Recently I had to change lines at an underground station and rushed from one platform, up an escalator and down another, to make my connection on time...only to discover that the train I needed to catch was delayed. An incident further along the line had required police assistance, and there was no way of knowing how long it would be before trains could start running again. All that could be done was to regular repeat an apology for the delay on the overhead arrivals screen and over the tannoy.
As more trains passed through on the other line, and more and more passengers arrived on the platform we were delayed on, everyone began to feel increasingly claustrophobic. Commuters had kept a safe distance from the edge of the platform, but as new travellers swelled our numbers, they pushed through to stand in front of those who had been waiting. The unspoken tension built up, as we each calculated how three trains’ worth of passengers would get on to the first available train: whose ongoing journey was pressing enough to jump the queue; who was willing and able to give up their place and wait for the next train?
Someone in one of the tunnels behind us decided that the best thing to do would be to break out into a rendition of “So here it is, Merry Christmas...” and try to get everyone else to join in. She had misjudged the mood. I willed my thoughts in her direction: “Shut up, or they are going to lynch you, and then the police will need to be called out here too.”
In all we were held up for the best part of forty minutes.
Waiting takes us to the edge of ourselves. That is, we are so used to displacing our limitations through the use of technology that we live much of our day-to-day lives displaced from ourselves. Waiting does not take us to the end of our resources so much as tentatively reintroduce us to our very humanity. We are not a technology. We are not a machine. We are embodied souls.
The question is, will we embrace the gift? Will we allow ourselves to be embraced, and transformed through waiting - not made stronger, but more fully alive?