A line of shoppers waits outside Centennial Hall during the Public Market in November of 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

A line of shoppers waits outside Centennial Hall during the Public Market in November of 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Gimme a Smile: What are you waiting for?

Waiting is hard. There’s nothing fun about it, unless your mom has established the habit of playing I-Spy in the line at the post office, in which case a long wait in line is an unexpected treat. But for most mortals, waiting is just plain hard.

There are different kinds of waiting, depending on what you’re waiting for.

• You’re waiting for something so good that you can’t stand the wait. Maybe you’re seven years old and your birthday party is next week. All the invitations have gone out and the drama over who gets to come to your party has been resolved. You’re sure you can’t make it until the big day arrives. But incredibly, your sister’s birthday party is tomorrow. She’s younger than you, but her birthday comes first. How is that fair? The days between her party and yours can only be described as torture.

• You’re waiting in dread for something that might be good news or might not. Like that moment when you step on the bathroom scale, and the numbers are stuck on 00.00 while the scale calibrates to the reality that there’s a heavy weight standing on it. At that moment, you don’t know if the number on the scale will be higher or lower than the last time. The seconds drag out as your anticipation turns to dread. Then you realize that in the grand scheme of things, whether your weight is up or down from yesterday is hardly newsworthy, and the universe snaps back into its proper alignment. Waiting for test results falls into this category, whether they are medical tests, law school admissions tests, or diagnostic tests on your car to determine how much of your life savings you will need to relinquish in order to get it back on the road. You hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Then there are the times when you are forced to wait even though you’ve got better things to do with your time. Business phone calls fall into this category. You dial your helpful governmental agency with a simple question, only to face the dreaded hold music until the next available representative can assist you. Sometimes they even play a song that you like while you’re on hold. Don’t fall for that trick. You’ll be rocking out to the Boss when an automated voice breaks into Thunder Road to tell you that your call is important to them, so please stay on the line. By the time they stop placating you, Thunder Road is over, and you’re left listening to a string concerto. And government employees wonder why people are testy when they call on the phone.

Or maybe you’re waiting for your teenager to respond to your text. You’re trying to be a modern parent, to avoid being the recipient of that dreaded phrase, “Okay, Boomer,” so you refrain from calling your little darling on the phone. Instead, you rely on their language of texting. Alas, texts are easily ignored, overlooked, or deemed to be unworthy of a timely response. Is there anything more frustrating to a parent than forking out hundreds of dollars for a child’s cell phone, only for them to ghost you when you want to talk to them? Only slightly less frustrating is watching your child trying to coordinate with friends through texts alone, refusing to make that phone call when their texts go unanswered. “You’ll miss your chance—just call them, already!” Cue the eye roll, and… “Okay, Boomer.”

Or maybe you’re waiting for something to arrive in the mail. Maybe you’re a bagpiper and you’ve got a gig coming up, and your chanter reed picks that very moment to fail. You’d rather not squawk on stage, so you have to order a new one to ship to Alaska in time for your gig. And then you wait. You only have one shot each day, but you don’t know when the mail delivery will come. You can spend all day waiting, only to find at the end of the afternoon that the mail only holds bills and pleas for donations for the next worthy cause — no package for you. Sadly, playing I-Spy doesn’t help in this situation.

Wait for it…

• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother, and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life.

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