Patience, an important virtue that I lack, and an anecdote of sweet revenge

How quickly I forget. Today after work, as I stood in line to buy a loaf of bread, I became increasingly impatient… Sometimes it seems that I always choose the wrong queue. It doesn’t matter which I choose; the queues on either side are always faster. It’s like one of Murphy’s other laws.

Then when I reached the front of the queue, I noticed how unhappy the cashier was, and couldn’t help saying something to make her smile. How quickly I have forgotten how it is to be in her position.

According to Google, patience is defined as:


In a situation like mine today, being impatient is also being selfish… It’s a failure to consider the person with whom you are impatient, maybe a failure to see them at all. It’s a selfish lack of empathy for our fellow human beings, a failure to see their point of view and realize that they may not have any more control of the situation than you do. Being impatient, and expressing it, can be harmful and hurtful to other people, so we (impatient people like myself) all need to lighten up and remember that every interaction with another human being might have longer effects on them than we anticipate, so let’s try to be good to one another.

Having said that, let me tell you a story from years ago when I was on the other side of the confrontation; maybe if you are impatient and express it somebody will do this to you… or me, because maybe I’d deserve it.

Years ago, I worked as a bank teller in a small agency in Plumstead. We had those then, because that part of ABSA bank used to be a building society, and people could come do all their banking there.

It was a Saturday job, and on this particular day I had a queue going right out the door for most of the day. Finally when it got to closing time, there were five people left. Client number three was an unpleasant forty-something year old white man. (As I am now. Well, hopefully not unpleasant.)

They couldn’t see how fast I was working. To put you in the picture though… those terminals were painfully slow. You had to remember a number of obscure commands to get to the transaction screens quickly, then tab through all the fields entering the values, like name, ID number, account number, amount etc. I worked at such a frantic pace, I was always two screens ahead of what was displayed on the screen, so I spent most of the time waiting for the system to catch up with me. (And there were only two screens for deposits and withdrawals.) I also counted the money ridiculously fast. I can say with confidence that it was physically impossible to work any faster than I worked.

But for whatever reason, that third man in the queue… let’s call him Mr Poes, who had spent the entire time tapping his fingers, shuffling his papers, shifting from one foot to another and generally being a poes, waited until I was just finishing serving the person in front of him, and asked at the top of his voice, “Can he go any slower?”

So I did. I acted like a televised action replay: I reached out in slow motion to take his card and his cash under the glass, retrieved it in slow motion, then painstakingly hit one key at a time on the keyboard, also in slow motion. I counted his money in slow motion, one note at a time. The only thing I didn’t do was speak in slow motion because that would have been going too far. In the end, it took me ten minutes to serve the prick. And he said not another word. (You might think this was equally inconvenient to the two people behind him, but the woman behind him was laughing enough to convince me that my act was worth it.) Careful what you ask for, motherfucker!

Edit: The guy probably complained, but it didn’t matter. This was my Saturday job as a student. (More than twenty years ago.) It was for a little bit of extra cash and the frustration when serving idiots like that was greater than the value of the money earned, so I did not care about being warned or fired.

So watch out if you are impatient. You never know how someone else might respond to you when you deserve it.

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