In, Beastly Things, one of her wonderful books featuring the Venetian policeman, Commissario Guido Brunetti, the author, Donna Leon, relates how he reacts to a summons to the Vice-Questore’s office: “the obligation to deal with his superior often filled Brunetti with anticipatory weariness.”
I read that sentence and it was a bit of an ‘aha’ moment. That’s just what happens when the phone rings at dinner time. It is invariably the doctor’s office calling to remind us of an appointment in two days. I can’t just ignore it because I know what it is. No, I have to answer and speak loudly in the phone so their machine will start its message, and then hold on for a while.
If I don’t, the call will go to voicemail and I will have to go through the rigmarole of dialing in and pushing the buttons to get it off. I suppose it is a good thing that they remind us – we’re not infallible - but it does fill me with anticipatory weariness.
And why is it, speaking of anticipatory weariness, that when you call in to any automated phone system they ask you to “please listen carefully, as our menu has changed.” Even before you call you can anticipate this spiel. I’ve been calling in to some companies with great regularity for several years – they always say “our menu has changed”, and no, it hasn’t! For most of them I’ve learned just when I can press the remembered number to get me where I want to go. If it is a new company to me, I just jeep hitting “O”, which is really the zero, for a human. Look ma, no operators anymore!
Life is full of little bouts of anticipatory weariness. I know I have to come up with a pleasant answer each and every week when the checkout clerk at the supermarket asks me if I need a hand out with the groceries. It’s nice of them to ask, they always do, but I’d rather be the one to ask when I do need help. But I try to be polite.
Then there’s the perky or too genial waitperson or manager in a restaurant – they come in both genders – who interrupts your meal to ask you if you are enjoying it. O.K., chew and swallow, or break up your lovely conversation to formulate a polite answer. What I’d really like to tell them that the meal is fine, it’s their interruption I object to. But I try to be polite. Over the last forty years, my husband and I dined regularly at several restaurants. Other than the wonderful food at each, what we enjoyed was our uninterrupted meals. If something was wrong, and on a rare few occasions it was, our problem was noticed and seen too at once. Now that’s service!
There’s a bit of anticipatory weariness in many things: having to listen to all the back-patting and humor before they get to the meat of an awards ceremony; having to sit to wait while dozens of other people’s kids get their diplomas; seeing a person you’d rather avoid but can’t; agreeing to go to a family function where you know you’re not going to enjoy yourself; the daily commute. I’m sure you can add to this list.
None of these situations are life threatening, but they are less than pleasant, even less than just neutral. We put on our big girl panties and deal with them, being courteous, polite, gracious, and, above all, civil. We suffer it out and offer it up. -
Yes, there is no terror in the bang, in handling the inevitable: it’s the anticipation of things like the wait and the process that gets us down.
Keep those halos polished.