Saturday, July 19, 2008

The joy in inconvenience

Dave drove me to work and dropped me off in front of my office building on Thursday morning. I had to prepare for a morning meeting and there was no way I could have moved my tooshie out the door early enough to bike the almost 1 hour ride in, shower, and be decent-looking enough for a meeting. It wasn't going to happen. 

It also meant that for the first time in awhile I would be taking the bus home. What a pain. I mean, I've gotten so used to being on my bike where I can just take off whenever I please. Taking the bus would mean that I only have a way home once an hour (regardless of whether I used city or university bus). Of course with temperatures in the mid 90's, picking city bus vs. university bus just wasn't a hard decision. The pick up spots were both about a 15 minute walk from my office and within a few minutes of each other, but taking the university bus would mean a 30 minute walk home in the hot Texas sun, whereas the city bus would only mean a 15 minute walk. Who needs exercise? I'll ride my bike tomorrow. City bus it is!

When the three hour long meeting broke, the participants bolted from the room (I kid you not). Since I was sure the head of the meeting would want to talk to me about our next moves on the project, I (against my better judgement) stuck around while he talked for another 45 minutes. That put me at 12:45 and REALLY hungry for that lunch I had packed and which sat patiently waiting for me in my office. I could hear that homemade potato salad calling me.... Heather.... did you forget me?... Hellooooooo?...

But 12:40 also meant that if I was going to catch the city bus (which again only runs once per hour), I needed to be at the bus stop at 1:20 or risk missing it for the next hour (I was really missing my bike at this point). At a brisk pace (I would have run, but my arms were full to capacity with all those silly handouts we distributed at the meeting), I walked back over to my building, took the elevator to the third floor (it's actually slower than the stairs - I've raced my friends up, so believe me I know - but with all that stuff in my arms, I wasn't risking a broken neck...), ducked in my office, changed quickly into a pair of shorts (trust me, I can give Superman a run for his money on the whole speed dressing thing), and with lunch box in hand, raced back out the door. By 1:05, I was at the bus stop on my favorite bench with a good 15 minutes to nibble on lunch before the bus came. 

Sure, I nibbled. I ate my cheese and spinach sandwich, my cucumber slices, and that potato salad. It was all good, but my favorite part, what I enjoy doing more than almost anything, is people-watching. And boy is that the spot to do it. It's just on the north side of the university campus where everyone hangs out - lovers hold hands, incoming freshman try to look cool while they walk around with their parents in tow, the pizza guy takes off on his bike to get the pies to their destination while still warm, big hair, cowboy boots, lots and lots of bicycles... it's a people-watchers paradise. I like creating stories for each of them in my head - where they're going or where they just came from, do they look happy or sad and why. And every once in awhile someone will smile and say "hi," or stop to talk. 

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how silly I was for complaining about not having my bike. I would have just sped home and not seen or talked to anyone. Now, here I was enjoying my time on this bench. Yep, even though the sun was bearing down on me and sweat was oozing out of every pore, I was having fun! 

You know, we drive our cars because they get us where we want to go faster. We use our dishwashers so we don't waste time washing the dishes. We pay someone else to mow our lawns so we can be inside doing... whatever it is we do in the nice cool air conditioning. It saves us time, right? It saves us energy, right? But time and energy that we'd rather be doing what? Because sweaty, hot, and at least no longer hungry, the inconvenience of actually having to wait for the bus meant fresh air in my lungs, being still for a few minutes and becoming aware of the world around me; it meant a homemade lunch on a park bench, the time for my imagination to run wild as I watched the world pass.  This so called "inconvenience," it turns out, was really just joy in disguise.
Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each -- Henry David Thoreau

13 comments:

Rapunzel said...

How true that is! I often tag along with Beren on business trips and as a result am dropped off at various locations with no transportation, he'll pick me up after a meeting or whatever..I have had the most amazing times simply wandering around a new town, shopping or dining or just, as you describe, people watching! Forced relaxation I call it. :-)

Burbanmom said...

Oh, you've taken me back to my pre-child days when one of my favorite activities was to sit quietly in the mall with a mocha latte and just people-watch the day away.

Theresa said...

Joy in disguise - what a beautiful way of putting it! I will definitely remember that :)

Kathryn B. said...

There are times when I can be philosophical, take a breather, and enjoy myself during an unplanned delay. And there are times when I just want to tear my hair out, regardless. I strive for the more enlightened attitude, but don't always achieve it! It also depends on how pressed for time I feel in general. If I'm in a period of my life where I don't feel like I'm getting to spend enough time on the things that really matter to me, I'm much more likely to resent unplanned delays!

Simply Authentic said...

So perfectly put. Sometimes the best inconveniences really do impact us the most. Thanks for sharing your story! I always find that the most perfect days are the ones in which I can wander around town and have the chance to interact with some incredibly neat strangers. Enjoy the day!

Heather @ SGF said...

Rapunzel - I took a trip like that to London once. The person I was with was interviewing with a company and I had three days to wander around. It was so awesome! Not to mention the company he was interviewing with put us up at the Four Seasons :)

Burbanmom - Isn't it nice. Coffee shops are the perfect place for that kind of thing!

Theresa - Thanks! It's amazing how many things we miss when we move through life too quickly. This is something I'm working on - missing less.

Kathryn - That is the trick, isn't it. But I find that the more mindful we become and the more we slow down, the less those super crazy times affect us.

Simply Authentic - awhile back, I used to get up each morning and say to myself, "you are on vacation today. Live like it." And I'd spend all day (even though I would go to work) noticing things around me, slowing down, just pretending like I was a tourist in my normal life. It really worked!

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

What a great story Heather, thanks for sharing it.

So often we only see the inconvenience in things. But if we can shift our perspective, sometimes we can see a "silver lining" to being inconvenienced - like having to wait for the bus, or bike in the heat. It makes life more enjoyable that way, and I think in this day and age, you really have to learn and TRY HARD to slow down, the pace of life is just so fast for most people.

Beany said...

I have no idea how you ride your bike in that heat (must be those spinach/cheese sandwiches?).

I got into people watching only fairly recently and I love making up stories in my head too. Its such a fun, cheap activity to do and it amuses me to no end.

Shannon said...

yea! Another eco-conscious texan. Im in houston and found you through Tammi's blog. Wanted to say hi!

Heather @ SGF said...

Jennifer - I agree. It seems like all these "conveniences" only makes life faster and faster until we're completely disconnected from what makes us human. At the same time, it's so hard to slow down. I guess it also doesn't help that other "expect" so much of us too. But the choices we make are our own. And slowing down sounds pretty good to me.

Beany - part of the trick is you get used to it. The other part is lots of showers and never leave the house without a full water bottle. In the morning it's not so bad when I go to work. On the way home, I usually have to stop twice for water. And even then, I'm completely dehydrated by the time I get home. But my body feels so good during and after. It's addicting :)

Shannon - Hi! Always good to find another eco-minded Texan relatively close!

Glenda said...

When we lived in Katy, I worked in downtown Houston and commuted via the Metro (bus). Sometimes it was inconvenient -- like when I would feel really bad but the first bus back out to my park-n-ride was around 3:00pm, or when walking to the bus stop in dress clothes during the 5:00pm rain deluge that seemed to occur far too regularly. But mostly it wasn't too bad. The people watching was fantastic.

ruralaspirations said...

I'm sure it's because I only take the bus about once a week at the most, but I enjoy those times (it's a looong commute from my house to the university). I read or knit, listen to podcasts...time I don't generally get at home with two young kids!

Heather @ SGF said...

Glenda - it is hard to use public transportation (going to work) when it's so hot. I always keep a change on clothes at the office just in case and drag some with me on the bike too. People mistake me for a student often since I'm always walking around with a backpack. I'm on campus but no books in that pack, just clothes :)

Rural Aspirations - I think those quiet times away make the times you spend with your kids better. You've been able to collect your own thoughts and can better handle the demands of little ones.