Smith, the Refined Art of Waiting
Lily Samuels ’11
My lower back is perpetually
strained. Perhaps it is due to the fact that my knees are
often locked as I stand in line, tapping my right foot, waiting,
somewhere on the Smith campus. (Though, to be fair, it could
just as easily be because I slouch at my desk and don’t do
“It’s an expected annoyance,” says Allison Maguire ’11 about waiting at Smith.
Annoying, perhaps, but waiting
in line is part of life. At Smith, we
encounter winding lines all through our academic and social
life. We wait “for
people to come take their stuff out of the two working dryers
while we’re trying
to do laundry on a Thursday night,” recounts
Tess Zinnes ’11. We wait at the Campus Center Café, sleepily
fumbling to pay for coffee before a 9 a.m. class, or at Chapin ‘Grab ‘n’ Go’ lunch
line, desperate for a chicken Caesar wrap and a quick exit.
We wait at the Registrar’s Office
in College Hall to submit our add/drop
forms before the office closes. We even wait in line for
the compost bucket in the dining hall, determined to do right
by the environment, even if it means having to sprint to
In fretting over these exercises
in patience (while again waiting), I was struck by the thought
of the mini-communities that are created when we wait—the
fleeting-yet-meaningful connections forged among people in
Two examples come to mind. Smithies
of all class years undoubtedly remember their first time
at Central Check-In—the
daunting arrival on campus, the entrance into the yawning
ITT, and the immediate herding into this or that line, accompanied
by 600 other first-years. Though I have forgotten the faces
in the winding lines from that day in 2007, I recall feeling
grateful for the sense of mutuality we shared, the camaraderie
and diversity forming our common ground.
A second example
of community springing up around our planted feet can be
found four years later, at Commencement. The graduates, learned
and robed, stand in their last line at Smith, anticipating
the bestowal of that coveted diploma. In this case, I’d imagine,
they are content to wait with their soon-to-be fellow alums,
shuffling forward, engaging in charged moments of reflection
as they approach a destination they have shared all along.
I pause now, as a Smith senior,
anticipating that day, and remember my own long and often
lumbering journey through the liberal arts experience. Be
it the process of crafting a major, writing a thesis, or
just retaining sanity, I have learned that there is rarely
a straight line to be found between two points in life. If
one is lucky enough to find such a line, she will probably
have to wait in it.
With that thought, I take my
place in another line, looking at the shoes and sometimes
bare feet—this is Smith, don’t forget—in
front of and behind me, and I take comfort that I’m not alone.
I smile. Then I unlock my knees.