Uncommon Common Sense
By Bill Frayer
What Are You Waiting For?
Living in Mexico, we get good at waiting. Well…some people do. Those of us who love Mexico have undoubtedly adapted to the lifestyle here. And that includes getting used to a different sense of timeliness. As people here say, mañana does not necessarily mean tomorrow; it just means “not today.”
The New York Times reported on an interesting situation that occurred at the Houston airport several years ago. The airport was receiving a lot of complaints that the arriving passengers had to wait too long for their luggage to arrive at the baggage claim area. The complaints were persistent, so the airport decided to implement procedures which would reduce the time it took to remove the baggage from the planes and transport them to the baggage claim belts. Still, the complaints persisted. So they tried an interesting experiment.
Instead of trying to get the baggage there faster, they rerouted the corridors from the arrival gates to the baggage claim so the passengers had to walk an extra ten to fifteen minutes to get to the baggage claim area. When the passengers finally arrived, the baggage was there for them to claim. In spite of the fact that the time it took to get their bags was exactly the same, the complaints completely disappeared! The passengers were now occupied walking to the baggage claim area and were not simply waiting with nothing to do.
Now that’s interesting. What seems to bother people about waiting is not just the time which it takes something to happen, it is passing the time with nothing to do, in other words: wasted time. When they were walking to the baggage claim, they were no longer just wasting time waiting.
What this suggests to me is that our aggravation about waiting is really in our heads. Why are we so much more tolerant of waiting for something to occur in Mexico than we would be back in the US or Canada? Waiting for events to start, waiting for deliveries to occur, even waiting for food to arrive at our tables on Mexican time seems natural to us here. Yet, if we had to endure similar delays in our home countries, we’d likely be annoyed or even find such waits unacceptable.
So it’s the anticipation, and expectation, that something should occur on a specific timetable that creates the sense of waiting. When we were children, it seemed to take forever for Christmas to arrive because we were anticipating its arrival. These days, Christmas seems to come too fast because we have so much to do.
I think living in Mexico makes us more patient. If we think about it, having things happen on a particular schedule isn’t really very important, most of the time. We have the most trouble with waiting when we are focusing inordinately on the future, rather than on the present. If we are living mindfully, in the moment, focusing on the present, we are not thinking about waiting for what will happen. Instead we are living in the here and now.
We can live all our present moments waiting for things which have not yet occurred. This gets tedious quickly. Or we can live each moment for its own sake and let the future unfold as it will, in its own time. I think many Mexicans are happy because they are good at living in the present. It’s a good idea. The future may disappoint us.