Patience, a dying art in behaviour

By THERESA WELLS, Connect Columnist

The sighing from behind me is not only audible, but also becoming increasingly annoying. It is the early morning rush at the coffee stop I frequent, and it seems they are short-staffed as the one person both taking orders and making the coffees is facing down a long line of regulars anxious for their morning jolt of caffeine.

The woman behind me sighs yet again, the fifteenth time in a couple of minutes I believe, as I have started to count them, logging her growing frustration with interest. It is not the sigh of someone who failed to factor the extra-long wait into their day, though – it is the sigh of someone who “just does not have time for this!”, which is what she hisses through her teeth after every five sighs or so.

Finally, even though the line is moving, albeit slowly, she breaks for the door with one final enormous sigh and one more emphatic and loud “I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS”, words that hang in the air even after she has gone, leaving the barista looking crestfallen as they have done their best to appease the latte-loving mob.
It is for me a typical moment in which I take note of how patience has become not only a dying, but perhaps entirely lost, art.

The concept of waiting – of having to be patient – has virtually disappeared when you can watch television without ever needing to sit through an advertisement. We want what we want and we want it now, it seems, and it has affected who we have become.

Maybe it is the nature of our instant gratification society to blame. It seems almost everything is a tap and a click away, our fingers flying furiously over keyboards and touch phone screens to pull up information in seconds that once would have take hours of time in a library to find (if ever finding it at all). The concept of waiting – of having to be patient – has virtually disappeared when you can watch television without ever needing to sit through an advertisement. We want what we want and we want it now, it seems, and it has affected who we have become.

Flash forward a few days and I am stuck in traffic on Confederation as the bicycle road races for the Western Canada Summer Games have just concluded and the local

RCMP, bylaw officers and volunteers are frantically trying to remove the barricades to allow the normal flow of traffic again, as one side has been closed for hours to accommodate the youth athletes. It is taking time, of course, and the traffic has stalled several times as we wait for the flow to normalize. We are moving, but slowly, a fraction of the normal speed.

Once again I watch with observing eyes as the motorists ahead of me and behind me suddenly decide they have had enough and do not have time for this, driving right across the grassy median in their attempt to escape the traffic. I can only watch with some degree of both interest and dismay, as once again our inability to exercise patience is clearly displayed around me. On one occasion I note one of those driving across the median come far too close to clipping a car coming down the lanes as they should be, his impatience imperilling others who are obeying traffic laws.

When did we develop this sense of entitlement, anyhow?

When did we develop this sense of entitlement, anyhow? When did we decide we don’t need to wait in traffic but can instead drive across medians (damaging the grass that is there and creating unnecessary wear and tear on the curbs and concrete)?

When did we begin to think we could express our impatience in ways that make baristas earning minimum wage and working as fast as they can miserable because we want them to feel our pain and make them feel like failures?
When did patience die, anyhow?

I suppose you could say that some people are just jerks, and some people are just difficult, but the reality is that I see it in myself and everyone I know. We have become an entire collective of impatient, need-it-now, want-it-yesterday, don’t-make-me-wait people who almost froth at the mouth at the first sign of any sort of delay, even ones that are entirely reasonable.

I think back to people like my parents, and how patient they were. They had to be, as they grew up in an era where on occasion they still used horses and oxen for farming, and hand-operated washing machines instead of just hitting the start button on a modern HE beast.

Their patience was incredible, and they weren’t just patient with situations, but with people. They had learned to be patient, and it was a lesson that served them well in their interactions with the world, and with each other.
I fear we have lost patience, killed it off like some sort of animal. We don’t even understand the concept, having so little need to exercise it. Like so many things, though, we don’t even know what we have lost until it is gone, and so it is with patience, a quality that is really a skill we learn – and one, sadly, we seem to have lost.

– Connect Weekly –