Even though I was raised with the teaching that “patience is a virtue,” it’s taken a pandemic to truly understand why that is.
Let me confess from the outset I’m not a patient person. While I take on the occasional tedious task (such as the jigsaw puzzles my wife and I have enjoyed in lockdown) I don’t do well with queues, flight delays, or endless ‘hold’ music. Even waiting for an elevator can sometimes be irksome.
Yes, I am aware these ‘issues’ epitomize first-world problems. They are also relatively unavoidable at various points in life.
In grappling with COVID-19, however, they’ve become part of everyday life. In the past two months I’ve waited three hours for pizza delivery, two hours on hold with Air Canada, and an hour to even enter a grocery store, to name a few examples.
Systems that are supposed to function with ease are over-burdened, and things just aren’t working.
I spent the better part of the day I wrote this article on hold with one company for so long I’d begun to question whether the office was even open. When I finally got through, I was told I had to call back the next day for someone in the department I apparently needed.
As a columnist and broadcaster I’ve tried to adopt the philosophy that there are no bad experiences in life – only good experiences and material.
It’s safe to say I’ve amassed too much material for my liking as of late.
Grace has proven to be invaluable, though not always easy to summon.
These societal growing pains are not evidence of a world out to get me, even if it may feel that way at times. They reveal that it’s hard to change the way we operate on a dime and expect things to keep functioning as normal.
The angst in grocery stores is palpable some days. The nature of viruses is that people tend to view strangers with suspicion.
To break through this, we need to realize everyone’s in the same boat, though we must also recognize that the social consequences of coronavirus go beyond mere inconveniences for some people.
With grocery shopping now my primary form of entertainment, I was really spoiled a couple of weeks back when I needed to head to the bank. My local branch is in a plaza surrounded by seniors’ residences, so it attracts a certain demographic of which I’m not a part. My bank, like many others, had restricted branch access to those seeking a service they couldn’t access online or at an ATM.
This was unwelcome news to the elderly folks in the line outside the store who were barred from even accessing the bank when their stated purpose– withdrawing money, checking balances, and so on – could be technically obtained from the ATM.
While the bank was offering ATM assistance to those who needed it, most simply wanted to bank the way they always had – directly with the teller. Despite an abundance of staff, and precautions like masks, gloves and barriers, this wasn’t allowed.
I don’t blame the staff at the bank who were almost certainly taking their orders from above. Even the higher-ups deserve some latitude for they are likely so immersed in the world of on-line banking that they forget others aren’t.
It was a sobering moment for me as I saw both the powerlessness of some people, and what seemed like a grim recognition that despite all they’ve lived through, they’re being forced to adapt to something they don’t want and don’t understand.
Kudos to the seniors who surf the web, email, or perhaps even text. I don’t fault the ones who don’t.
My own grandmother, who passed away at 100 in 2017, never used anything more technologically advanced than a push-button landline phone or a television with basic cable. She, fortunately, had family around to deal with the other stuff. Many don’t.
As I watched this unfold and felt the urge to help, I couldn’t help but fear the possibility that someone with nefarious intentions may offer to “assist” a trusting senior – an exchange that could have disastrous consequences.
Whether it’s the senior at the ATM or the pizzeria that loses your order, not everyone adapts to their surroundings so easily when they wake up in a new world.
A little bit of grace goes a long way.