People like to keep other people waiting. In the past few days, an old friend of mine has come to mind: Barry McGruvie, from Aberdeen.
In my late teens, I would keep Barry waiting, sometimes for hours, in the snow, in Aberdeen’s Union Street. If we had arranged to meet at nine, I would start getting ready, a few miles away, at nine, and would be ready to leave the house at about 10, on a good night.
As this was in the last century, before mobile phones, I would arrive at our meeting place an hour or two late to find Barry frozen to a lamp-post, but still, against the odds, quite happy to see me. I would like to apologise for this, Barry. I was an arse. People who arrive late are always in a better mood than those who have been waiting, it seems.
On most occasions they see the anger and frustration of the waiting party as I don’t have the heart to tell them I may be out of work, or stacking shelves, by the time they get their act together and deliver our sofa. Of course, I don’t know this for sure. Like the rest of the UK, I’m still waiting.
The only time waiting is spun as a good thing is in hardware stores, where signs promise to cut keys “while you wait”. What an odd concept. Isn’t everything done while you wait? Houses are built while you wait. Queues gradually get shorter while you wait. Life circles round the plug-hole and disappears down the drainpipe while you wait.
It’s a waiting game, they say, but what a boring game. How do you know when you’ve won? Maybe when the waiting is over. But when will that be? In a jiffy, no doubt, while you wait. If I am paying penance for my years of bad timekeeping, of leaving people in the lurch, I understand.
I prostrate myself before Dali’s gooey watches and that woman from the speaking clock. But there’s more to the world than your mother’s belly, Baby. I’ll show you when this waiting is over. People who arrive late are always in a better mood than those who have been waiting ... so Baby, I expect you to be rapturous when I see you something funny, to be brushed aside and moved on from.
And so, Baby, I expect you to be rapturous when I see you. If I ever see you. You’ve been inside your mother for what ... 50 weeks? 60 weeks?
Has it really been more than a year?
Maybe you’re holding out for a decent seat. We’ve been waiting for a new sofa for four months now, from a company that has since gone partially into administration. The Glasgow showroom has closed and I am now dealing with various bods in Guildford, who are helpful, up to a point, but full of excuses: it’s the snow, they say, it’s holding everything up; your order is lost, they say, try again next week. ￼
The payment plan for the sofa has also gone up in smoke because the finance company has simultaneously collapsed.
First published in The Sunday Herald, 2009.