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   Date: 9/24/10 Bookmark and Share

At Smith, the Refined Art of Waiting

By 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 enough yoga.)

“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 practice afterward.

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 line.

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.

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