Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Patience Please

Patience: an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.

I rush into the Walmart Supercenter. It’s noisy and crowded, and I hate being here. I’ve allowed 11 and a half minutes for this transaction at the cell phone center just inside the north doors.
I don’t notice Jenny at first, although she’s the only sales clerk in the center. I think she’s sitting, but realize that shes actually standing, holding a phone to her left ear. She’s barely 5 feet tall, probably about 25. She wears no makeup, and her short, frizzled brownish-red hair looks like it got about 30 seconds of her time this morning. She’s wearing no-name jeans, worn white tennis shoes and the Walmart blue vest. In a roomful, Jenny is one of the invisible people.
I fidget, waiting for her to get off the phone. “I need to make changes to my account, and I’m kind of in a hurry,” I tell her. She smiles and lifts her right hand to acknowledge me. As soon as she ends the call, I offer an overall excellent 30-second summary – including bullet points – of my situation.

Most people will only wait about eight seconds for a web page to load.

She listens, then smiles again. “I’m new to this department, so I’m still learning about everything.” I glance around. This is when I usually ask for a supervisor. But there’s no one else anywhere close.
“I’ve been with the company for five years, and they’ve made me a manager over here,” she continues proudly.

If you commute, you will be stuck in traffic for about 38 hours in 2015. The average is about 90 hours if you live in Los Angeles, Washington D.C. or Houston.

Looking into her brown eyes is like making eye contact with a stray dog in the front yard.
“That’s great,” I say flatly. I glance at my phone. Nine minutes left. Another employee has come in, but she’s already helping someone else.
Jenny pulls out the keyboard for the clunky desktop computer and starts the search for my account. “How do you spell your last name?”
Sigh. “The regular way.”
She taps slowly on the keyboard, then leans back in the office chair. Her feet dangle as she watches the screen. “It’s really slow today,” she says, looking up at me.

In 2015, you will spend about 13 hours of your life on hold. I’m pretty sure I will use all my hours listening to ABBA and other what-was-once-cool music while waiting for a Cox Communications representative to pick up the phone.

Jenny is so new to the job that the teacher in me takes over. I explain differences between browsers, type in information, look up contact numbers, adjust her chair, complete her section of the paperwork. Even though the instructions for the transaction are on the screen in front of her, Jenny consults her (very patient) co-worker every two minutes. “I just want to be sure that I’m doing it right,” she says.
After 43 minutes, I sink into the black plastic chair. Jenny is in the middle of an online chat with Justin at Verizon. She pecks out “thank you” and responds “welcome” – pausing to correct the typos – each time Justin answers a question about my account. She ends their discussion with a cheery “Hope you have a great day!!!” “Thanks,” he types. “Welcome!!!” Jenny responds.

You will spend about three days waiting in line in 2015. Take a tent and a good book if you go to the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Social Security office.

The contract papers print at the 58-minute mark. I grab them and turn toward the pet supplies department. I look over my shoulder and say the most polite response I have for someone who was of no use to me. “I appreciate your help.”
“If you bring back your groceries, I can check you out over here,” Jenny says.
Her offer rolls over me, but after I buzz through the self-check line, I walk by the cell phone center. She’s still sitting at the computer. I slow down and make eye contact.

It only takes a moment.

“Thank you, Jenny,” I say.
She looks up. “Have a good day, sweetie!”

“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:16 (NIV)


  1. Beautiful! I always do enjoy your writing - and your message.

  2. As usual, wisdom, humor and humanity--I am always glad, and surprised, when I get to read what you have written