Worth the Wait

Soon after the opening of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in 1971, a child could recreate the iconic golden-ticket chocolate bar by sending enough cereal box tops and a check for shipping and handling to a post office box in a faraway town. You were instructed to wait four to six weeks for delivery, and you did. No confirmation or tracking number was forthcoming and reaching out to someone to check on the status of your order was unheard of. As a 10-year-old, I found the wait excruciating. When the precious package finally arrived, there was a sigh of relief from my mom and shouts of joy from my brother and me. The kit was utterly unremarkable—a cheap piece of plastic shaped into a candy-bar mold and a few yellow slips of paper. We melted semi-sweet chocolate chips in the double boiler, poured the prized liquid into the molds, and stuck them into our freezer. Again, we waited. The bars didn’t look quite like they did when Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka tempted his eager guests, but it didn’t matter. We experienced nirvana as we became intrepid chocolatiers after a month-long wait.

The skill of waiting seems like a lost art today. Information on our phones, the speed of delivery services, the ways we watch television ensure we don’t have to pause at all, or, at least, not for very long. And if the wait tests our patience, we have numerous ways to track down an answer. Social media rants can also elicit a response if the various customer service avenues, often bereft of any human interaction, fail. Are we better off? Perhaps. 

Impatience, however, is one of the sad offshoots of this drive for instant gratification. We indulge it and sometimes pander to the exasperation we encounter when the responses are not quick and definitive enough; “please accept my apologies…” litter our emails and texts. There is certainly a place for the rapid response—whether in communication or supply change management—but I would offer we should be wary of its allure. Sending away for the Willy Wonka chocolate bar kit, enduring the interminable weeks of anticipation, and reveling in the joy of crafting our own imperfect but precious treats would not have been so memorable or if it had all happened in an instant. The chocolate tasted better too!