By Tim Hayes
Late summer in the late ‘70s. High school band camp, at a wooded facility atop the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania. Everyone had hiked to the very peak of the mountain hosting our week-long retreat one warm, humid evening for a bonfire and cookout.
Way back when, the marching band at my school numbered well above 200 students, counting musicians, majorettes, color guard, pom-pom squad, and equipment managers. Add a full team of adults, with the band director and his wife, chaperones for the dorms, and a small contingency from the camp’s own staff, and that mountaintop got a little crowded.
My best friend and I, unwilling to wrangle our way to the front of the gaggle of people trying to roast wieners close to the blazing fire, just grabbed a couple of hot dogs apiece and walked over to the perimeter for our meal. Didn’t even worry about a bun. Tough guys, you know how it is.
“I think hot dogs are made out of the same stuff as baloney,” my buddy declared. “This will be just like eating lunch meat out of the fridge.” “Yeah,” came the ill-informed, yet affirmative reply. Spectacularly mutual ignorance, about to be exposed.
We each took a bite of our respective raw hot dogs, looked each other in the eye in panic and disgust, and spit the mouthful of awfulness into the grass.
“I thought you said that would taste just like baloney!” “What do I know? You’re the stupid one who listened to me!” Couldn’t really argue that point, now, could I?
As a result, by the time we pushed and wriggled our way back into the food and fire mob, everything had been pretty much roasted and eaten. So, it was back down the hill on an empty stomach, with a long night of rumbles and recriminations ahead of us.
And all because of a galling abundance of pretense and a serious lack of patience.
“The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.” – Leo Tolstoy
“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” – Aristotle
“Patience is a conquering virtue.” – Geoffrey Chaucer
“He that can have patience can have what he will.” – Benjamin Franklin
Not a bad collection of minds there, all extolling the importance – the fundamental criticality, actually – of patience. This lesson takes a long time to fully sink in. It requires patience to acquire patience. A stunning life fact, now that I think about it.
I’d much rather sit and wait for a pizza, freshly made and baked inside a coal-fired brick oven, with a thin crust super crunchy and sizzling mozzarella and toppings, than try to chew my way through a soggy, limp leftover slice nuked unevenly in a microwave. That might be way faster, but as pizza goes, it really sucks.
Along the way in my career, I’ve worked for people who stormed into the office each morning, shouting orders, lighting fires under slow-movers, leaving fluttering papers and battered people in their wake. They sure got a lot done, but whether everything that got done added value, hit the mark, or made sense sometimes came into question. That’s the school of “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission,” and there’s a time and place for that.
I’ve also worked under supervisors whose attitude to managing issues and team members seemed to be summed up as, “Give any problem enough time to sit and stew unattended, and eventually it will just go away.” But that’s having way too much patience, if you ask me.
My experience tells me that occasionally an issue demands immediate, pull-the-emergency-lever, all-hands-on-deck attention. But very occasionally. Most often, if you take the time to think a situation through, trust other people to come through on their end, and act when appropriate, most issues get resolved peacefully and to a satisfactory conclusion. All it takes is patience. If you can wait long enough to get it, that is.
Remember that the next time you’re tempted to bypass a fire-roasted weenie. Nearly 40 years later, I can still taste that nasty, cold, raw mess. My mountaintop epiphany. Yeah, cook the hot dog. It’s worth the wait.
Copyright Timothy P. Hayes