During my adolescent years, I spent countless hours in waiting rooms. I was born with an eye condition that led to ongoing vision problems. By age nine, I was well on the road to losing most of my eyesight, so I was placed on a waiting list for corneal transplants. I had four transplants in six months.

To this day, I can describe in precise detail my opthamologist’s waiting room: the way it smelled—on one occasion, I asked my grandmother why the room smelled like old people—its eerie silence, and the faded colors on the eye-care pamphlets that I had memorized by my 15th visit.

Among these details, one memory stands out: the frustration of having to wait. That waiting room was one in which time inched along for me and my world was drained of all vibrancy and vitality.

That was almost 30 years ago, yet those hours spent in stagnant frustration impacted me deeply. Today, there are few things I resent more than waiting rooms. And my hatred of waiting extends beyond waiting rooms. I become frustrated in long lines at the grocery store. I loathe slow traffic. My body even tenses up when I have to wait during the loading time of a video game I just purchased.

Waiting feels painfully inefficient, like dead, wasted space. Whether waiting in a car, in line, or online, I compulsively check my phone to see, well, anything—to pass the time. Any update, any tweet, any message that could redeem this fruitless “waiting room” in which I constantly find myself.

But as my waiting-averse temperament finds increasing solace in a culture offering strategies and technologies that promise relief from the burden of waiting, I’ve found myself haunted by a question: What if in seeking to avoid these ...

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