Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Need Patience? Read a Book

I have mentioned (or, more likely, complained) that I work part-time at a major retailer as a salesperson in the electronics department here in Cincinnati. While at work, I see a lot of different things, and I encounter a lot of different people. One common trait of our customer base, however, is impatience. Multiple times every day, customers complain to me about how long they have had to wait to get what they want. It might be that they've had to wait for a worker to have a chance to get them the TV they would like to buy. It might be that they need a gallon of paint mixed in the nearby hardware department, but the hardware worker is busy taking care of another issue. It could be that they don't want to stand in line at the front registers, so they come to be checked out in electronics only to have to wait while previous customers are helped.

People don't like waiting. Now, I'm sure that this is common in our society as a whole, but I feel like it is especially compounded among the electronics customers where I work, and I've wondered about why this might be. It astonishes me how impatient people can be. They all want assistance the moment they step into the department, and any delay signals for them that the store is poorly run or that the workers are incompetent morons (as one customer so nicely referred to me just the other day). I imagine that anyone who has worked in retail can identify with what I'm writing about, but still, it seems even worse where I am. I've been in other stores, and I've worked in other stores, but the level of impatience in my current situation is remarkable.

While living in Cincinnati, I have made another observation, and for a long time I didn't connect it at all with the "impatience issue." But one thing I have noticed about where I live is that it does not seem to be a reading community. Now, that may be a very unfair generalization to make, and I certainly have no scientific data to support it. But I find it odd that in my entire section of the city (which I always think of as everything west of I-75 and south of I-75), there aren't any bookstores. Actually, I take that back. I did find one once, but when I went in all I found were a bunch of those cheap romance novels that authors church out in about five hours. But other than that, there isn't a true bookstore in this major section of the city--a section with around 140,000 residents. That indicates to me that, in general, the people who live here aren't avid readers.

Of course, reading print books in general is becoming obsolete, and a number of bookstores across the country are having trouble staying in business. This might be because of everything going digital and people buying e-readers like the Kindle or the Nook so that they can download books instead of buying hard copies. That may be. But, as someone who sells electronics every day, I can say that we honestly don't sell that many e-readers. People don't want e-readers. They want tablets--something that they can use to watch movies and surf the web. Books are out. Youtube clips are in.

I wonder if there could be a correlation here. Are people groups who don't read much actually more impatient than those who do? It makes sense. Last week I went up to a bookstore (in another part of town), and while I was there I was surprised by how pleasant of a place it was to be. There were other customers there, browsing the shelves, looking for a good find. I didn't hear anyone screaming. I didn't hear anyone cussing. Just readers going about their business. It seemed like a far cry from the battlezone I walk into each day. 

We live in an impatient age, and we're impatient people. And it might just be because most of us don't read as much as people did in the past. We're used to instant accommodation. We can't handle sitting through something that takes up too much of our precious time. We even complain when movies go too long: "It was an okay movie, but it was like, THREE HOURS LONG!" But when you think about it, the ability to establish a setting, develop characters, introduce a conflict, and bring about resolution, all within three hours, is a pretty remarkable feat. But even that takes up too much time for us. 

If you're anything like me, it would probably be good to develop some extra patience. And if that is you, my encouragement would be to read more. When you read a book, you have to wait for the reward. It might take a few hours, a few days, or even a week or two. But it slows our eyes down, it slows our minds down, and it slows our lives down. We might feel a little less anxious, a little more understanding, and a whole lot more patient.

Of course, if you've made it this far through this lengthy and meandering post, you might be a patient person already. So I thank you for that. Now you can go back to the Youtube tab on your browser and get back to whatever you were doing before.

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