Waiting

In Samuel Beckett’s famous two-act tragicomedy “Waiting for Godot,” two scruffy men stand beneath a scraggly tree and scrap with each other for two hours while they anxiously await the arrival of the mysterious Godot.

This Godot (pronounced GOD-oh) continually sends word that he will appear, but he never does. The two men, Vladimir and Estragon, keep waiting.

At the end of the play, Estragon says, “I can’t go on like this.”

“That’s what you think,” Vladimir responds.

In her brilliant analysis of the play, “Why We Keep Waiting for Godot,” on Literary Hub, Shannon Reed writes: “What Vladimir means—what Beckett meant, writing just after the end of World War II—is that we’ll go on because that’s what we humans do. It’s not beautiful or hopeful, necessarily. It just is.”

I’ve been thinking about this play – the Theatre of the Absurd’s first theatrical success – a lot lately as we’ve all been living through what feels like an absurdly long season of waiting: Waiting for a return to “normal” that likely may never come.

Speaking for myself, from my vantage point as an American retiree in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, I’m waiting (read: yearning) for this charming old colonial city to come back to life – for the many churches’ bells to chime again, the wedding processions to dance in the streets again, the handsome mariachis’ serenades to fill the evening air again, the beautiful parks and Jardin to open their gates again, and, yes, even the international tourists to return.

I’m waiting for my beloved Biblioteca Publica (public library) to open its hulking wooden front doors again. I’m waiting for the day when I can throw my well-worn face masks away. I’m waiting, I confess a little impatiently, for the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions to be lifted.

This is not, by any means, a criticism of the municipal government’s response to the pandemic, which, in my view, has been not only admirable but heroic. To date, the total death count in SMA is ten, and every precaution seems to be taken to ensure that the numbers don’t rise. There are signs everywhere exhorting the public to wear face masks, and the vast majority of people comply. Social distancing is the new norm.

One of the wear-face-masks signs in centro

This week I experienced the installation of inflated plastic portals at all of the entry points into the city’s center through which one has to walk. These large portals emit a fine mist of water mixed with an antibacterial sanitizer (I was told) all over each entrant’s body (but not enough to seriously wet one’s hair or clothing, I found). The top of each of these portals reads, “TODOS JUNTOS [All Together] San Miguel de Allende.”

One of the “Todos Juntos” portals

If only, I can’t help but think, the U.S.A.’s response to the coronavirus could be as seemingly unified. Todos juntos appears to be an exceptionally foreign concept north of the border these days.

We Norteamericanos are also not known for our patience. We’re good at many things, but waiting isn’t one of them. In his newsletter of July 22, New York Times Opinion writer Frank Bruni claims that we Americans are “tragically” impatient. “If we’re tyrannized by anything, it’s our demand for immediate gratification,” he writes. “That mind-set has robbed us of the necessary discipline and endurance to fight this pandemic.”

Every morning, when I say my please- and thank-you prayers before heading out for the day, I beg (my conception of) God for patience – as well as endurance, fortitude, compassion, and wisdom – because I never seem to have enough of these.

Impatience, I know, won’t hasten the end of this pandemic. It won’t shorten the wait time. We must go on waiting for our own Godot, because “that’s what we humans do.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My new puppet, Count Blessings (for the backstory, see my earlier post, www.bonnieleeblack.com/blog/count-blessings/ ) is here now, standing around — well, propped up by a wine bottle — waiting for school to start, waiting to make his debut.

Count Blessings waiting around

He’s more patient than I am, however. I’ve been told that school will resume here in SMA on August 24th. But who knows, really? The pandemic has a mind of its own. In the meantime, Count Blessings, being who he is, is spending his time counting his blessings — the main ones being that he’s alive and well. I’m trying to take a lesson from him.

20 thoughts on “Waiting”

  1. Oh Bonniedear, thank you for speaking for all of us. I can feel your longing to have SMA be itself again. We are all longing for the freedom of life unrestricted. Thank you for the reminder, too, to count our blessings, because living in such beautiful places as we do, there is still so much to be thankful for. Still, it’s OK to feel the yearning once in a while. I feel yours, and I feel my own. That’s what good writing’s supposed to do, eh Maestra? Much love to you…

    1. Thank you so much, dearest Be, for your kind and empathic words! Yes, we need to keep counting our blessings because we’re still alive and well. Much love back to you…

  2. Just came back from California and I am amazed that SMA is doing such a good job compared to US. Nice to be back – 2 week quarantine for me!

  3. Great article! Well stated….and together we can do this. And, if one has to be ‘stuck’ somewhere, San Miguel de Allende is one of the best places to be ‘stuck’. With so many outdoor restaurants with good food, callejones waiting to be discovered, flowers in full bloom, and the wonderful people – it’s a good place to be.

  4. Dear Bon,

    I admire your city’s response. It should be taken as seriously here. Things in Mass. seem stable, and we are putting together back-to-school plans, but no one knows what the future holds. I am reassured to hear you are living somewhere that takes this virus seriously.

    Love,
    Paul

  5. Well said, Bonnie! I remember, when I was serving in the Peace Corps in Guatemala, the Guatemaltecos talked about “:Gringo tiempo” (Gringo time), when referring to our impatience.

  6. Love this piece, Bonnie! One of the positive “lessons” I take from the waiting is a greater appreciation for people I love, spending times with a cat in my lap, a dog by my side, and looking out on our view. And just breathing in the quiet. But I also get the yearning, the desire for activity, and the liveliness of the fiestas and markets down here!

  7. Your words and thoughts echo in my thoughts as I am sure they do in many readers thoughts. Humans just keep going on from day to day, with their thoughts spinning around in their heads. Some of them express them in different ways, others speak up while others just take each day as it comes keeping their different emotions and thoughts to themselves, but one can see them written on their faces leaving one to ponder about their past and present lives. Covid19 has left the world in a state of economic disaster which will take years probably to recover from. Social upheavals are beginning to surface around the world. Each and every one of us has being impacted in some way or other by this pandemic. However I wonder how this pandemic will impact on the human emotions and behaviour in the future. Or, being the fickle creations we are, IF and when it is all over, will we just continue our lives and the Pandemic will enter into the vast books of history and sociology studies. Will the humans have learnt any lessons? I could ramble on and on, but I am sure you get my gist.

    Thanks for your thought provoking and interesting articles. I am enjoying them. Melanie Hurst, put me on your mailing list. Lots of water under the bridge. I am stuck in South Africa since the beginning of the pandemic and cannot get back to Paris my place of residence, since I left Rhodesia 50 years ago!

    1. Merci, Ann, for your thoughts! I so appreciate your sharing them, and I agree with you. I wonder, too, whether in the future people will even bother to read about this pandemic in the history books’ accounts of it. How many people today were aware of the pandemic of 1918 before this one struck?

  8. Hi BB, and thanks for another lovely essay. I find the divisions and lack of leadership in these times jarring and awful. But. . . it’s only because the divisions are blooming into full sight, isn’t it?

    No one really knows the number of George Floyds and Breonna Taylors there have been until cell phone cameras began making some of them visible to all of us less than a decade ago! So the divisions were systemic and foundational, so much so that even Barack Obama couldn’t address them as boldly as he felt he should.

    Last night I watched a TV program revealing the NBA players and staffs cocooned in a bubble in Orlando ahead of their first games after months of quarantine, and the subject was solely on their decision to unite to make their voices explicit by having Black Lives Matter painted on every home court, and having their own choices of ten or twelve protests stitched onto their jerseys; I Can’t Breathe, No Justice, No Peace, etc. The NBA is ~75% Black.

    That, as well as the last few days of constant network TV coverage of John Lewis’s life and legacy, makes me glad we’re experiencing a broadening of protest, and coverage of it and of its attempted repression by the Repubs, so that sunshine and speech is being directed at what minorities and women have borne without empathy and political support from White Male control, as long as we Boomers have been alive.
    End of sermon!

    1. Thank you for your Sunday “sermon,” dear Steve! 🙂 We all need to be reminded of how things have changed and are still changing, incrementally at least, for the better.

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