As usual, I picked the wrong time of day to shop and the wrong line to wait in (or “on,” if you’re from NY) at the grocery store. The line crawled. The woman in front of me had lots of coupons, some expired, and the checker was clearly inexperienced. At the last moment, her husband edged his way through the line to stack up 5 more items on the belt. I stifled moans of annoyance and studied the floor to conceal my eye rolling. I wasn’t in a particular hurry. I even had some sympathy for the woman ahead of me. I just hate to wait. I number this personal failing among my top five.
As the precious minutes of my life ticked away, I recalled a couple of articles I had read on the subject of waiting. There were a few tips for the waiting-challenged to employ to help make the wait more bearable.
1. Don’t look at other lines that are moving more quickly. Anxiety about moving more slowly makes the wait seem longer.
2. Chat with someone behind you. Mention the weather. Comment on an item in his or her cart. Say “How ’bout them Phillys!” Group waits feel shorter than solo waits.
3. Catch up on popular culture. Read the latest edition of People magazine to check on the status of Jennifer Aniston’s relationship with Justin.
4. Overestimate the amount of time you have yet to wait. Tell yourself that the couple in front of you will take at least 15 more minutes. When they leave in 6 minutes, you’ll be happily surprised.
5. Think about the number of calories in the bag of Oreos in your cart.
6. Calculate how much you will be spending on the items in your cart (if you didn’t do that as you shopped). Be ready to compare your total with the cashier’s total.
7. Time to put your smart phone to good use: Play “Words With Friends,” listen to a TED talk, text your best friend to complain about the wait, use “Epicurious” to check out some recipes based on the contents of your shopping cart.
8. Study yourself in the mirror (there is usually an unflattering one in the check-out line, for some reason). Note the circles under your eyes and the bitter clenching of your jaw. Vow to lose 5 pounds during the next week. Decide to put the bag of Oreos back on the shelf.
9. Pick up some breath mints, an eye-glasses repair kit, and a cherry chap-stick. You don’t need them now but you never know when they will come in handy.
10. Smile. Smile at the cashier. Smile at the haggard woman and her husband checking out. Smile at the disgruntled young mom behind you. Smile at the teenaged bagger who is cracking his gum and looking bored. Psychologists say that smiling, even if you don’t mean it, can improve your mood.
11. Dig into the bag of Oreos. There’s nothing like a sugar rush to make the wait go faster.
So there you have it, ways to distract yourself so you can stand in line with equanimity. Of course, choosing to grocery shop at 8:30 on a weekday morning may eliminate this scenario entirely!