Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How Do They Do It?

At 9 am on Monday I wheeled old Betsy into the garage I frequent for her latest oil change and settled into one of the couches in their waiting room. (I’ve written about this spot before:Waiting Room Heaven)

I had brought a book to while away the half hour or so that I’d be there. I looked around at my fellow customers and thought not for the first time how difficult it must be to wait somewhere if you’re a non-reader. 

The gentleman to my right sat with nothing but a file folder of official-looking documents to entertain him. He spent most of his time watching the activity behind the counter. 

Another man two couches away on my left didn’t even take advantage of this meager distraction. He sat clutching a giant take-out coffee and stared at the wall across from him. 

A woman in her twenties to his left filled in the time with her phone – reading, texting, and finally going outside for a call. (For which I was grateful. It amazes me how people either think they’re encased in an invisible cone of silence when their phone rings, or else they just don’t give a damn that everyone in a ten foot radius can hear details of their lives.)

Farther down the line, right in front of the wide-screen TV (this really is the Cadillac of waiting rooms for an ordinary garage) was a doughy woman in perhaps her 60s. She called over to the counter, asking if the program could be changed to the British Open. She was pleasantly surprised to learn that sure, that would be no problem.
 I was a bit surprised myself by this exchange since by all appearances here was a woman who hadn’t walked more than a city block in decades. But then again if you use a motorized cart I suppose even the least athletic among us can still swing a golf club. 

My favorite was the elderly man to my immediate left. He wore a cowboy hat, baggy jeans with both a belt and suspenders, and moved in a permanent fug of stale cigarette smoke. He occupied much of his time traveling back and forth with his cane to the counter, consulting a monumentally patient gentleman there. He seemed to need as much maintenance as his car. 

There was one person for whom waiting looked to be a genuinely difficult endeavor. He spent his entire time there pacing the floor with an exaggeratedly long stride in very white and very large sneakers. Every few minutes he would return to my end of the room where a small stringy tree sat. He would pull a few of its brown leaves off, march away to throw them out, and then start the process all over again. 

Not one person opened a magazine or pulled out a book. In between glancing up at what was going on around me I managed to knock out a chapter or two of the Joanna Trollope that I’d picked up at the library.

I like to think that my wait felt shorter than theirs.


  1. Years ago, when I worked, one of sr. management decided to adopt the cool new suspender look. Nice brown suspenders to match his khakis. Unfortunately, he retained the black belt. One day I heard his secretary's voice coming down the corridor. "Bob, belt or suspenders. Not belt and suspenders. Chose now, or I will."

  2. I agree -- I don't understand how people who don't read can tolerate a waiting room.

    On the other hand, this explains the ubiquity of REALLY ANNOYING overly loud television sets in many public spaces! (Airports, for example.)

  3. Oh, and I must say -- as you indicated in your original waiting room post -- that is an incredibly nice waiting room for a mechanic!

  4. Shorter, more productive and MUCH more pleasant. Says the woman who always has a book in her bag...

  5. You are a first class people watcher. You seem to be able to size people up very accurately. It is fun to sit back and watch people.

  6. I hate waiting rooms, your descriptions were wonderful:)

  7. Outside of reading, you enjoyed my second favorite time killer--people watching. I was recently waiting in a doctor when the lady next to me made or received about 10 phone calls. I amused my self by imagining she was a contract killer and these were her employers calling with new hits. Oddly her end of the conversation fit the scenario--kind of.

  8. I couldn't bear to be without something to read in such a situation. I carry something to read everywhere I go. I even read while waiting at bus stops. I remember a girl I worked with once who wasn't a reader. She'd eat her sandwich at lunch time, then just sit quietly with her hands in her lap until lunch break was over. I would read, and the two other ladies at our table would knit or crochet.


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