The waiting game
I know this is hardly a unique experience, but over the past few weeks I have spent a lot of time waiting for the services of certain tradespeople. Plumbers, electricians, officials handing out licences or authorisations, deliveries from shops of goods paid for a while ago, and so on. But actually, waiting is part of our everyday fabric now. It is almost impossible these days to ring an office or company or retail outlet without hearing some electronic version of Bach and an invitation to press ‘4’, followed by the hash key, if I actually want to talk to anyone.
On Friday I was in a public office applying for a permit. I could have done this by post, but the office is close to mine and I thought I’d save everyone the postage by going there directly. I waited for about an hour and 20 minutes. I got my permit, and I cannot fault the person who served me (who was polite and helpful), but nevertheless it was all built around the modern culture of unnecessary waiting.
Also during the past few days I ordered some goods that I wanted to have delivered, and was offered a date some three weeks away. When I pressed them to arrange something much earlier, I was eventually offered the next day. When I asked why they hadn’t suggested that in the first place, the very nice young man serving me conceded that he just automatically went for a date a few weeks later, as that seemed ‘more natural’.
Is my problem that I just dislike deferred gratification, or have we constructed certain social norms that are calculated to inconvenience and unsettle? In fact, do we do any of this in education also?