Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Art of Waiting

Don't let the dimples fool you: this is one crafty kid.
I have always been pretty bad at waiting for things.

Once, as a child, I asked for a computer game for my birthday. As the days crawled ever closer to August 28th, I could not stand the anticipation and decided to go snooping one day when my parents were out. After digging around in their closet, I found a rectangular gift, neatly wrapped up in birthday-themed wrapping paper—it had to be the game.

Unable to resist temptation, I took action.

Cue Mission Impossible music.

Surgically peeling off the tape on one side, I carefully removed the game box from the wrapping paper. Next, I opened the box, took out the game disk, and went downstairs to install it on my computer. My heart began pounding when I heard a car pull up to the curb. Creeping to the window, I peered through the curtains and saw that my mom’s minivan had just arrived.

I was out of time.

Avoiding mom's detection.
Running back to my computer, I swept up all of the evidence and brought it into my parent’s room. I replaced the game disk with a random CD, put the case back inside the box and slipped it back inside the wrapping paper, resealing the gift with the same tape.

Hurrying back downstairs, I sat down at my computer just as my mom stepped through the door.

“What are you playing?” she asked, walking in with some groceries.

I kept my cool and responded as ambiguously as possible, “A game.”

To her, all my games looked the same and she accepted my answer, unaware of what a nefarious little shit her son was.

But all these years later, after living in Bogotá for eleven months, I have become a master in the art of waiting.

I heard somewhere that Bogotanos spend more than half their lives waiting for and on public transportation. Given Colombia’s penchant for inefficiency and Bogotá’s sheer enormity, I believe it.

Looking back over this year, I have probably spent a good chunk of my time waiting—for the bus, on the bus, and in line to buy bus passes. And that’s just TransMilenio. I have also spent a ridiculous amount of time waiting for the colectivos that take me to and from school.

TransMilenio at rush hour.
In being forced to wait for, well, everything, many gringos can go crazy.

But I’ve found a way to compensate.

Crammed amongst a sea of sweaty people in a TransMilenio bus at rush hour, I search for my happy place like in Happy Gilmore. Entering a state of quasi-consciousness, I think simultaneously about everything and nothing. In this state, it does not bother me that a tiny 85-year old woman has her face awkwardly smashed against my stomach; that a fat, hairy man’s B.O.-sodden armpit is shoved in my nose; or that I know this will be my lot in life for the next 30-40 minutes.

Learning how to wait is one of the greatest gifts Colombia has given me.

But you should probably still make sure that my other gifts remain well-hidden.

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