Wasting Time

Because I was in love with Snooky Lanson, I watched “Your Hit Parade” every Saturday after doing the dinner dishes. But sometimes I dawdled and had to promise Mom I’d complete my chore when the program ended. One week, inspired by the show’s choreography, I forgot my promise and decided to practice my tap-dance moves instead, so I could become a Hit Parade dancer.

I convinced Barbara to sing “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” while I attempted various dance steps. I was working on a jaunty hoedown maneuver when Mom entered and silenced Barbara’s croaking with a look. She then said she’d never seen anyone waste time like I did and threatened me with no desert for a week, thus convincing me clean dishes would contribute more to my happiness than barn dancing in the living room.

It’s ironic that I tap danced rather than keeping a promise to my mother and could spend hours trying to peel the foil off a gum wrapper in one piece but became semi-hysterical when a sibling spent too much time reading the Sunday comics while I waited.

Waiting for others has always irritated me and made me wonder why their time is more valuable than mine. Though I fume inwardly at this who delay me, I say nothing; instead, I twitch with impatience, sigh with disgust, and moan in despair. When I vent in this manner in a shared waiting area, people move away from me.

My ugliness increases if I’m in a restaurant, hungry and waiting too long for my food — especially when no one explains. If the waitress would tell me my order was delayed because the busboy attacked the sous chef, I wouldn’t have to scowl and snarl until others avoid my table — even the mariachis.

Sitting forever in a dentist’s chair with my mouth numb makes me want to tear my hair. But I control myself. When the dentist finally appears, he might be put off by a patient with bloody bald spots, and I’d hate to be asked to reschedule. If I’m stopped by highway construction, I behave as though the multimillion-dollar operation was planned solely to make me wait. Too often, asphalt-splattered workers point and stare while I tie knots in the steering wheel.

But no horror can exceed waiting for twenty-eight minutes and thirty-two seconds in the skimpy gown required for unpleasant medical procedures in an exam room chilled to the point of goose bumps — with nothing to read but a chart illustrating the growth of cancer cells. I’m certain when medical professionals enter and observe my crazed demeanor, they consider calling security. If not, they should.

I’m ashamed of the inner monster I become when others waste my time because I fritter away my precious minutes as mindlessly as I did when young. Staring out the window with an open mouth and vacant mind, picking mindlessly at my cuticles or leafing through a Hanes underwear catalogue — while ten, twenty, thirty minutes slip by — doesn’t bother me at all.

And yet, if Joel should delay our departure for Denver by two minutes, I pace and mutter.

And I’m not proud of it.