No Sugar Added: Give me a sign, sometimes
If you’ve ever visited Disney World or some other large amusement park, you are probably familiar with the signs. The ones that blatantly forewarn you of your fate. Of the coming torment. Of the hours or minutes you will need to stand in line behind the mass of sometimes cranky adults and fidgety children as you wait your turn to be propelled at the speed of sound down a water-filled chute while strapped into a small roller-coaster car.
When you approach the entrance to the ride, and see the sign that reads, “wait time: 57 minutes” you are both dismayed and pleased; dismayed that you will be in line for nearly an hour of your short time here on earth, pleased that someone had the decency to warn you, so you could make a well-informed decision and exercise your power of choice.
This doesn’t happen many times in the real world, because the real world is not an amusement park.
Were the real world an amusement park, the cute person we smile at in 1979 who ends up as our spouse in 1988 would wear a sign around their neck, clearly stating, “Wait time: 9 years. Please be patient.”
But this is not how real life works. Sure, with things like babies or tomato seedlings, there are generally accepted gestation periods and you have a pretty decent approximation of when you’ll hold your little bundle of joy in your arms, or cut up that juicy specimen of red tomato perfection for your salad.
With most things in life, however, no one gives us a “wait time.” And this is both a blessing, and a curse.
You get on line at the grocery store with 11 items in your basket and you’re moving right along, and then, boom – the guy in front of you has some exotic vegetable that throws the cashier for a loop, the authorities are called in, the vegetable is scrutinized and finally identified, weighed, and its price calculated – just in time for the debit card machine to go on the fritz. Next thing you know, it’s 20 minutes later and your Boca Burgers have defrosted.
You hop onto the highway for what should be a four-hour drive, and then, bam – an hour and 12 minutes into the trip your kids have to pee and then your check engine light comes on. Or someone decides it’s a good time to repave the road. And suddenly, what was once a four-hour trip is now going to be a five-hour trip. Or a six-hour trip. Or, heaven forbid, a 12-hour trip ultimately involving a motel room.
Drew and I once piled ourselves and our first two children, then ages 4 and 15 months, into our rather small car an extended Easter weekend afternoon in New Jersey, fully expecting to arrive home approximately 4 1/2 hours later. Five minutes into our journey, we thought we spotted a snowflake fluttering down toward our windshield. An hour or so later, we had a flat tire. Luckily, we found a repair station, procured a new tire, and got back on the road – just in time for the April Fool’s Day blizzard of 1997.
White-knuckled and jacked up on Easter candy, we arrived at our house the next day at dinnertime, following an overnight layover at Drew’s mother’s house. Thank goodness for the Easter Bunny’s generosity, or we would have starved to death.
My point being this: had someone told us ahead of time, we never would have gotten into the car. Which in hindsight would have been a very good decision. A sign would have been appreciated.
But when it comes to things like building a relationship, writing a book, painting a painting, composing a symphony or inventing a new way to get to the moon, if we were given a true idea of how much time it might take us, we might never begin such feats. And where would the world be then? How much wonder would we all be missing?
There are some instances where a “wait time” sign would be most welcome – but in most situations, I still believe it’s the “not knowing” that truly allows us to keep forging ahead.