scorecardresearch
Perspective

Welcome to Boston. Hope you’re not in a hurry.

Jim Braude surveys life in the Land of the Eternal Wait.

Traffic at 3:30 on a Friday in 2002. It hasn’t gotten any better.
Traffic at 3:30 on a Friday in 2002. It hasn’t gotten any better.(John TLUMACKI Globe Staff/file)

Several Fridays ago, I had to pick up something in Milton for one of my kids. So I did the MapQuest thing, a total of 25 miles from work in Brighton, then back to Cambridge — maybe an hour round trip, if I left before rush hour.

It took four hours and 10 minutes.

Had I forgotten the opening ceremonies for the Olympics were that day? Nope, just another afternoon of what we encounter everywhere — interminable waits.

After all 11 members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation complained about delays at Logan’s international terminal, Massport acknowledged that passport checks can run to three hours, with another 60 minutes to get your bags. Four hours. Does everything take four hours here?

Advertisement



In February, the commuter rail was late or canceled nearly two-thirds of the time. But even when we’re not experiencing Snowmageddon, the Pike, the roads to and from the Cape, Interstate 93, and I-95 are always bad. So bad, Tom Brady decided to beat traffic by taking a helicopter to Salem State for that $170,000 speaker’s gig. In fact, Boston is high on the list for most time spent waiting in traffic — 53 hours a year, in a recent survey.

The city is now partnering with a Google-owned app, Waze, to provide alternate routes when there are delays on primary ones. Which would be great if all of the alternatives weren’t also experiencing gridlock.

It’s not just traveling. Last week, I spent 17 minutes in line for a small milk-no-sugar at my favorite Dunkin’. Two nights later, it was an hour at a not-so-great restaurant in the South End.

And listen to these numbers: You’ll likely spend 43 days on hold in your lifetime, more than 6,000 hours waiting for public transit, and two to three years waiting in line.

Trust me, good things almost never come to those who wait, especially if you experience the ultimate injustice — someone cutting the line. It’s bad for your mental health and your productivity. And did I mention blood pressure levels reaching Everest proportions?

Advertisement



I decided to check in with a few locals, to see what they’d willingly wait for and what they would never wait for.

“I would wait forever for an invitation to play basketball with Larry Bird,” our new AG and former pro player, Maura Healey, tells me. But she “wouldn’t wait a second to leave the country if Donald Trump becomes president.” Yeah, but if that happened, the lines at the exits would be endless.

Here’s another noted athlete, marathoner and Police Commissioner Bill Evans: “I wouldn’t wait in line to get into a restaurant because, as you can see, I am not a big eater. But I would wait in line at Modern Pastry to pick up cannolis for my wife.” Evans weighs in at 133. If I were you, commish, I’d eat one of those cream-filled delights on the way home.

And then there’s the guy for whom tens of thousands wait for hours every July 4, the Boston Pops’ Keith Lockhart. What would you refuse to wait for, Maestro? “Everything!” (Except for his child, who arrived three days late.) But, I ask him, wouldn’t you wait in line for 18 hours to get a good seat on the Esplanade to watch you? “Tell you the truth, I am deeply grateful for those who do, but I’m not a crowd guy, so I probably wouldn’t be among them.”

Advertisement



We all despise waiting, right? Some think not. In research done by Harvard Business School’s Michael Norton, waiting is preferred to not waiting when what he calls the labor illusion — the sense that effort is being expended to satisfy your request — is in play. Really, professor?

“It’s a trade-off,” Norton tells me. “It’s true we hate waiting, but we also love the feeling of being the boss — so we’re happy to wait as long as we know someone is laboring away for us.” Yeah, I guess I’d be happy to wait at a movie theater if the employees carried me inside in a sedan chair.

So, is it hopeless? Are we fated to live and die in Boston, Land of the Eternal Wait?

There may be one alternative — hire someone to do it for you. TaskRabbit is one company that will hop to the rescue. Jamie Viggiano is VP of marketing for the 21-city chore-doing operation that started right here in Boston. She says you can rent a “tasker” for approximately $20 an hour to wait in your stead for anything. The most common task involves waiting for a new Apple product (a tasker stood in line for four days in San Francisco in 2012 to get the first iPhone for a shopper). For Boston restaurants, taskers most frequently stand in line for Neptune Oyster. Can’t explain it, I just report it.

But short of paying for a stand-in, there seems to be no light at the end of the backed-up O’Neill Tunnel. Those two guys, Vladimir and Estragon, waited forever for Godot, who apparently never showed. They’d feel right at home here in Boston.

Advertisement



Other ways Americans use time in an average day

>7.8 hrs working

>2.1+ hrs doing household chores

>2.8 hrs watching TV

>43 min socializing

Source:Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Time Use Survey 2014

Jim Braude is host of Greater Boston on WGBH and co-host of WGBH’s Boston Public Radio on 89.7 FM. You can follow him on Twitter @jimbraude. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.