I need a visa for a trip to India next month, so I went to the Indian Consulate with my paperwork. I took my number and sat down to wait my turn. I’d forgotten to bring much to read—in violation of one of Life’s True Rules: “Always have plenty to read”—so I had little to occupy my attention.
My first impulse was to figure out every single way in which time was being wasted. Why wasn’t a person working the line, to help people figure out if their paperwork was ready for processing? If that woman knew her number was 78, why was she still sitting far across the room as Mr. 77 was finishing up? And why did so many people leave the things they needed—their passports, their money, their photos—at the bottom of their purses and knapsacks, instead of having everything organized and ready to go?
I indulged in these kinds of thoughts for a few minutes, then realized what I was doing. One of my resolutions is to “find an area of refuge” in my mind; that is, to dwell on serene thoughts instead of brooding and fussing.
So I dragged my mind out of irritation, and tried to follow another resolution: “turn complaints into gratitude.” So I thought about how grateful I was: that the room had chairs, so I didn’t have to stand; that the Internet had allowed me to download the forms I needed in a flash; that the line was moving fast; that the Indian Consulate was so convenient to my apartment, just a nice walk; that I could pick up my visa in as little as an hour, if I wanted to wait.
Instead of picking apart the system, I just enjoyed the little mini-dramas of the room. I eavesdropped on two women who were going on exotic trips. I watched a couple fussing over their baby. I had a nice conversation with the woman sitting next to me, who told me all about my destination of Udaipur (and also told me how to pronounce it correctly).
Could I have kept up this attitude for two hours? I doubt it. But it made my forty-five minute wait much more pleasant.