Every once in a while, at job interviews, I’m asked what I think is my biggest flaw. I always say, “impatience.”  There are other contenders, of course, but nothing I’d care to discuss with a prospective employer.

Now, for me personally, I don’t think my impatience is a problem because I mostly feel justified in not wanting to spend a significant percentage of my time waiting. However, I do realize that waiting is part of life; that the world can’t adhere to my schedule (or any other schedule as far as I can tell); and that my impatience can impact others; so in that sense, I do see it as a problem.

For instance, I don’t like standing in lines. No one really does,  but many people just do it because they figure that’s just the way things are. Me, I’d rather leave and not purchase whatever I came in to purchase, than stand in a line for more than a few minutes. I think since  a place of business encourages lots of customers and makes their profits from those customers, it ought to ensure that those customers spend the maximum amount of money in the shortest possible time.

Instead they have one cashier on every day during the lunch rush (I’m looking at you Shopper’s Drug Mart, Hogsback). The line is 15+ people long and when I ask why there aren’t more cashiers on, they tell me (like I’m dense) “D’uh, it’s lunch time – they’re at lunch.”

Oh! Shall I come back when it’s more convenient for you?

Or the other day, we had a completely unnecessary appointment with one of XUP Jr.’s medical specialists. It was just to brief us on the completely unnecessary test they made her do a couple of month ago, the results of which are completely irrelevant. So they made the appointment  – for 11:30.

Fine. We show up 10 minutes early. (Because I always strive to be early for appointments out of respect for the busy people with whom I have an appointment.) XUP Jr. is missing school for this and I’m losing a half day of work.

By 11:45 I’m getting twitchy. By 12:00 I’m getting irritated. By 12:15 I march up to the counter and ask (as nicely as I possibly can) how much longer it’s going to be.

“Ma’am,” she says without even looking at me. “You’ll have to take a seat and wait your turn.”

“My turn,” I point out (not so nicely anymore), “was 45 minutes ago. YOU made the appointment.”

She gives me an evil glare and orders me to go back to the waiting area. I sense some sort of threat implicit in her demeanor.

XUP Jr. says, “Let’s just go. I have to be back at school for 1:00.”  I tell her, very patiently, to hang on a few more minutes. 12:30 comes and goes.  At 12:45,  I go back to the counter. Someone new is there. I ask them if they can give me any idea how much longer because we have to go.  The new guy just shrugs and says I have to wait until the specialist is ready to see us.

At 12:55 we leave.

I deeply resent when people waste my time like this. And without any explanation or apology.  Deeply. When I make an appointment at my doctors’s and they squeeze me in, I expect a good long wait. Not when a specialist makes the appointment to see us.

And there’s no way I’ll wait more than 10 minutes without a good explanation at the dentist’s or hairstylists or anywhere else where I’m paying for a certain time slot. Get organized, ya’ll!

I hate – HATE – going to spend my money somewhere and then being made to feel like I’m imposing on them and that I’d better behave and adhere to the designated herding area if they’re going to let me buy something from their one surly cashier because they don’t want to blow their profits on actually hiring staff to help customers.

I don’t like going to meetings or training sessions on time only to have to sit there for 15 minutes twiddling my thumbs waiting for the stragglers to show up before they’ll start the meeting. A couple of weeks ago I went to a training thing where I was the only one on time. Half the people never showed up at all. The rest showed up 10-20 minutes late — and we waited those 20 minutes to begin. And then, one guy showed up 45 minutes late and the instructor actually started all over again for his benefit.

I had to leave the room.

In some ways, impatience serves me well (as I tell the job interviewers). It makes me the opposite of whatever a procrastinator is. (A concrastinator?) If there’s something that needs to be done, I get it done as quickly and efficiently as I possibly can. If other people are involved, I hound them mercilessly until they surrender their part of the project. On weekends or holidays I always have to get all the chores done and out of the way before I can relax.

Oh ya, I’m a barrel of laughs.


39 responses to “Impatience

  1. I’m like that also… and I also hate going to those really unimportant medical appointments that they make only to get a few extra dollars from the OHIP (I guess) But what irritates me the most is when it happens what happened to you at the specialist… I’ve been tempted, many times, to ask them what’d happen if they do not call me on time. Can I charge them the 20 CAD or whatever they charge you if YOU don’t show up?

    I think I’ll ask next time.

  2. I’m with you on the subject of not keeping people waiting after they have an appointment. I understand that sometimes a doctor or dentist runs into a problem that takes more time than they expected and puts them behind schedule. If such is the case then they can explain that instead of acting like the little demi-gods some of the think they are.
    I try to schedule all my appointments early in the day so there is less chance of that happening.
    As for stores that won’t staff their checkouts I have taken to leaving my stuff behind and walking away when that happens. hey can use the little staff they have to restock the goods then.

  3. We’re always early and avoid lines at all costs. We take books along to the specialist — just in case he’s running long, or late.

    In my world, training starting late is unforgivable. If a student is late, a condition report is written. If a class is not held when it’s supposed to be, a condition report is written. A condition report is a report of an unsatisfactory condition… of any kind. Condition reports are also used to identify trends. Trends relating to missed training is an indicator of other issues.

    Of course, just because the training starts on time doesn’t mean that it’s great training. 🙂

  4. I find myself less impatient as I get older, but I abhor tardiness.
    I also hate meetings, because 99% of the time, they’re a waste of my time. They rarely stick to the business at hand, and some blabbermouth often goes off on a tangent that should be interrupted by the person running the meeting. Give me some work to do, just don’t waste my time in a meeting.

    I do like the idea of you billing the specialist for his or her staff blowing you off and keeping you waiting without an explanation. If the shoe was on the other foot, you’d be stuck with a bill for 50 bucks.

  5. You’re preaching to the choir here. I hate waiting and will not get in lines unless I absolutely have to.

    I let my university students know this and tell them that I have never been late in my life for anything and that I am twice as old as they are. This is very true. I would rather be 1 hour early than 1 minute late. In my classes I very rarely get late students, but all the other teachers in my department complain about it. Well that’s because they have low expectations of the students. Raise your expectations and people will rise to them most of the time.

    Now of course that won’t work when you’re visiting a doctor or other business requiring appointments and they don’t keep their appointments. If at all possible take your business elsewhere. With doctors is it possible to complain to the medical board? What about doctor review web sites? There must be somewhere to praise or complain about doctors online.

  6. Couldn’t agree more. The worst queues imaginable are those ones you see on a Saturday night – people QUEUING to get into a bar! I can’t imagine ever wanting to get into a bar so much I’d be willing to queue outside it.

  7. I always call the office of any specialists about an hour before my appointment to ask “How is the doctor’s schedule running?” They don’t love it but I make them tell me. If they say he is running an hour late and my appointment is for 3:00, then I tell them I will be there at 3:50. Apparently I am the only person in the world that does this because the receptionists totally freak out, but they end up agreeing to it. They try to tell me that I should be there at my scheduled time and then I tell them that makes no sense if the doctor is running an hour late. I simply state “I cannot sit in the waiting room for an hour.” and I guess I say it in such a way that they believe me. It’s been working for me for years. Maybe it’s different in Canada, but I still can’t believe your receptionist was so unhelpful. Maybe you are not as scary as I can be, because I would have gotten a time from her. Maybe when I get a little crazy, I get crazy eyes. I have had people look at me funny.

  8. Guillermo – Since you’re not paying them directly, I don’t think you can charge them. The crazy thing is that this specialist is still going to get paid by OHIP for our appointment even though she didn’t see us.

    Bandobras – I usually ask for first thing in the morning appointments, too – for the reason you say and so I don’t have to come to work, leave work, come back to work, leave work… And we actually had this one scheduled for an early morning at one point, but she cancelled and re-booked this stupid middle of the day thing

    Mike – It’s internal deparmental training – one of those mandatory but pointless things, so nobody cares.

    Bob – I’m pretty sure they book 20 people at 11:30 – (like airlines overselling their seats) because half of them don’t show up, half of the ones who do, are late which still leaves them with 5 appointments of 15 minutes each at 11:30

    Sean – When was the last time you lived in Canada? The “medical board” would laugh and say I’m lucky to be seeing a doctor at all. One thing you will find about Ottawa – there are no family doctors available to take new patients and waiting times for appointments, tests, non-life threatening emergency visits, etc. etc. take forever. I advise you to sign up with a community health clinic and get on the waiting list for an NP. It took us 1 1/2 years to even get a Nurse Practitioner.

    Loth – I did that a few times when I was young because I was with a gang of friends, but I thought it was stupid even then. I kept suggesting we go somewhere without a queue, but they said nobody goes to those places…which I suppose was a point.

    Geewits – I was trying to find out from the desk person and they wouldn’t tell me. These specialists all work at the hospital and you only get a general booking clerk when you call the number. They’d never let you talk to anyone less than 8 degrees removed from the specialist. With a GP, I suppose it might work, but then it’s also sometimes difficult for me to just take off at a moments notice. And organize to get my daughter out of school like that. Also, our doctors don’t care because if you don’t show up they get paid anyway by the provincial insurance.

    Christine – OK. I won’t. Or if I did, it would only be when I’m retired and have all the time in the world.

  9. The whole time I’m reading this post, I’m yelling “YES!” in frustrated agreement!!

    I also hate lineups (so I do virtually all my shopping online) and a personal pet peeve is the snotty attitudes of receptionists at medical offices.

    I’m a coward and sit fuming quietly. But my hubby is not. On one occasion, he was running late to a dentist appointment and called the office on his cell phone to advise them that he may be approx 5 minutes late. When the receptionist advised him that this would result in a fee for a cancelled appointment, he went off and told them that he would only pay such a fee if they paid him a fee for keeping him waiting in future. Needless to say, they didn’t charge him (since one always waits at least 5 minutes there). It is so ridiculous that a dentist office wouldn’t take him 5 minutes late … what, and miss the $200 fee for cleaning his teeth? He is a paying client. You think there would be a degree of respect.

    Okay … I’m getting worked up here. Better go …

  10. XUP-That is awful that they made you wait that long at a medical specialist’s office and were rude and didn’t offer any apologies for the wait. I would’ve been really pissed off too!
    Patience is also not my forte. 🙂

    You must hate holiday shopping too!

  11. My teeth are grinding in sympathy.
    Have you read this one?
    That’s me – wait until I explode and even then, explode outside. Timing is everything – and that’s not meant as a pun. It’s like how we are doomed to have to listen to our neighbour’s loud music, because we didn’t tell him about it in the beginning. Now, if we say something, he thinks it is an isolated incident and turns it down for that day but it goes right back up the next time. We have decided we have to move (or he has to die). So now I’m looking for jobs in other cities.

  12. A little known fact is that when doctors, dentists, etc set up their appointments they overbook on purpose. That way they do not waste any of their time. there is always a patient waiting for them and they flit from one to the next with no lost time. Patients on the other hand are kept waiting precisely to assure this. As XUP said its like the airlines overbooking seats.
    Once I knew this I started talking to them and explaining that I felt my time was pretty valuable too and would like to be given the courtesy of getting in to see the doc when I was scheduled. The upshot is that they tend to see me on time and leave others waiting around. If you want some service around this country you have to complain your bleeding head off.

  13. Julie – I think they believe none of us have jobs or any sort of responsibilities or obligations and/or that all of this should take a back seat to the very important functions THEY perform. Makes me crazy.

    Skylark – Phew! I probably saved your life today. I think I own you now – or you own me or something.

    Hannah – My daughter has regular appointments every 3 months plus a bunch of unnecessary tests they keep scheduling, then a bunch of follow-ups for those tests — I’ve had enough. This is all a waste of time and every single time it takes hours and hours for a simple 5 minute appointment. In Halifax she only had to see her specialist twice a year with no stupid tests and they were always prompt with their appointments. Here it takes the best part of an entire day every time. I’m sick of it.

    Julia – I’m slowly falling in love with The Oatmeal. So you’re moving to an entirely different city just because of a loud neighbour??

    Bandobras – Probably if my head was bleeding – a lot – they’d see me sooner.

  14. I couldn’t agree with you more! Although I must say, you are far more calmer than I would have been in that situation. I find that other people’s (cashiers, managers, people who make me wait) ignorance only fuels my impatience. 😉

  15. I had to see a specialist regularly for a few years, and every now and then I’d get a letter from OHIP confirming that I had an appointment on some given date a few months ago. So I’m not so sure that they’d still get paid if you cancel/miss the appointment. That’s why they charge you for missed appointments, isn’t it? To recover the cost of their time that isn’t covered by OHIP? You can turn this right back on them and charge them for your time lost while waiting and not being at work/school.

    As for the lunch hour thing, I’m boggled at the way our society is structured. People live in their homes, then at a certain couple of hours in the morning, EVERYBODY gets on the roads, which are built extra wide to accommodate them all. Then they’re all at work and the roads are relatively clear (which is when I go to work). Then at 12:00 noon, EVERYBODY gets out of their offices to go for lunch (inundating the various restaurants and quasi-restaurants, who despite this can’t simply hire a whole bunch of people to work for an hour or two each weekday). At 1pm or 1:30, when I normally get my lunch, the fast food joints are much less strained. I can get a table for four all to myself at a restaurant, to spread out the newspaper while I eat a slow lunch. Then repeat the commute in the other direction, etc.

    The key part is why do your Shopper’s employees insist that they MUST take their lunch right at 12:00 noon? (And to a lesser extent, why must you?) It’s a dramatically poor distribution of resources.

    – RG>

  16. i always ask for the 1st appt of the morning or the 1st appt after the lunch hour – the receptionists know me now and have a little giggle whenever it’s time to rebook.
    i usually bring a book or notebook with me so i have something to do if kept waiting. sometimes i enjoy those minutes alone. if waiting in line at the grocery store i grab a gossip magazine and catch up on the beautiful people 🙂
    i have to say though i have avoided H1N1 shots due to the long waits…..

  17. That is totaly screwed up for a Doctor to do, especially when the patient is a young adult and probably going through enough all ready.

    I could work with you, I like people who are focused and gets it done.

  18. Chris – Believe me, I wasn’t calm. I was just being an adult and maintaining admirable control over my impulses.

    Jazz – I can’t concentrate on anything when I know my time is being stolen from me, minute by minute. I always have a book along for commuting and stuff though.

    Grouchy – I would love to take lunch at 11:00 since I start work really early, but people get all freaked out when I suggest that. Since most people take their lunch at 12:00, if I were to take my lunch at 11:00 that would be 2 hours during which no collaborative work could be done. Add to that the fact that I’m here an hour before most people and leave an hour before most people, that’s 4 hours now when no collaborative work can get done – now we’re up to half a day and government is all about team work. We don’t even know we’re IN a box — it’s going to take us forever to start thinking outside of it. And, about the OHIP thing — can I really charge my doctor for wasting my time? Is that a law or something or just another one of your radical notions?

  19. About a year ago, I needed a prescription refill — something that takes all of 90 seconds with the doctor, but couldn’t get an appointment. My doctor is part of a family health team, but the receptionist wouldn’t book me with any of the other five doctors in the same practice. So much for the much-touted family practice model so trumpeted by the Ontario government as a streamlining method of ensuring better, more punctual care.
    I was told I could have the pharmacy fax a request for the refill, but it would cost me 15 dollars (something my benefits package wouldn’t cover). I let the receptionist know what a rip-off that was, as I had tried unsuccessfully to get an appointment, but conceded that she was just enforcing office policy.
    I did, however, fax a letter to my doctor, outlining the problem. I admitted that the 15 dollars was not a hardship, but there was a principle at play. To my surprise, the doctor herself phoned me, to say I was right and the fee would be waived.
    Sometimes the squeaky wheel does get the grease.

  20. wow, a concrastinator? The lowly dreg from the procrastination pit is in full awe. I have always wondered how you come up with witty posts day after day, without ever going into lulls. Now I know:-

  21. No doctors available for new patients. When did Canada become worse than a 3rd world country? I haven’t been in Canada since May ’97.

    That’s bloody ridiculous so when I move back to Canada if my kids are sick there isn’t going to be a doctor available to see them? Unbelievable. Here in Korea, the longest I’ve had to wait is 15 minutes and I never make an appointment, just walk in.

  22. Chiropractors and dentists seem to be able to manage their customer service reasonably well. Why can’t doctors do the same?

    Because the former depend on US to pay their salaries.

    And doctors, whether they make you wait for 5 minutes or 2 hours, get paid the same by OHIP, regardless.

    I know MD’s are overworked and such…but still…Why are they so special, that they’re not accountable for any bad service on their part?

    If they make me wait 2 hours for an appointment I scheduled, I should be able to bill THEM for my lost time.

  23. Meanie – I too, try to get the first appointment of the day, but like I told Bandobras, this time they cancelled on me and rescheduled for the middle of the day. And if it were only “minutes” I wouldn’t mind some chillin’ out notebook/novel time. But hours? Unfortunately, I have other things to do, too.

    Cedar – Ok. Let’s collaborate on saving the world or something! And ya, our marvelous health care system has a few chinks.

    Grouchy – Aw, I thought maybe you knew something I didn’t.

    Bob – The squeaky wheel ALWAYS gets the grease. And I have no problems squeaking. I’ll be interested to see what if anything happens from this “walking out” incident.

    Ramblereed – Yup. When a blog post needs to be written, everything else is put on hold!!

    Eflgeek – If your kids are sick you can take them to a walk-in clinic or to the CHEO and they’ll be seen…eventually. Canada is still good at urgent and emergency care, so you have no worries on that score. Of course “urgent” and “emergency” are pretty strictly defined. I’ve spent 7 ½ ours in the emergency at CHEO with my daughter with a broken bone. But that was a Friday. And yes, it DID feel like a 3rd world country that day. I said as much in the stern letter I wrote to the Minister of Health, the head of CHEO and a bunch of other people. We had to sit on the floor because there were so many people there. The line up was out the door. People were standing out in the snow with their sick kids. Our health care system is a mess. Make sure you get all your routine health care stuff done before you come. For you and your wife to get a physical here will be a long, long wait.

    Friar – It took me a good long while to figure out why chiropractors would be getting paid by the US. Then I realized you meant “us” Yup. I’m dumb. Bring on 2-tiered health care. I’m willing to pay to be treated like a human being. I haven’t seen any here, but in Halifax, I was always happy to pay for private labs where you’d pop in, have your blood taken, EKG done, mammograms, whatever for a small fee. No waiting, no herding. In and out. And I reckon I freed up a space at the public/free labs.

    Mary – Isn’t anti-crastination, “procrastination’??? Are you saying you’re not a procrastinator either?

  24. Woops – EFL Geek is me. didn’t realize I was logged in. It’s an old account and associated with the email I use when commenting – unfortunately wordpress won’t let me change the user name.

  25. “It’s lunch time–they’re at lunch.” Gah! That kind of thing drives me crazy.

    A few months ago, I was in the Air Canada Lounge at the Toronto airport. It was full because many flights had been delayed due to a scheduling mix up by Air Canada. Two hours before my flight was going to leave, they kicked all of us out and closed the lounge. When one guy protested, the woman behind the counter snapped “I’ve been here since noon.”

    “So have I,” he replied. “But the difference is that I’m paying for the privilege.” I don’t think she got it, though.

  26. I think ‘crastination’ comes from a French word meaning ‘tomorrow’ which would make a procrastinator ‘pro’ leaving it until then and an ‘anti’ being a gleam eyed keener who does it At Once.
    Since I am playing on the internet at 9:21 pm and the dishes are still not done, I guess that leaves me in the position of being ‘anti’ someone else’s procrastination while being a champion at it myself.

  27. @XUP

    I’m surprised to hear you say you’d like two-tiered health care. But I agree…bring it ON.

    It should be like housing. Everyone deserves a decent place to live, the basic essentials.

    But if you have a bit more money and can afford it, why shouldn’t you buy that four-bedroom out in the suburbs, instead of a 2-bedroom apartment?

    I tell you, if I ever need an MRI, I’m going to pay $800 and have it done at one of those private clinics in Quebec. (As opposed to waiting God knows how long in Ontario).

    And not only that, paying for it myself will open up a space in the Ontario side for those who can’t afford to do so.

  28. Sean – Ya, I figured that out. I don’t have hundreds of readers in Korea who are planning to move to Ottawa soon.

    MisssyM – So, this is what you tell job interviewers? I might hire you anyway, because these are all things that can be fixed. Ingrained personality flaws/psychoses not so much.

    Lester – Ya. That lady I can almost forgive. I assume she was an employee and not the owner? I reckon an owner would see an opportunity for more cash and stick around. I was in a restaurant once where a bunch of the wait staff where sitting at a table having lunch – during lunch hour – while the remaining 2 wait staff were trying to serve a full room. It was the craziest thing ever.

    Mary – Ah. Anticrastination. It’s in the urban dictionary. So I reckon it won’t be long before it’s in the real dictionary. Good word.

    Friar – Ya, though I spend a lot of time on the left side of the road, I have been known to cross over to the other side on some issues — when it makes sense. People with lots of money already have access to faster and even better medical care, so who’s kidding who?

  29. You are definitely not alone in hating to wait for longer than a few minutes.
    It seems such a waste of your life when you have so many better things to do.

    Perhaps more of us should make a stand against it!

  30. Friar/XUP – you don’t need to go to two-tier healthcare in order to have incentives for doctors who/hospitals that do a good job. I believe the UK has some sort of incentives.

    PBS Frontline has a documentary “Sick Around the World” that looks at a few countries’ different healthcare models. You can watch it online on their website.

    – RG>

  31. Valerie – YES! We should all just leave when things take unreasonably long. We just keep putting up with this crap, it will just go on.

    Grouchy – True, true. There are some pretty good patient-centered health care models out there which I’ve mentioned before on this blog. France for one. Doctors, and more importantly, hospitals get paid according to the patient care they provide, not by some random square-footage lump sum like they do here (the hospitals, I mean). Our government is more invested in boasting about how great our system is than they are in improving it. There is no incentive for politicians to effect any long-term change policies since they won’t be around to take credit for it.

  32. that wait for your appointment was beyond ridiculous. i don’t like waiting either if it’s a place where i am spending money & have been known to walk out too.

    having said that, i am frequently late to places and it’s a terrible habit. i broke it once many years ago but fell back into it.

    i can be anal about getting things done, prior to kids and husband i was able to be more organized and i had a system for getting things done.

    not being organized is something i struggle with daily b/c it creates safety for me which is important for my peace of mind. in due time once kids are grown i can go back to my old ways.

  33. Leah – NOW is the time you really need to be organized though, isn’t it? Once it’s a habit it’s not even onerous.