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Jessie Raymond: The waiting game can take its toll

The other afternoon I found myself standing next to a lovely young woman. She wore a flowing ankle-length skirt and an expression of pure contentment. Her languid movements and placid countenance reflected the soul of a person who has transcended the pressures of daily life and found a space where time has no meaning.
I wanted to kick her in the shins.
We were in one of Middlebury’s smaller, narrow-aisled markets, where I was trying to buy some produce for dinner in the 20-minute time frame I had between leaving work and picking up my daughter. This free-spirited dreamer was so busy appreciating the moment she failed to notice that her cart was preventing me, and several other similarly harried shoppers, from reaching for the spinach.
Three times in five minutes around the store, I found myself unable to get from point A to point C because at point B this woman stood contemplating the beautiful symmetry of the well-stocked shelves. While she gazed upon the grocery items, opening her mind and waiting for the ingredients displayed before her to inspire a dinner idea, it was all I could do not to ram her with my cart and suggest that in the future she consider the handy, time-saving invention known as the shopping list.
It was nothing personal. I’m always getting annoyed with perfectly nice people who just don’t realize that their enlightened spiritual state is making the rest of us tear out our hair.
I also got mad in traffic this week. I was fourth or fifth in line at a stoplight, waiting to take a left turn onto Route 7, when the driver in front of me failed to proceed with purpose through the intersection, instead letting the breeze, rather than the accelerator, move the car forward. I imagined him, distracted by the glorious oneness of the cosmos, looking upon the green light and being reminded of the hue of a young blade of grass on a warm spring day.
By the time he began creeping into the intersection the light had turned amber — no doubt bringing to his mind the image of a field of waving wheat blanketing the majestic plains. And before I could move, the light had turned red — the exact color I was seeing when I realized I’d have to wait for the next cycle.
That same afternoon, I got stuck in line at the post office behind a woman I knew would be trouble the second I spotted her beatific smile and kindly eyes. The line moved quickly until she got up to the counter to buy a book of stamps. The clerk said the three words I knew would make me late for my next appointment: “Any special kind?”
Ugh.
“What do you have?” the woman said, clearly not needing to be anywhere for the next hour or two. “Not the flags, I had them last time. The flowers are a possibility. Oh, butterflies, aren’t those pretty? Of course, the ‘LOVE’ ones never go out of style.” Meanwhile, behind me in line, three people fell asleep standing up.
I’m not saying it took forever, but I’ve purchased cars in less time.
I know I sound like the sort of awful person who is constantly on a dead run and begrudges other people the time to stop and smell the flowers. Actually, that’s exactly the sort of person I am. But not always; only between 4 and 6 p.m. on weekdays, when I — and most other people — have several places to be in rapid succession. (This time of day is known, after all, as “rush hour,” not, “wander-around-holding-up-other-people hour.”)
Occasionally, upon hearing my ranting, some unhurried, kind-hearted lover of life will tell me we should all slow down, stop living by the clock and learn to be present in every moment. Maybe, but not on weekday afternoons. One person’s spiritual transcendence shouldn’t prevent the rest of us from getting dinner on the table before 9 p.m.
In fact, I advise just the opposite. If you’re running errands during rush hour, consider moving a little faster, keeping an eye on the clock, and actively avoiding even a hint of inner peace, particularly if you are in line in front of me.
If you really care about making the world a happier place, you owe it to your fellow human beings to be as stressed out as the rest of us.

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