Although it’s occurred to me several times in the recent past, it really hit home last week, when I was driving through snaking traffic just ahead of the Carnival on Saturday. Stuck in a full-blown grid-lock, a sea of traffic, I was patiently inching ahead, without honking, not trying to cut ahead. Just waiting, without cursing the traffic Lords for unleashing their wrath on my little town. And I realised that sometimes my tolerance and patience with some irritants, namely wretched traffic, shoots up and surprises me.
Turns out I can sometimes resign myself to a situation, calm down and wait it out. This is a big change for the Type A person I am. Impatience personified at most times, I like quick results, impact, satisfaction. Give it to me instantly (and no, there is no innuendo in those words) and I’ll be your friend for life. Make me wait endlessly (like the woman at the cash-counter in the supermarket who took twice as long to make my bill because she was carrying on a flirty conversation with a colleague across the room) for something simple and I’ll probably bite your head off. Or even if I bite my tongue and remain silent, I’ll come away with a bad feeling about you.
I have to say though, that traffic is probably not the best bench mark by which to measure my patience. Because “heavy traffic” is not a common phenomenon in Panjim (not yet, at least). But then again, that is precisely what makes it so nerve-wracking. Sometimes you’ll find me cussing under my breath, bleedy traffic! but look up, and you’ll find that said traffic jam is actually a queue of 6-7 cars waiting patiently at a junction. Yes, I’ve become thoroughly spoiled. But on the bright side, I’ve also become a slightly more patient driver. Purely because I’ve never had to race to get ahead, or honk an undisciplined driver out of my way. If, in Bangalore the only way to get through ginormous traffic jams was to shove my small car efficiently into every little gap, cut left, cut right, piss everyone off in the bargain, and make it to my destination a whole 4.35 minutes ahead of time than I would have by waiting in lane like a normal person; in Goa I am the epitome of Zen and the Art of Driving Slow. I literally forget to speed, even when the road is clear ahead of me. I need to be reminded to honk sometimes, and yet I refuse to do it even when there’s a tractor waddling along in the wrong lane in front of me. Gasp, I suddenly realised in that moment that perhaps something innate about myself, had changed.
Could it be that I’ve become a patient person?
That is achievement unlocked in these parts, because I’m the girl that will burn her tongue in a rush to taste the caramel, even when it is just hot off the stove. That loaf that came out of the tin in a disheveled mess? That was my doing, all because I couldn’t wait to let it cool for the recommended time. 8/10 times I walk out of a pedicure a touch too soon, and give myself dented, botched toe-nails because I couldn’t wait for the nail-paint to dry. The supermarket woman who first took too long to bill my three items and then tried to pass off a godawful milk chocolate because she couldn’t be bothered to get me change, got a mouthful from me. Because I hate being made to wait for simple things like change in a supermarket.
So going by that, maybe the patience is getting better? Actually that’s not an accurate word. I don’t think it’s getting necessarily better, because I still lose the plot. A lot. But back in the day, even the impatient me was known for the limitless patience I exercised with people. Even though I could barely sit in one place and wait for a situation to unfold, I found it in me to draw immense patience when it came to dealing with people. Some times even when they were undeserving of it. I was the chosen one to confide all your secrets and scams in. I was the one you turned to when you were in a hot mess. I was the one who would sit it out, talk to you, listen to you blather through snotty nose and teary eyes, and just be there. It tested my patience to the max, and earned me the label of a good friend. I didn’t lend the kindness to all and sundry, but amongst those I considered close, I was quite the Dr. Phil.
I’ve done it with girlfriends, boyfriends and in some unfortunate cases, man-trapped-with-a-boys-brain-friends as well. It was always good for those on the receiving end of my treasure trove of patience. The fountain of calm and composure in the face of any storm. The resounding voice of reason in the most absurdly unreasonable situations. Inevitably, it made me face a lot of shit treatment at the hands of friends who consciously and unconsciously teetered over the edge between being in need and taking me for granted. But this has changed in large manner. I don’t know if it has something to do with the gradual paring down of friends, to only those I absolutely adore and love, recognising various relationships for what they are and dealing with them accordingly, instead of getting awash with equal emotion for everyone alike; but I’m a lot more picky with the patience I mete out. I am stingy, no longer the good friend. And in the last few weeks itself, I’ve noticed that the one thing that I am fast losing patience to deal with is people. Whether it’s the dense woman from Idea Cellular I spoke to this morning, who refused to understand that her answer did not satisfactorily deal with the question I called in with, or aforementioned supermarket woman, or even people in my daily life. I have no patience left to be the one constantly stretching myself to accommodate unaccommodating people. To rescue those in constant need to rescuing. To lower my expectations for those who have stopped meeting them. To foolishly drag along a stale relationship that refuses to go away.
Sitting there in the car, nudging my way back home, I was tempted to think my patience might actually be on an upward curve. But that’s an inaccurate description, I realised. I haven’t necessarily gotten better, but I have become just a little wiser. It’s why I can quietly sit out a traffic jam in Panjim, but go completely batshit when I’m looking for parking and I don’t find a spot in approximately 180 seconds from the time I start looking for it. I have managed to get a hold on my patience, ad calibrate it. I can now carefully assess a situation and decide if it is worthy of unlocking my hidden supplies of patience (or not). It’s a thin line, a subtle difference, between patiently being there for someone, and letting them walk all over you. Quite like the difference between wading through a grid-lock and gliding through empty streets and killing yourself over finding parking.