“What are you doing, dear?” my Mum asked upon seeing me sat on the living room floor while my pals played out on the street.
“I’m going to watch Thunderbirds.”
“You’re a bit early – it’s not on for another ten minutes.”
“I know – but I’m waiting for the television to warm up.”
This would have been the mid to late Sixties, and our temperamental 14” black and white TV set behaved like a reluctant old dog being forced out for a walk on a windy and wet winter’s day. Grudgingly, it would eventually do what was asked of it, but not without putting up an obstinate fight.
At nine or ten years old, I just went with it. This was the way things were. ‘Instant’ was a word only just creeping into my vocabulary – mainly because my Mum persisted in serving up the disgusting, powdered, butterscotch or strawberry ‘Instant Whip’ for our evening meal dessert.
That television experience, though, taught me the virtue of patience at a very early age. You know: ‘good things come to those that wait,’ and all that. It stood me in good stead for my early teen years in the Seventies.
For instance, when I first started going to gigs (1973) I‘d turn up at the venue, usually The Apollo, a few weeks before the show and queue up for tickets. Concerts by the popular bands of the day, invariably meant queues for tickets would form well before the Box Office opened. Like hundreds of other kids, I’d happily wait in the rain (it was always raining in Glasgow in the Seventies) my loons becoming progressively more saturated from the top of my platform shoes up to my crotch. But the shared anticipation of seeing our heroes perform and the communal spirit that engendered made the waiting worthwhile. The wait heightened anticipation.
Not like today when any prospective gig-goer logs in to some online Ticket Agency from the comfort of their home and then makes a contactless card payment for some inordinate amount of money for a show in perhaps eleven months’ time.
Letters. We were quite happy to wait a couple of weeks for replies. Maybe, as an alternative to queuing up at The Apollo, we’d send a postal order and S.A.E. to the Ticket Office and hope upon hope we were successful in our application. Again, the wait heightened the anticipation.
Remember ‘pen-friends?’ Cub Scout and Brownie packs readily promoted the concept; comics and magazines also carried adverts from kids living in what were to us, strange and exotic places the world over. They would ask we write to them, and if Kenji from Tokyo hadn’t outgrown the notion of having a ‘pen friend’ from the UK by the time your letter arrived, then you might receive a reply some many weeks down the line.
On the other hand with no reply forthcoming, you eventually realised Kenji was just a timewaster. At least though, you’d had twelve weeks of excitedly greeting the postman at your door in the hope he brought news from the Far East. If nothing else, at least the wait heightened anticipation for a while.
We’d also happily wait till the following Saturday teatime for the latest episode of Batman – same Bat time ; same Bat channel. Not like today, when we can binge on series Box Sets streamed instantaneously into our homes or mobile device.
We’d wait keenly on the sound of the ice cream van chimes – mentally salivating at the thought of a couple Bazooka Joes, a bag of Salt ’n ’Vinegar crisps and if the ‘icey’ was in benevolent mood, some free broken biscuits.
In those days, Time was not pressing; the wait was expected and accepted.
Now, everything is pretty much instant – or close to. We want something? It’s available at the flick of a switch or press of a button.
There are though, some instances where the trend is completely skewed; instances where what used to be quick and efficient are now unnecessarily burdened by delay. Rather than the wait building anticipation, it has now become a source of angst.
In The Seventies, getting an appointment with your doctor was pretty quick. Now …?
In The Seventies, if your favourite top division football team scored a peach of a goal, you could celebrate instantly as the ball crossed the line. Now …?
In The Seventies, if you were stood at a bar behind some bloke ordering five pints of ‘Heavy’ for his mates, you knew, with confidence, you’d be served within the next few minutes. Now …?
Now, you’re stood behind some geezer ordering five Porn Star Cocktails for his mates. Comprising vanilla-flavoured vodka, Passoã, passion fruit juice, and lime juice, they each take five minutes to prepare and must be mixed by bar-staff with a degree in Chemical Engineering and an eye for artistic detail.
Now, that particular wait heightens agitation!
Maybe though, the technological advancements of the past five decades have spoilt us somewhat? Perhaps our expectations of ‘instant’ are unreasonable? Will Future’s youth appreciate the concept of patience?
You know, I have many things for which to be thankful about my life. Who’d have considered though, that for instilling an acceptance of The Wait all those years ago, a small, battered, old black and white tv set would be one of them?
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson from Glasgow – March 2023)
(Only three songs beginning with either the word ‘Wait,’ or ‘Waiting’ entered the UK charts in the 1970s. Here’s two of them – the third, ‘Wait Until Midnight’ by Yellow Dog, is pretty crap, I’m sad to say.)