Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Art of Waiting

The bus is late. I stand at the head of a lengthening queue outside the 99p Shop. Three lanes of traffic roar past us and a beer can rolls round our feet. 'We spend half our lives waiting,' says a tiny old man behind me. 'It is not good'.

I reflect on this this. The greater part of parenting involves waiting. Waiting in playgrounds, waiting at swimming lessons, waiting at the school gate. It's the aspect of child-care that the uninitiated find most challenging and it's the aspect, a mother of independent teenagers warns me, that she most misses.

Waiting, it strikes me, gives us time out of the rush and clamour to collect our harrassed thoughts. Time to wonder where that man with the yellow shoes is headed with that aspidistra. Time to rationalise a hurtful slight; to draft the next blog post; to ponder elusive cosmic mysteries. Why should flapping a J-cloth or lunging for fashion bargains be more valid activities than the rare stillness of time suspended.

Behind me there is a sepulchral moan. The old man is scanning the horizons from under his woolly bobble hat. I joke that the delay gives us a lull for philosphical thinking

'My head is full of philosphical thoughts,' he replies unexpectedly. He tells me he once lectured in Greenwich on astronomy and marine science. He tells me of tides and constellations and the relation between the waters and the skies. Briefly we stand there on the mucky pavement with our heads in the heavens. His small shabby figure seems for a moment a colossus.

Then the bus comes and he shrinks back into a stooped old man with a mini-mart carrier bag and I am once more a stressed mother who is late for the school run. But I am resolved to look forward to the next time that my bus is delayed.

13 comments:

  1. That was a lovely story. Amazing how that stranger, if only for the smallest of moments, took you out of your self, away from the worries of motherhood, and into the realm of the sky and possibilities. And I love the way this man came alive with passion telling you about some of the things her knew, and then shrinking back into the reality of the present moment again.

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    1. He was such a small, shabby, unlikely-looking person to have such a great grasp of the universe.

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  2. I like this, I feel all calm after reading, I must go lie down now.

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    1. I'm sorry to admit that my serene resolutions have not lasted. Today as I was held up in the car by road works, on the Tube by broken track and on a bus by a bus drivers' stand off my thoughts were not as beautiful as I'd intended them to be!

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  3. I wish I was good at waiting. Alas, it totally conflicts with my impatient approach to life. This impatience constantly leaves me stressed and disatisfied. I think I should take up some sort of "Waiting Therapy". Can I come and wait at the bus stop with you next time?

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    1. I'm good at waiting when it's for the kids because I sink into a sort of numb apathy which is quite restful, but waiting for anything when they're at school riles me up because my daily freedom is so short!

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  4. You have made waiting sound wonderful! I can't wait until the next time that I have to wait for something so that I can appreciate it. If you hadn't been waiting for the bus you would never have met such an interesting person. A lovely post!!!

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    1. It is always surprising how interesting people can be when you get randomly chatting. The habit embarrasses my daughter hugely, however, and makes me realise I'm turning into my mother!

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  5. I like the idea that the bus queue is the harassed blogger's friend. Ever since becoming a mother I particularly love being a car passenger (as long as Bibsey is not screaming) because it allows me to nothing more that sit, think, look out the window. Quite often I don't want to get out of the car when we arrive anywhere.

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    1. I'm a back-seat driver so can never relax as a passenger in case the Vicar forgets to check oncoming traffic!

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  6. Alas, the people I find myself talking to are rarely astrophysicists. The other day, whilst sitting on a train, and mentally planning when and where to eat my selection of snacks (and pondering elusive cosmic mysteries of course), a red-faced man lunged at me from the seat in front screaming "God do throw his mercy down upon us like bastard breezeblocks." He might have been carrying a mini-mart carrier bag, but I'm also thinking he probably wasn't the same guy.

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