A wry view of life for the world-weary

Patience Is Bitter But Its Fruit Is Sweet


Patience is a virtue, so they say, or if you are of Rousseau’s disposition, it is a necessary evil to be endured to get what you want. Anecdotally, show the Brits a queue and they will join it. Well, up to a point, Lord Copper, if the results of a survey of 2,000 run by is anything to go by.

I am not known for my patience, I freely admit, but I haven’t noticed my level of impatience increase over the years – if anything I have become more mellow. But half of us think they have become more impatient over the last five years and a third of the respondents described themselves as having no patience.

What the survey attempted to establish was the tipping point for a range of everyday occurrences that changes the average Brit from the epitome of stiff upper lipped stoicism to a gibbering, raving monster. Eight minutes, it seems, is how long we are prepared to hang on the line waiting to talk to a human voice, normally some poor sap in darkest India bearing the improbable name of Jason. After all, there is only so many times you can hear Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Public dining is another area where the patience of even the saintliest of people is tested. Ten minutes is as long as we will tolerate some child with the screaming hab-dabs and 24 minutes after ordering for our scran to appear before us. In a bar, however, a wait of five minutes is as much as we can endure for our glass of nectar. Before stepping out to our restaurant or bar of choice we have to wait for our other half to get ready. If my experience is anything to go by this means she tries multiple outfits before settling on the combination of clothes she chose in the first place. Men can endure 27 minutes of these shenanigans but no longer!

Getting anywhere on our creaking infrastructure is another challenge. We are prepared to sit in traffic for 13 minutes before losing our cool, the same length of time we are content to wait for a train which is delayed by the inevitable essential engineering improvements or a tardy bus.

Intolerance can manifest itself if a date keeps us waiting for more than 17 minutes or if we don’t hear back from a date within two days – the two may be linked, methinks!

In these days of instant communication via our smartphones and the world-wide web, our patience threshold is reduced significantly. We are only prepared to hang around for 10 seconds for a web page or link to load and 16 seconds for a video to buffer. The tipping point for waiting for a friend who says they will call us straight back to make good their promise is 18 minutes and for a friend to text back is 18 hours. Surprisingly, and doubtless this is music to the ears of the survey’s sponsors, we are prepared to wait up to 4.5 days for a parcel to be delivered.

Even our patience has bounds at the workplace. 21 months is as long as we are prepared to wait for a pay rise.

What the survey doesn’t point out, however, is that 5 minutes is as long as we are prepared to spend on fatuous surveys like this!


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