Quiet moments are a precious and rarely appreciated gift

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
-Annie Dillard

I wish I could add up all of the moments I spend waiting for things to happen.

I wait for computers to boot up. I wait for computer screens to load. I wait for programs to ask for and accept my user name and password for the umpteenth time so I can view a CT scan and then re-enter a different user name and password to retrieve the patient’s phone number. I stay near phones and wait for people to return pages.

I know, I know … not everything can be instantaneous. There are millions of electronic baby steps and digital binary calculations that need to be repeated each time I complete typing in my password and hit “Enter.” Maybe someday, my son, the computer engineer, will solve that one.

However, there are things that make me wait that seem completely unnecessary.

Consider the phrases below that each of us hears dozens of time each year:

“Thank you for calling Dr. Bob’s office.”

That phrase is probably okay. It’s nice to know I reached the correct number.

“Our regular business hours are 8:00 to 4:30 Monday through Friday.”

Not surprising. I check my watch. It is 10:00 a.m. on Thursday.

“If you are hearing this message during business hours, it means we can’t get to the phone right now.”


“Please stay on the line because our menu options have recently changed.”

Although I heard this same message approximately two years ago.

“If this is a medical emergency, please hang up and dial 9-1-1.”

How stupid do they think I am? “Hey! I’m bleeding to death here! Any quick advice? Can you squeeze me in today and sew my arm back on? Gawd, I hope you are taking these calls in the order they were received!!!”

“If you know your party’s extension, you can enter it at any time.”

If I knew their extension, whether they are at a party or in their office, I wouldn’t still be listening to the recording.

“If you don’t know your party’s extension or if you have a rotary phone, please stay on the line. We will be with you shortly.”

Rotary phone? Are they kidding? Who has a rotary phone? And what if it’s an emergency? Am I supposed to both hang up AND dial 9-1-1 on my rotary phone? While my arm is hanging from its socket? While I’m bleeding to death? I’m so confused …

“Otherwise leave a message after the tone and we will get back to you at our earliest convenience …”

You will call me at YOUR earliest convenience?! That’s probably true, but is it wise to TELL ME THAT?!

I wish I could live a whole week where I never had to wait for a computer to boot up, for a password to clear, for a page to load, or for a recorded message to finally get to the beep.

Then again, maybe someday I will achieve a level of serenity that allows me to enjoy those empty spaces in my day. Only then will I understand that the quiet moments are, in fact, a precious and rarely appreciated gift.

Bruce Campbell is an otolaryngologist who blogs at Reflections in a Head Mirror.

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