If you have children you probably do a lot of waiting for them. Waiting for the school bus or waiting for school to get out, waiting for them to finish up socializing after the birthday party, waiting at gymnastics or ballet, waiting at sports practice. Whatever activities they are involved in, there always seems to be waiting involved for the adults in their lives.
I've been made to wait in all those situations, and it seems like it's been going on my entire life, but in reality it's been a fairly regular occurrence only for the last decade or so. Hold on, did I say a decade? Ten years? Is that all? I've been sitting here in the hot waiting room at ballet for at least 10 years. OK, actually it really hasn't been that bad, and in those 10 years I've met a lot of people who, it turns out, are pretty good acquaintances now.
But that's not the sum total of what I do while waiting. I've also become quite good at the daily crossword puzzles from the paper! OK, there's been more: I've also used the time to great effect in getting caught up on my reading. I've listened uninterrupted to entire albums on my MP3 player. I've people watched. And I've even composed blog posts on my laptop - this one included.
I truly enjoy waiting this way. Why? I come prepared. I always assume the worst; That this will be the most boring, uncomfortable waiting I could possibly endure, and to counter that, I load up on activities. The paper, magazines, the laptop, snacks. (Oh yes, I always bring snacks!) But I still hope for a good conversation or at least a good conversation to eavesdrop on!
By far the most trying - no, make that Challenging - waiting revolves around the sport of competitive swimming. Both our children have swum competitively for several years, and we've seen the inside of more natatoriums than I care to recall, all of them hot enough to melt steel combined with 100% humidity.
There are two distinct types of waiting to be had related to swimming. First there's practice. Practices are scheduled usually every night and also on weekends. Because facilities are scarce around here, swim teams must compete for pool time both with each other and with water related lessons and sports of one type or another. It gets so bad sometimes it seems like the pools are filled with gold dust. As such, the practice times and locations can get kind of exotic. Practices often take place at facilities just far enough from home that to do a drop off would have us back for the pick up having spent 3 times as much time in the car than at home in between. Mercifully, practices also are usually where a waiter can find a cool, comfortable place to hang out if they want. Like a nice cool concrete floor. And at two hours at most, practices give us waiters enough time to get through several magazine articles, or finish the paper - including the crosswords, or possibly get in a good nap. And Bonus! When practices are at the Y, we get a chance to work out if we want. (Note to self: Take more advantage of this one!)
But this is easy compared to a swim meet.
Meets are marathon feats of waiting endurance - testing the limits both of boredom-fighting preparedness and backside fatigue alike. Unlike practices, meets almost always require many hours waiting in a hot, humid and extremely crowded natatorium. When that's not the case, then it's an equally crowded meeting room or gymnasium - bring your own seating. Even dressing for swim meets is challenging. The main swim season runs all winter long. Many folks layer heavy sweats and coats over shorts and sleeveless t-shirts. But remember that whatever clothing you take off while at the meet must be kept track of and will take up room while you're not wearing them.
In instances where we must hang out in the natatorium to ensure a good spot from which to view our progeny swim, it can seem like torture! To simulate what it's like at Championships or other "big event" meets where you are trapped in the heat, you could follow these steps:
- On Friday after work, get home as quickly as possible and pack three days worth of stuff for the entire family into your vehicle. Do this as fast and crazily as possible because there is never enough time.
- Drive several hours around the beltway at super legal speeds to simulate trying to get to the meet on time. Many big meets have events Friday evening.
- To simulate arriving at the meet, go into your bathroom and turn the shower on full blast hot. This simulates the temperature and humidity in a natatorium.
- Drag yourself into the bathroom with enough stuff to do to keep you busy/awake for 4 hours or so. Take a few people with you to simulate a small crowd. Perform several meet watching actions (read that below!)
- Finally retire to the neighbors house, and stay in the guest room to simulate a hotel stay.
- Get up at 5:30 and prepare for a full day at the pool. Gather enough stuff to do to keep yourself busy for 8 to 10 hours, don't forget snacks and drinks.
- Go back to your bathroom but take several folks in there with you, most of whom you don't know very well, if at all. Close the door to keep the heat and humidity in.
- Vie for a spot to sit on the edge of the tub, the toilet, the sinks, the floor, wherever you can find. Find out that you brought too much stuff and must hold some of it in your lap lest the person next to you sit/stand/sweat on it
- To simulate keeping track of events, mark down on a sheet of paper the time once every 10 to 15 minutes - sometimes 20.
- When it's about time to watch your child swim, get out your camera or camcorder and check the batteries, tape, lens cap - wait at a heightened sense of awareness - oh and get out your stopwatch.
- Go into a full panic because you can't spot your child behind the blocks where they should be because they swim in the next event. Oh there they are!
- To simulate actually watching your child swim, stand up to get a better view. Have someone give a "Ready, Set, Go! countdown. Have another person simulate your child swimming. Start the watch while taping or snapping photos. Do this for two to three minutes for longer events, 30 seconds or less for the fastest sprints. Don't forget to stop the watch precisely when your simulated child finishes their race. (You must know how many laps the event is, so be aware!)
- Sit down and wait some more for the next event. Usually in an hour or so. Repeat three to five or six times, depending on the meet.
- Beginning with waking up at 5:30, repeat everything for one more day.
- Pack everything in your car and drive around the beltway again (still at super legal speeds) to simulate your drive back home to try to cram a whole weekend's worth of chores into a single evening. Do this while you are very tired.
I really love to wait.