I am writing today from the DMV, while I wait for my daughter to take her learners permit test. The DMV is the great equalizer –everyone needs to go there. And when we go, waiting in line is inevitable.
At one point, I stood on my tippy toes to peak over the wall to see how many testing computers there were. “Dad, be patient!” my daughter said with exasperation.
“But I am being patient,” I thought. “I’m not ruminating or raging. I was just curious to see how many testing machines there are.”
“OK,” I said. I know better than to get into it with a teen. And really, she had a point. I was wondering how many computers there were, because the line just wasn’t moving.
Patience, like all soul traits, lives on a spectrum from too little to too much. Too little patience and we are angry and frustrated; too much and we are staying in bad situations without taking action. My peaking over the top was perhaps a strategy to try to deal with rising impatience. All of this makes me wonder:
How does one wait in line like a mensch?
When we wait in line, we have three options.
- Wait with suffering and impatience.
- Wait with indifference, zoning out or snacking on phone content.
- Wait with connection and meaning.
There are no right or wrong answers per se. But if we want to wait in line like a mensch, we take the opportunity to make the most of the moment. A mussar practice comes to mind.
****Here’s the Mussar Practice***
Wait in line with a sense of wonder. As you wait, look around and try to find cool and interesting things.
The world is full of wonders and miracles, but we take our little hand and we cover our eyes and see nothing.” – The Baal Shem Tov
I tried this practice today, and it wasn’t easy. The DMV does not exactly present a feast for the eyes. Yet I was able to see some interesting patterns on the wall, and all kinds of different people. I wondered what their stories were. A few years ago, I would seek out longer lines, and say the Patience mantra “This too shall pass, and I have the strength to get by until it does.” Now that I don’t get frustrated waiting like I used to, this feels like the next challenge for me.
R. Dov Ber of Radoshitz would waken his roommates with the call “Wake up, my brothers! A guest you’ve never seen has arrived. Once he leaves, you will never see him again. [Who is the guest?] Today.” I was going to spend two hours at the DMV no matter what. Instead of just hoping the time would pass as quickly as possible, why not try to make the most of the moment?
This is a Mussar Practice for Enthusiasm. B”en Azzai would say: “Run to pursue a minor mitzvah , and flee from a transgression. For a mitzvah brings another mitzvah, and a transgression brings another transgression.” (Pirkei Avot 4:2).
Life is the sum total of many minor moments, and a few major ones. Elevating the minor moments like waiting in line can add up to huge changes over time. If we can find meaning in the DMV, how much more so will we find in situations that inherently have more opportunities for meaning and connection?
As it happens, the DMV was the DMV. We were sent to the wrong line when we arrived. After two hours, we were told that we needed to come back with different paperwork. It was not a waste of time.
Where do you sit on the ladder of waiting in line? Reply below and let me know.