I don’t remember whether I was ever a patient person, but I like to think I wasn’t. Back in the days when I went out to work, whenever I saw a line at a bank or wherever I’d swirl away. Nothing was important enough to cause me to wait on a line.
The pandemic has made me a patient person.
The first pandemic time I went over to Citarella and saw a line of about ten people outside the store, my innards had an anachronistic response, a slight clenching. But I did not leave; I got on line. And waited. This is where I learned a miracle about lines: they get shorter with time and the time is often short in itself.
Lines move and I move forward with them.
Our pandemic elevator policy is one person at a time unless that one person is OK with accepting a second person. I’m always OK with another person. Two people in one of our elevator cars can stand about six feet apart if we each lean into the corners.
A few days ago in my lobby at the elevators three small groups of us gathered. A woman with a carriage containing a little boy, a man with two dogs, and me, by myself. The woman had punched the elevator button; the elevator came but she had begun to talk to the man with the dogs. I held the elevator for her.
“Oh, no,” she said. “You go on.” I protested, “No, you were first.” She protested back, “There’s no rush, you go.” I turned to the two dogs with the man but no, they weren’t rushing anywhere either.
No one was in a rush to ascend so I rode up by myself.
There is so much time around and no eagerness to burn it up.
Recently, I got on a line (two people; is that official a “line”?) waiting to enter a UPS store. I was carting a collection of Spectrum cable equipment which had been disconnected by the FIOS guy a week or so ago. (Spectrum had raised its rates; I switched back to FIOS which I’d disconnected from two years ago when they raised their rates.)
But even given all those returned disconnected routers and boxes and cables and connections, I was fairly sure Spectrum would want me to disengage with them in a specific formal fashion — maybe with an online farewell.
The Spectrum website message was one of sorrow: a disconnect order had to be placed via a telephone call. I called the number given and was told by the robo-woman, “We’re having an unusual volume of calls right now and all of our representatives are currently busy.”
The robo-woman suggested two options. Either I could stay on the line and wait for between 47 minutes and one hour and thirteen minutes (I’m not making up the numbers), or “book” a return call. Which would happen somewhere within…47 minutes and one hour and thirteen minutes.
I booked a return call. Which neither came within the specified waiting time nor ever, actually.
Sunday, I gave Spectrum another call but this time I chose to stay on the line. I put the phone on speaker, relaxed into my favorite chair and read the Times. The meager but pleasant tune was interrupted periodically by the robo-woman with offers, each ending with “Your call is important to us. A representative will be with you shortly.”
One hour and more than thirteen minutes later, a representative greeted me. But that was only the beginning of the grand test of my newly discovered patience.
First, I did not yell, “YOU KNOW HOW LONG I’VE BEEN WAITING!?!?!?” Nope, I just said hello. Then, for the next, oh, maybe 30 minutes, I listened (patiently) to an affable young man working very hard to keep me from disconnecting my Spectrum service.
He offered me things which I didn’t want, although I promised to keep them in mind when I next switched services. He explained how Spectrum was better than FIOS. He did not offer me a radical discount. He kept saying, “This’ll take just a couple of minutes…” but then continued selling me Spectrum. Did I want to consider…? No, I’d say pleasantly, I wanted to disconnect my service.
“Disconnect my service” was my mantra, repeated in a calm, good-humored, meditative sort of way.
At some point I told him he was very good at what he was doing, i.e., selling a service I’d already had removed.
And so it was, dear readers, when one of us had to cave, it was he, not I. He disconnected my service. I asked for a confirmation number. He said, no, they didn’t give one but I’d get all sorts of numbers and paperwork when I returned the equipment at UPS.
And I did.
One paper I did not get at UPS was an award for pleasant patience in the face of extraordinary salesmanship.