Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “How much of human life is lost in waiting.” At first glance, he seems to have a point. We wait in grocery store and bank lines. We wait in heavy traffic produced by road construction, an automobile accident, a freight train, or even an oblivious group of geese crossing a busy road. We wait in long lines at amusement parks to ride a favorite ride or experience a popular attraction. We wait at bus stops and airports. We wait at sporting events. We wait in offices – doctor’s, dentist’s, tax preparer’s, attorney’s, insurance agent’s, realtor’s, clergy members’. We wait hours in line for the first showing of a new movie, even going as far as to bring a chair to sit on, sleeping bag to lie on, or tent in which to stay warm. We wait for the announcement of the winning lottery numbers. We wait for the phone to ring or to receive a text message from a child driving a couple of hours to a friend’s house.
Consider the following paradox: The same persons that normally hate waiting in traffic jams and in line at department stores will brave congested mall roads and wait for hours in the very early morning on Black Friday for the store doors to open to get the advertised best deals and choice pickings of limited “on sale” products. What makes people who normally hate waiting choose to put themselves in heavy traffic and long lines of waiting? Why might one situation be experienced as “frustrating” and “annoying” and the other be fully acceptable and freely chosen?