old faithful time

IMPATIENT: restless or short of temper especially under irritation, delay, or opposition  

It was a magical moment: I was sipping a cold beer and reading a book on a rustic wood bench on the upper deck of the Old Faithful Inn while Husband was overseeing the bedtime stories, teeth brushing, and potty break routines of our two children who had recently consumed double scoops of Moose Tracks ice cream. I’d like to credit my superb marital negotiation skills or charm with this outcome, but the credit actually belongs to Husband who possesses saint-like patience and exhibits an endless reservoir of kindness toward his often undeserving wife. Whatever the reason, I was determined to relish this window of solitude in the midst of our three week epic road trip/family vacation.

Perhaps it was this attitude that made the conversations around me stand out so sharply (for the record, I am a notorious eavesdropper). Regardless, I couldn’t help but marvel at the scheduled approach so many were taking to a natural wonder.

The back deck where twenty strangers and I were sitting boasts a fantastic view of Old Faithful—Yellowstone’s best-known geyser.  I had been amused earlier in the day to find a sign at the entrance to the Inn stating “Next Eruption 2:40 pm” with a small “+/- 10 minutes” disclaimer. It made me laugh a bit to see this majestic geyser relegated to a 20-minute time slot. It seemed like a mixed message to be touting the ever-changing and unpredictable nature of the park’s hydro-thermal features and wildlife and then announcing with authority the precise time of an eruption so thoroughly beyond human control. However, the planner in me appreciated the window of likely activity—though I was inclined to take it as advisory rather than a contract.

My fellow deck companions saw things differently. They were promised an eruption and arrived at the appointed time to collect. At 7:39, precisely one minute after the “scheduled” eruption, the murmuring began. “It’s late.”  “It should have erupted by now.”  The murmurings turned to grumbles, then to complaints, and then to anger. At 7:45, still within the +/- window, the couple in front of me released exasperated sighs, proclaimed that they “didn’t have time for this” and left the deck. Several other groups soon followed.  I was baffled.

Presumably, it took a considerable effort for all of the people on the deck to get there. Yellowstone is not near a bustling metropolis. Regardless of where you call home, you’ve driven considerable distance to reach Old Faithful. After all that, there is not enough slack in your schedule or your patience to allow a natural wonder a 20 minute window?  I take it back. Baffled isn’t adequate. I was ashamed. Ashamed to be part of a culture that has let our own self-importance grow so out of scale that we consider ourselves inconvenienced by a majestic geyser erupting more than seven minutes past the estimated time.

It seems to me that we should be grateful for opportunities to ponder geologic time instead of our outlook calendars. Opportunities to see something that has not—and will not—be changed to meet our whims. Opportunities to breathe deep for a few extra minutes and enjoy the rare sensation of delayed gratification.


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