There’s this phenomena that happens more often than I think necessary, where despite my best efforts I often end up stuck in the wave of other people’s schedules.
This isn’t that surprising, as many people have similar work and life schedules. If you go to Google or Yelp reviews of restaurants or other venues, for example, they can give you a graph on how busy places are throughout the hours of the day. So it’s not a surprise that us going to the Olive Garden at 5:30 or 6 is going to involve a wait.
While we waited we contemplated why they were going to all the trouble to redesign the place if the redesign was going to include painting the same images on the walls that were already there:
In fact we waited fifteen minutes and then were seated and it didn’t take long to get salad and bread. It took a little longer to get our entrees, but neither of us minded because we wanted more salad anyway and James was tired enough to be in his own universe and was uninteresting in judging the service.
Yet as soon as we did get our food, things seemed to calm down all around. Tables began to empty, servers ceased to be rushing so much. It was quieter. Our server kept coming back, apologetic about the wait, offering to bring more refills and giving James some grapes. She was sorry that the wave of crazy numbers had happened right when we came in.
But she didn’t need to be sorry, because without that wave of arrivals, we wouldn’t have been there, either. Whatever great wave of need for food or entertainment or family or breadsticks had brought all these other individuals in was also responsible for bringing us.
That one sociology class I took in college was useful because that’s where I learned that so much of our choices are determined by the groups we move in, and much of our herd behavior is an unconscious representation of social drives and needs. Everybody in town didn’t set out to get off work and head for the Olive Garden at the same time, but they all ended up there anyway. And it wasn’t some continual wave, it was one moment when everyone was all together at once, thinking and eating the same things, and then clearing out.
You see this when shopping, too. No matter when you arrive at Winco or Walmart or Target (less so if you’re going somewhere more expensive), you’re going to enter alongside a huge wave of other shoppers. You would think that there would be a greater staggering: like some people would shop at 10, 10:15, 10:30, 10:35, 10:38, 10:39, and so forth. But actually you get there at 10:05 and so does everybody else. Not only that, but all of you move through the store in the same general pattern, thus the shopping battles waged in the produce aisles and the cheese wars in the deli. And, naturally, you all wrap up your shopping list at the same moment and all flood the registers, and wonder how there can be so few cashiers for so many customers.
Well, the reason is, it was fine there five minutes ago. And once you’ve all gotten through the check-out, it will be quiet there again in five more.
Without the wave we wouldn’t have even gone, despite our hatred of the slowdowns.
Whatever calls us to follow the same patterns as our neighbors–whether it’s the rotation of the earth or the tyranny of the time clock or the call of God Almighty to come forth, Lazarus, out of the tomb, but we follow the course laid out for us, like it or not. Complain about the traffic all you want, but without it, you wouldn’t even drive.
Ask not for whom the crowd calls: it calls for thee.
Item 1: linguine, meat sauce, grilled chicken