The Waiting Place
You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...
...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
I have, from a certain perspective, spent my life waiting. When I was little, I waited quite painfully for Christmas and my birthday (which are disappointingly close together). Then, I read Anne of Green Gable and many other classics of children’s literature. These books are mostly about friends: best friends, kindred spirits, the kids in the neighborhood that you play with. These friendship stories are the precursors to romances. They are filled with passion, longing and unreality. No one has friends this good, no matter what anyone tells you.
I’m not saying that friendship isn’t great, just like I’m not saying that love isn’t great. But you have to admit that neither are true to the ways they are most often described in fiction.
I waited for years for Diana Barry to walk into my life. I waited for this until I realized (pretty recently, actually) that it wasn’t Diana who was so interesting, it was Anne.
When a house would become vacant on our block, I would pray passionately every day that God would cause a family with a little girl to move into it, or, better yet, twin girls my age. I just knew that if something like that happened we could all be characters in a Beverly Cleary novel. It is possibly needless to say that nothing like that ever happened.
I waited for school to be over, for real life to start. I waited through years and years of real life. Even now, as a working young-adult in my mid-twenties, I’m still waiting, in some ways for “real life” to start.
So what is it that’s so “useless” about Dr. Seuss’ waiting place? It’s useless not because people are waiting but because they are “just waiting.” To be alive is to wait: in line, for the end of the workday, for something in your life much hoped-for or much-dreaded. But it is useless to just wait.
When I am just waiting, I don’t see the things happening in front of me. I don’t appreciate things that should bring me joy and I don’t stop complaining. Ever. I am so focused on the things that I’m waiting for, that I forget about everything else: my real life.
I don’t think that perfect contentment is always good for us, don’t get me wrong. We live as aliens on a planet that is not our real home. We are always waiting for what is next, and that is how it should be. But we are not just waiting.
Just waiting is indeed useless.