You know who I feel sorry for? People who have to stand all day (or–even worse–all night) on the job. Think of all the poor cashiers and store clerks who don’t get to move around or even sit down, but have to stand immobile in one place for hours on end.
I don’t think I could do it. My knees wouldn’t permit it. I have to be able to move around, sit down, lie down–anything but standing in the same spot without budging. I doubt I’d last long as a beefeater at Buckingham Palace, although it would be nice to wear a funny hat for a change–and get paid to do it. Of course, the Pope’s cornered that market pretty well. Maybe that ought to be a precondition of anyone in power: You can have all the power you want, but you have to wear an absolutely ridiculous costume or outfit. Imagine Bozo the Clown, with his bright reddish orange wings of hair, flaring mountainous shoes, baggy blue pants, and suspenders as the dictator of the world. (Oops–I forgot; MIckey the Mouse and Ronald McDonald the burger-pusher have already beaten him to the punch. Sorry, Bozo. My condolences, Condoleeza.)
You know what else I hate? Waiting. I sometimes pride myself on being a patient person, but that’s bullshit. If I’m at all hungry, tired, or hot and bothered by the muggy, sticky weather in the summer or the dark clamminess of a winter day, I’m apt to get petulant and peevish, especially if I have to wait for the bus.
One of the (few?) advantages of married life is that it enables you to psychoanalyze yourself by having another person to help you contrast your own neuroses with. As I may have mentioned in this column before, my wife Jina is even more impatient than I am. Come to think of it, I don’t mind waiting for another person if I have something to read or a place to sit down, or if I was worried before that I was the one who was going to be late but show up on time and only have to wait ten minutes; that’s no problem. It’s having to wait when I’m already in a rush that kills me. But then I only have myself to blame for not getting my ass in gear earlier.
When Jina calls me to come look at something from another room in our apartment, she can’t let me finish whatever it was I was doing; I have to be there right away. “Yes sir, Sergeant Kim!” Like me, she hates having to repeat herself after saying something. The second time she says it is apt to be much louder and angrier than the first–a sudden shift from a placid to a hostile tone. I’m the same way.
I can study my own lack of patience when we’re walking somewhere together. Due to her insistence on decorum (especially if it’s a Sunday, when God’s watching us through the scope of His high-powered rifle), she often wears high heels or otherwise uncomfortable shoes, which slows her gait considerably. Then I go from Mr. Laid-Back, Leisurely, southern California, Birkenstock-wearing Captain Mellowman to Demanding, Hurry-Your-Lazy-Ass-Up, I’m-Not-Going-to-Wait-for-You, Ayatollah Attila Stalin in no time at all.
When Jina loses her temper, which is almost laughably often, she blames me for “stimulating” her (she means “infuriating” but I haven’t bothered to correct her yet). She also complains about feeling “stuffy,” when she means “irritable.” Part of a happy, successful marriage is letting your spouse have her or his quirks, so I let her use the language in these creative ways. It’s part of her own unique speaking style. As long as no one else needs to hear it, why bother correcting her? Then it just feels like working (I’m an English teacher by trade).
So for those of you who find yourselves having to spend a seemingly disproportionate part of your lives standing or waiting, all I can say is take as many deep breaths as you can without passing out, making sure to empty your lungs completely on the exhalation, pushing your diaphragm up as high as you can by flattening your stomach muscles against your spinal column. If you’re still waiting and you’re not too dizzy to focus, think of things you’ve memorized, make lists of things you like or things you have to do–in alphabetical order for an added challenge, relive your childhood, strike up a conversation with the person next to you, look at your watch with a sigh and leave in a huff–whatever feels right. It’s your life and no one else can or should live it for you.