sunshine,” replaced the script of desperation. The two watchers in the next room sat entranced, the old man slept, and the bright-sweatered caretaker read about skin cleansing and make-up tips.
I was surrounded by patience, but I didn't take the hint.
I sat for an hour and stewed. Surely they should be finishing up and coming to tell me my car was ready. I might never find out how the melodramatic kidnapping on the TV turned out, thank goodness.
Just then I remembered that when I’d checked in, I had neglected to mention the replacement hub cap I ordered by phone the previous month. I gathered my books, pad, jacket and purse and went in search of Bob, the service technician who checked me in an hour earlier.
I found him in a room with three other service techs, all working busily at desks spaced around the rectangular area. His desk was at the end of the room and feeling impatient I didn’t wait for him to look up from his work, but blurted out something about ordering a hub cap a month ago. Bob looked up at me briefly, blue eyes considering, then down again at the stack of papers he was going through.
“No problem,” he said in a cheerfully distracted way, still thumbing through the papers, “I can go down for it and pop it on for you.”
Looking about while he finished what he was doing, I saw my car pull up outside the window, and pointed it out to Bob. He got up and left the room. I waited, still standing in front of his desk, vastly relieved to be almost free.
After a few minutes, another service tech asked if I was being helped. I answered in the affirmative. Several more minutes and the tech at the desk next to Bob’s made a good natured comment about how the sun was going to peek out any minute now from behind the clouds, outside the large wall of windows. I was feeling better now that I was almost out of there and I responded in kind. We had a conversation about the beauty of the fall weather this year, the abundant rain of last summer and the good weather predicted for the upcoming week. Then we fell silent and I continued to wait, surrounded by a general atmosphere of conviviality. I stood and looked around as if interested in the sales displays posted around the room.
Bob returned, escorted me to the payment desk and left once again. I paid the bill, told the woman I would wait at my car for Bob and the hub cap. I was so ready to leave.
Out at the car, I threw my jacket, books, pad and purse on the passenger seat, heaved a relieved breath and got into the car to wait. Any minute now, I thought. I rolled my window down to let in the air and breathed deeply, feeling glad to be almost on my way, my mind already on all the many other things I wanted to get done that day.
Bob appeared shortly thereafter walking up to the open window.
“I’m sorry but they’ll have to put in another order for the hubcap. Some kind of mix-up,” he said.
Disappointed, I sighed, “Uh, OK. Will you do that?”
“They are on it.” He gave my car door a pat as if sending me on my way, then glanced over at my wind shield, “Say, did you know that you’re thirty days overdue for an inspection sticker? You can’t drive the car like that. We can take care of that now if you’d like.”
My head drooped till my forehead rested upon the edge of the steering wheel. I began to bang it slowly and methodically.
“Mam? Are you alright?”
Bang. “Just give me a moment Bob.” Bang. Sigh. I looked up at the young, concerned face peering in through the car window. “OK Bob,” Deep sigh. “I’ll wait.”
Photo by Maxime Agnelli on Unsplash
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Life is full of spiritual lessons. Some feel good, some not so good. All support us to grow. This blog is about my life lessons. Perhaps you'll find yourself within these stories.