Waiting Gains

My wife and I have slowly come to the conclusion that it is time to sell the Jetta. It has been a good car for us, and maybe even to us. But it is time to move along, and a new Golf has caught our eyes. So, we spent Friday night cleaning the nooks and crannies of the car, and yesterday I visited the internet to get a sense of a reasonable price to ask. I also discovered that the Ontario government demands that I provide a Used Vehicle Inspection Package, a document outlining the history of the car, etc. This meant a trip to Service Ontario.

I was hoping for a quick in and out. Wrong. I got my queue number: D14. I sat down, among a number of Served-by-Ontario aspirants: a couple of couples with little ones who played electronic games that mewed, baaaed and clucked. A young man beside me had a hrrmph on his face. I heard a little French, giggles from a little girl being chased by her dad. I took my seat in proximity of the one and only service agent. I could easily hear the interchange. A senior citizen was there to get something, but she was not quite sure what it was she wanted or needed.

I began to listen carefully; noting that the conversation was going in a circle. The same questions provoked the same answers that brought forth yet another reiteration of an early question, and round and round it went. Other people came in. No one went out. The young man beside me fidgeted. I fidgeted. I looked down at my hands; surprised to discover that they were not holding a book. I never go to these places without a book. No book; no posters on the walls; no reading material. There was nothing but a circular conversation to hear, and the increasing contractions of patience.

I tried to make the most of the moment. I closed my eyes, and focused on being still. And then I heard it. The service agent’s voice: it was repose. She did not betray a hint of impatience. She did not rush the elderly woman along with shortened vowels, or clipped consonants. Her pace was not harried, not hurried, only humane.

Eventually another wicket opened, and things moved along. When it was my turn to go to the wicket, the first woman served me along with equanimity. She asked me a little about my car as forms printed. There was nothing exceptional about our interchange, aside from my memory that she was what I would wish to be: poised, patient and personable.

Little moments like this make life rich. They give us glimpses into what the human community can be: patiently caring for those who are a little confused, in need of help, and anxious about what is so straight-forward and quotidian for the rest of us. Take a moment to listen for these voices: calming, caring and non-anxious, their register is angelic.


12 thoughts on “Waiting Gains

  1. Marie Taylor says:

    a beautiful and practical example of the joy of practicing listening. well done.

  2. M.J. Perry says:

    That calm poise you describe is something I lack. I get so excited about everything. Sometimes it’s wonderful–other times not so much.

  3. shoreacres says:

    Given that what I found about Service Ontario seems to suggest it’s your analog to our Department of Motor Vehicles, I’m even more impressed. A trip to the DMV down here is rather like being consigned to a most remarkable hell. I’m glad for the woman that she was taken care of not only civily but humanely, and I’m glad that you got to experience it, in order to tell us about it.

    I did have to look up “wicket”. I’ve only heard it used as a croquet term, and in the expression, “a sticky wicket”. Now I know!

    • agjorgenson says:

      No wickets, eh? Funny this Canadian “English” with its hybrid character. I noticed that in Australia as well: a whole host of words that we do not use in Canada – some I suspect no longer in use in Great Britain.

      As for Service Ontario, I generally have pretty good experiences, but every now and then it slips into purgatory and beyond. A book is always in order, and I have no idea why I didn’t think of that on Saturday!

  4. diannegray says:

    I love the way you just sit back and listen, Allen. This is a wonderful trait 😀

  5. agjorgenson says:

    Thanks! I’m still working on it.

  6. jannatwrites says:

    Patience is not my strong suit, so I do admire those who possess it. I’m afraid I would’ve gone nuts sitting there without distraction, rather than taking the opportunity to observe humanity.

    Recently at the grocery store, I was behind an older woman who was paying for groceries by check. Instead of filling out everything but the amount while in line, she waited to begin writing out the check until everything in her order had been rung up. Then she took great care to write ever-so neatly. I grew so impatient that I had to quit watching and make myself read the tabloid magazine covers instead.

  7. agjorgenson says:

    That’s a funny story about the elderly woman… but you probably weren’t laughing at the time. I don’t always listen. I sometimes fret and stew too. But I try to take a deep breath, and try to remember what most matters in life.

  8. Denise Hisey says:

    The things we miss when we’re enthralled with our electronic devices -or even a book.
    What a lovely story, Allen. So glad you shared it!

  9. agjorgenson says:

    Yes, we are so often distracted that we miss what goes on under our nose. Thanks for the encouragement!

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