I tend not to subscribe to the philosophy that any material possession can fundamentally change my life or improve me as a person. Certainly, there are conveniences, luxuries, even necessities, and I have been known to covet fancy things I cannot have – bicycles, mostly. But every now and then, I do come across an item offered for sale that sets my imagination on fire – an item that, if purchased, might well be the first step in a radical departure from my habits and routines, a foray into an exciting new version of me. That happened to me today:

Tempting (New Haven, Conn.)

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Waiting

July 23, 2010

Immediately prior to meeting the wonderful woman who would become my wonderful wife, I was interested in another woman, named Monica. Nothing ever came of this, in large part because she lived in the Bronx and worked on the Upper West Side, while I lived and worked in Brooklyn. (If you have never lived in New York, you wonder how that could be such an impediment. If you are from New York, you wonder why I ever entertained any hope of a relationship under such circumstances.) Our best shot at taking the relationship beyond the constant-flirting stage came one evening when we had planned to meet in Greenwich Village for a drink, then crash at an apartment on 96th Street where she was housesitting for the weekend. I was coming from my job waiting tables in Brooklyn and she was coming from some evening engagement in the Bronx, and we were to find one another at 12:30 a.m. outside the West Fourth Street station, on Sixth Avenue, whence we would stroll somewhere for a drink before heading uptown to the (apparently rather swanky) borrowed apartment. It was a date with some potential.

But Monica was late. Very very late. She arrived, if I remember, at around 1:45, which is enough of a delay that any rational man in my position should have concluded he was being stood up and gone home to bed. As it happens, however, I am (1) generally optimistic about people and (2) never happier than when I am sitting and watching people go by. So I idly watched the bustling Friday night foot traffic, had a couple of hot dogs and a papaya drink, and managed not to trouble myself too much with the obvious fact that Monica had bailed.

Then, as if by magic, she appeared, walking briskly amid the sidewalk crowd, seeming to strain to see if I was still there. It turned out her train had languished somewhere in the express tunnel between 125th Street and Columbus Circle for half an hour, then rolled slowly to the next station, where everyone was obliged to get off and wait for another train. I was happy because she was there and because my absent-minded faith in human decency had been vindicated. She should have been happy because I had waited, and maybe she was. But mostly, she was tired and grumpy.

Nevertheless, we proceeded to get a couple drinks and to have an OK time of it, and finally, at around 4:00, we headed uptown. The problem, though, was that we were both way too poor to spring for a cab, and the subway at 4:00 in the morning takes for-fucking-ever. Also, we were waiting at Union Square station, which in summer is one of the hottest and most humid locations in the tri-state area.

So we waited. And waited. And waited. And all the while, Monica complained. Every three minutes, she paced to the edge of the platform to peer into the tunnel’s frustratingly quiet darkness. Every two minutes, she cursed. My offer to get us a cab, instead of seeming chivalrous (as I’d hoped), just made her angrier – not at me, particularly, but at the world. And when the train finally came, 45 minutes later, the ride uptown was so short that it didn’t give her time to get over her misery, and I wanted nothing so much as to be far far away from her. I ended up volunteering to sleep on the couch.

Of course, it all worked out. Shortly thereafter, I met Anna, ended up falling in love with her, and am now nine years married with have two children and a driver’s license. But I was reminded of that lousy night recently, and of the importance of peaceful, patient waiting: Wednesday was a stormy day, and as I left work, the sky looked like this:

Menacing Clouds, Frog Hollow, Hartford, Conn.

Naturally, I didn’t go but a mile or so on my bicycle when it started to pour. Lacking both rain gear and hurry, I took shelter in a building entryway and waited. Across Park Street, other folks took the same approach:

I stood there for about ten minutes, and it was, all in all, pretty damn nice. People say life is too short for this or that, but really, life is long. More importantly, life is rich with detail – too rich with detail, I think, to worry as much as we do about efficiency, about tight scheduling, about filling every minute with productivity and hurry. I’m not saying we should make a habit of making people wait. But I do think we should savor the waiting we are invariably required to do. To that end, here are some photos of people (and one beast) waiting:

Whalewatching

Traffic

Waiting for Bride

Waiting

Bridgeport Train Station

Rain Delay

Bici-Taxi, Havana