When waiting is not in vain

By Garth Wattley

 It was 2 a.m., very early on Tuesday morning, but quite late for Monday. 

As pre-midnight turned into post midnight and then the new day’s second hour arrived, the view on the ground at the Port of Spain General Hospital changed. It was quiet. The bodies filling the cramped waiting area in the casualty department had dwindled. Just a few remained, fighting sleep and waiting with the resigned disposition of the seasoned.

I was watching them from a distance, weary of sitting down any more, I fought tired legs and complaining joints and took a walk. The night sky was not clear and bright. There had been a drizzle around. But the silence was pleasant.

The ambulances had stopped their wailing; at least for the moment. The police vehicles on the compound were few and silent, their occupants inside making inquiries. It was a time to be alone with one’s thoughts. There was but temporary disturbance—a bench dweller off in the tree-shrouded dark snoring a bit too loud. It surprised me the number of persons who had made the hospital grounds their home.

Outside the closed stalls on the southern end, there stretched a row of three gentlemen, asleep on their “beds,” blissfully unperturbed by the bright lights directly above them. I looked at them. Could I do that? What does it take for a man to accept being brought low so literally? 

How ironic I thought that these human beings were finding “shelter” out of doors on the compound of a place established to care for the sick.

Yes, I did a lot of thinking. You see, I had plenty time on my hands. My hospital sojourn had begun in St James mid-Monday. Through the next 14 hours, I went back and forth from waiting room to waiting room; from examination room to doctor’s office, from bench, to steps, to bench again, to steps again. I watched ambulances come and ambulances go. I risked the ire of security guards as I checked on my kinfolk, so starved of information I was. That made the waiting worse, the not knowing what, if anything was happening. 

But I was not alone. If I saw them today, I would instantly remember those faces with whom I had come to be so familiar over the course of the afternoon. I will remember them not because they made a scene as one dread man, unable to stand up straight for the pain in his abdomen, who tried the belligerent approach. Didn’t work. The nurses and other staff, stayed calm.  They must see so much of that each week. As even a part-time user of the system I could see how easy it would be for emotions to boil over when waiting in pain feels very much like waiting in vain.  

But the other folks stuck it out quietly, in orderly fashion. I was impressed. Their stoicism belonged to another era. Like me however, they had come to appreciate quickly that fighting against the system would ultimately mean beating up on your own self.

It is like a batsman stuck on a seaming pitch. The ball is moving at sharp angles. Ball is going to pass bat many times. So why chase the red cherry? How greater would be the chances of success if a fellow played the patience game each ball. Wait till as late as possible to play. Give yourself every chance to see what the ball will do before you make your move. That’s the first step to constructing a successful innings sometimes. 

By the time his second turn at the crease came last week, conditions were not so challenging for Darren Bravo in Dunedin. The match situation for West Indies against New Zealand, however, was much worse. Following-on by 396, there seemed no achievable goal for the West Indies by the end of day three. But two days later, they had saved a game—with the help of some last afternoon rain—they had seemed doomed to lose.

Lil’ Bravo played a big, knock to make the impossible reality. Batting for over nine hours in total, he was not overcome by anxiety over the enormity of the deficit. Instead, he played like they say, session by session, ball by ball; not losing sight of what the overall goal was. His reward was a match-saving double century.

David Moyes, the new manager of Manchester United would probably like the assurance right now of a first major title under his belt. Instead, he is faced with trying to inspire the English Premier League winners of 2013 to break a slump of four League games without a win. He may have anticipated the pressure many times and prepared himself for it before he left Everton. But the Scotsman could never have adequately prepared himself for the reality of what managing the football institution that is Manchester United and filling the breach left by Sir Alex Ferguson would entail. 

Patience is not the virtue of choice in modern-day football. But even with the demand for instant results, the new boss will fail in the long run if he tried to run his team with short-term success in view. Patience often involves taking courage in one’s convictions. Backing oneself might mean that a man may fall down sometimes. The patient man however, will learn from the errors that caused the stumbling and prepare for the next time. He will combine his patience with proper planning, grit, and the hope of something better.

Whatever the conditions, in life and in sport triumphant ones must all learn to wait. But wait smart.

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