Rendered Fat Content


Winslow Homer: Waiting for a Bite (1874)

" … reduced to roughly the equivalent of the quality of your Waiting…"

(I submit this story in recognition of The Muse’s birthday.)

No travel guidebook worth its salt would dedicate a chapter to the underappreciated art of Waiting… . This one will, though strictly speaking, this collection of Honing Stories doesn't quite qualify as a guidebook, or at least not as a conventional one. I've reported before that I have little use for guidebooks. Nobody can ever recreate another's travel or adventure, so one should properly read guidebooks only as biography or fiction—probably fiction—and work hard to avoid trying to replicate the author's experience with their own. It cannot be done, and attempting it will very likely ruin your vacation. All that said, I will try today to write a sincere appreciation of the magnificent and underappreciated art of Waiting…; for some significant portion of every adventure, every vacation, every damned day gets expended with Waiting…, and we seem ill-prepared for this effort.

The Muse and I checked the ferry schedule to learn that we would have needed to schedule our trip sometime in the past to secure a reservation on any crossing before nine-fifteen that evening.
It being eight in the morning, the prospect of waiting until after dark to make our crossing didn't seem attractive. Still, The Muse proposed that we might just stop by the ferry terminal on our way through and see if the internet's information had deceived us. It hadn't.

We were directed to the queue of cars without reservations, a disquietingly long line. We cooled our heels on the edge of the roadway while those with reservations, the first-class passengers, passed to the head of an ever-lengthening queue. Still, the day was warm, and a light breeze wafted through The Schooner. Hope rose when we were called to the fare gate before the first boat set sail. We were directed to line nine, with only a couple of dozen cars ahead of us in line. The ferryman said we might face quite a wait, maybe one or two ferry crossings, but we stayed put. Once that first ferry sailed, we wandered around to find a restroom and read some signs. We walked up the road to find the sole restaurant closed on Tuesdays. This being Tuesday, we drifted back to The Schooner to dine on fruit and leftover trail mix while listening to a podcast.

The second sailing also left us behind, though we were moved up in line, so we were confident we'd be among the first to board the third sailing. It had been hours since we arrived, yet we had survived. That last sailing found us wandering down to the short beach to sit on a sandy log and watch kids make mischief and a man try to train a puppy to fetch a stick out of salt water. "He'll come along," he reported. We sat in the sun every bit as satisfied as if we'd been granted entry into an unknown land at Disney, Waiting…Land, the perfect foil for the weary traveler, a respite from the constant motion, offering the best mileage of the whole damned excursion. Why, we waited for well over three hours without reducing our fuel's remaining range by an inch, achieving well over a thousand miles per gallon per hour, approaching the infinite.

The third ferry finally carried us across the sound. We stood on the highest prow and seemed to float above the water while watching fish jump as our ungainly vessel passed. The trip was well worth the wait. I won't hesitate to speculate that it would have been worth it had we had to wait until that nine-fifteen sailing, for Waiting… was just what whatever doctor prescribes vacation activity would have ordered. We'd done driving. We'd done arriving as well as departing. We also accomplished some first-class visiting, but we had not nearly fulfilled our quota for Waiting… until after The Muse suggested we see what we might find.

Reservations might be over-rated and may sometimes be replaced by revelations; the experiences that could not have been anticipated but came just when most needed without ever being wanted beforehand. Our attempts to fine-tune and calculate arrival times can squelch some of the very purpose of getting away in the first place. We get away to escape what we know too well, to slip away from the well-planned and organized, to experience some genuine randomness. Waiting… might be considered a destination, not particularly scheduled but inevitably encountered. Will you be prepared when it comes calling? How will you spend the time you couldn't see coming, which came to contain your forward momentum for a while? It might be that the quality of the whole excursion might be reduced to roughly the equivalent of the quality of your Waiting… . May you be accepting.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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