Several months ago I had the opportunity to wait for half an hour in the entrance of a well-known restaurant for my friend Jan, who was stuck in traffic. I refer to the time as an opportunity because, as I have said over and over (like a broken record); every day we have a chance to choose how we see the circumstances of our day-to-day life.
Since I could not control the arrival time of my friend, I focused on what I could control, how I was going to spend my waiting time. I decided to utilize the time people-watching the guests as they arrived at the restaurant. I observed the guests as they arrived and studied their reactions to the overworked hostess when she told them that, since they did not have a reservation, it was about a 45 minute wait. I then placed each of the guests into two categories.
Category 1: No Time to Spare
These guests, usually businesspeople, arrived and, after speaking with the hostess did not have the time or the patience to wait. A number of them just left quietly while others left in a huff with a look of indignation that shouted, “I can’t believe you can’t seat me immediately. I know I didn’t call ahead for a reservation and it’s one of your busiest nights, but I am businessman Bob and I want special attention”.
Category 2: The Waiters
These guests usually took a seat in what I deemed the “viewing” area where I was sitting. Some spent their time discussing work gossip, family updates or relationship matters, while others sat not 2 inches from each other and didn’t say a word to each other for the entire wait time. Other guests were waiting for all the members of their party to arrive (the hostess wouldn’t seat them until everyone was there).
The “Waiters” fell into one of four categories:
A. The Let’s Be Friends: I usually fall into this category. This person goes to the area with the most people and then tries to transition their way into a conversation with those around them. This helps them to feel like they are not alone until their “real” friends arrive, then with a smile and an “It was nice talking to you” they depart from their “waiting” friends.
B. The Worker Bee: These people are easy to spot mostly because they are usually pacing around in a small area making phone calls or sending emails on their Blackberry’s. Some are utilizing the wait as an opportunity to get caught up so they can get home on time or spend their lunchtime visit focused on their table-mate. Others, however; use the time for work purposes for reasons of pride and self promotion. They want the other “waiters” to know that they are important and that their time is money.
C. The Nervous Nellie: This person stood anxiously close to the front door with a questioning look as if to say “Will my party show? Did I come on the right day? The right restaurant?” My assumption is that they stay close to the front door in case of a no-show so they can make a quick and quiet exit.
D. The Negotiator: This person doesn’t want to wait in the viewing area, their motivation is either want to be seated immediately even though everyone in their party has not yet arrived (which is the policy of the restaurant) or they want to jump the line and get a table ahead of others that came in before them. They stand close to the hostess stand, usually in the way of the staff, and try to befriend the hostess while keeping a constant watch on the “wait-list” on the stand in front of her to watch their progress to the top and look for ways to get ahead. The reality is, if they were paying attention to the hostess they would notice the annoyed look on her face every time they tried to interject themselves ahead of someone else and how much longer their wait seemed then their counterparts in the viewing area who choose to focus on enjoying the company of others.
I found it interesting how these guests chose to spend their wait-time. I am always in favor of making the most of any time we have been given. Whether it’s time spent catching up on work so we can enjoy time with our friends and family later, making new friends or catching up with old friends. Our choices can either make our situation more enjoyable or can send our stress-o-meter into overdrive.
Remember how much we get caught up in the Hustle and Bustle of life is up to us. We still make the choice to enjoy the time with others or make ourselves frustrated by external circumstances for which we have no control.
Which will you choose?