“Darling, where are you going?” In spite of the opening word, the intonation was snappy. Doreen had laid out her plans during breakfast. This was to be a day full of efficiency. Mike's own plans were squeezed in meticulously, so he could get what he needed and accompany his wife and sister-in-law on their sight seeing and shopping tour. Doreen, by herself, was a guarantee for a busy day. But when her sister from Italy stayed over for her annual visit, the pace would become deadly.
This morning the sisters had come up with a plan that he just couldn't refuse. As if he needed that new laptop today of all days. Hah!
Behind his wife's back he had slipped his favorite, fat, novel into his rucksack. Now he was standing at the backdoor, the keys of his bicycle dangling between his fingers. “Uhm, I saw that my driver's licence needs to be renewed soon. So I was going to have my photo taken. You wouldn't want me to be without a driver's licence, would you?” Check!
Doreen looked doubtful, doing some mental arithmetic. Then she gave in. “Good. My sister is getting dressed and doing her nails for our outing. So if you hurry, you can be back before she's finished.” Had he heard right? Was she tipping over her king?
The woman sighed dramatically. “I was hoping that you'd go to the groceries, the drugstore and pick up a parcel from the post office.” Now she tilted her head and looked helpless.
“Sorry Doreen.” Too late, she was not turning her resignation into a drawn game. “I don't have time. I'm going on my bike.” He opened the back door and walked out as quick as he could.
– “Your bike? Michael, are you crazy? The car will be ...”
– No honey, not now.” With that he unlocked his bicycle and went off.
The october air was quite chilly, but a hat and an upturned collar could do wonders.
He was going to have his picture taken. At this hour he would probably be the only customer so it wouldn't take too long. On his way back … he would treat himself to a nice cup of strong coffee in the early bird's café 'The Sleepy Rooster'. There he would read his favorite scene. He had read the book in his backpack three times already. Each and every turn, his lovely wife had managed to botch up the reading of the epic scene. Mike was determined to read it undisturbed today.
On his way to the photo shop, Mike kept on mulling over his wife habits. Whenever he came up with a plan, she took action, accomplishing the task in less than no time. Everyone around him admired it and informed him how lucky he was to have such a wife. Because he... he was so indecisive, so phlegmatic She must be a great support ot him.
What about letting plans ripen? What about looking at designs from different angles, in different moods? And why not wait a while to see if something new wells up? How often had he perceived a great idea while waiting. For instance that time in the supermarket. He allowed two customers to take place in the line right in front of him, so he had more time to think out a design. If they'd been carrying only one item, Doreen might have accepted it. She was sharp about correct social behavior. But one customer had been hoarding up as if he was going to camp out in the desert, the other obviously was preparing for a tremendous barbecue with beer to flow. Sotto voce Doreen had given him a piece of her mind. So cutting that his pensive mood was over and he actually regretted his gesture.
Mike turned down his collar with one hand. The biking made his blood flow well. He felt like a soldier. On a mission to practise and defend the Art of Waiting.
Three more blocks and he'd be at the photoshop. On the next block was The Sleepy Rooster. As Mike got near to it he casted an anticipating glance at it's façade. “What?!” He squeezed his handbreaks. There was a 'closed' sign on the door. And a note below. “Due to a lack of customers the rooster will be asleep for ever.” This was a blow. Such a charming place, his hide out, gone. Where could he go now to read, undisturbed by wives and in-laws ? He resumed his journey entertaining unlawful thoughts. When our man reached the photographer's store, he was full of rage inside, ready to start an argument with whoever would thwart him first.
“Goodmorning. What can I do for you, sir?” The owner, a hard working man from India, beamed at him. While Mike formulated his request his eye fell on a banner on the wall behind the counter. 'Ready while you are waiting.' Well well, so this was the place to be. That should have been simple irony, but it became a challenge.
After the picture was taken, Mike stayed seated where he was. The photographer threw him a doubtful glance, raising his eyebrows. Then he shrugged and walked away. He had to develope the photo, print it and dry it with a hairdryer in the shortest period possible. No time to waste, if he was to stay in this line of business. Mike took his book out of his backpack and opened it. What a nice quiet little shop this was. The right place for his quest. With a sigh of content he started to read. The photographer had not yet closed the door to his work area. He heard the sigh saw the thick novel. It made him call out to reassure his customer, “Dear sir, it really won't take long. I'll have your photo's ready in no time.”
“Don't worry, man. I'm in no hurry.” was the reply. Now Mike had to read his line again.
The alarm of the door chimed, announcing a second customer. “I'll be right with you,” the owner called, poking his head through the door opening.
“Why don't you help this man first?” Mike suggested.
Why not, the owner went over to the counter and asked his opening question. Delighted Mike started on his favorite scene. The other customer had only one question. After getting the information he was after he left the store. The owner picked up Mike's photo's again and dryed them with the blower. “Your photos are ready sir.”
“Just put them on the counter. This won't take long.”
Annoyed, but also a little troubled, the photographer walked over to Mike. “Please sir. Don't tell me you plan to finish your book here?”
“Oh no”, Michael smiled, “just my favourite scene. Then I'll be off.” If Mike expected some understanding, he was in for an unpleasant surprise.
“No sir.” The shop owner pulled the book from his customer hand and shut it with a snap. Then he handed it back to our dismayed looking friend. “This is not a waiting room.”
“Aha!” Mike shot up from his seat, pulled the owner to his counter. “Then what, pray tell, does thát say?” He pointed at the banner.
The owner read it out loud.
“Precisely. While you are waiting.”
Now the owner felt cornered. “We used to send our customers out to shop. They picked up their photos later. Now it's developed so fast, they can wait in my store.” Mike argued that that was exactly what he had been doing. What was wrong about reading a book while waiting? Secretly the dark man vowed he'd remove the banner as soon as this strange client had left. “Your behavior is simply odd, sir. Nobody likes waiting. And you … you … you are waiting even while your photos are ready.”
“I'm glad you agree with me.” Mike took advantage of the verbal confusion and opened his book again. Just then the doorbel chimed once more. In sailed a pram with a wailing baby, pushed by a seemingly stone deaf mother. Four other children age three and up, trailed in after her.
Mike's eyes grew large. In a second the shop had turned from a silent oasis to a colony of bickering gulls. He put his novel in his backpack in an instance and drew out his wallet in exchange. “How much?”
The owner didn't waste a moment and named the price. For the first time in his life he was glad to see mrs. Moreno and her band of fallen angels enter his shop.
Outside Mike searched his pockets for the keys of his bicycle. If he hurried home, he thought, he might read a bit in the shed. Or he could lock himself in the bathroom. Nah, who was he kid... his eyes fell on his tyres. Some mindless joker had stolen the valves and the tyres were flat. Mike finally resigned himself to not reading his beloved scene today. He started out for the nearest busstop, wondering if this day could get any worse. “If there is a God” he thought, “then he is obviously on holiday today. Maybe hiding from His in-laws.” He looked up at the electronic sign. His bus was delayed 20 minutes at least. Mike turned up his collar against the cold. And with a thankful smile he reached for his book.