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15 Scientific Tricks to Make Waiting Easier

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Waiting in line is a miserable experience in most situations, but it’s a boon for social psychologists who want to study group dynamics. A bunch of strangers in a stressful, annoying situation trapped for long periods of time are great for data collection. Scientists haven’t figured out how to eliminate long lines entirely, but they have spent many decades figuring out what makes the experience slightly more bearable. Here are 15 scientific tricks that might make your wait a little easier. 

1. Turn on some music. 

Several studies find that listening to music can reduce the stress of waiting, whether you’re stuck in line or anxious to hear your name called in a hospital waiting room. Even if the music isn’t necessarily your favorite band, it can make the experience more bearable. In one study, callers who listened to panpipe music were willing to wait on hold for 20 percent longer than people who only heard a verbal message warning them that there was a wait. 

2. Bring a friend. 

In a 1992 study, participants who socialized during a 10-minute wait did not find the interval stressful. In comparison, people who waited with strangers and kept to themselves experienced stress (which was then alleviated by listening to music). The same rationale can apply to waiting for longer periods of time, like anticipating an upcoming trip. Fill your downtime with social events and the wait won’t feel as long. 

3. Be mindful. 

Scientists find that mindfulness can help ease anxiety and stress—feelings that can kick into overdrive during a wait. When you’re stuck behind a dozen families trying to mail that package at the post office on the Saturday before Christmas, try a little mindfulness meditation. Focus on your breathing and the present moment, and try to let go of any thoughts that pop into your head. 

4. Think about that money-back guarantee. 

When companies guarantee to serve their customers within a certain amount of time—like with a 30-minutes-or-less pizza delivery—making good on that guarantee makes customers feel more satisfied with their experience than they would be if they had not been quoted a maximum time. So if you’re promised a 30-minute wait for your pizza but you get it in 25, you’ll be happier. 

5. Accept that waiting is unavoidable. 

People need to feel that waiting is fair and equitable, or it feels even more intolerable. (Think about any time you’ve been at the back of a long line only to see someone cut to the front.) When waiting is seen as unavoidable (such as when a flight gets snowed in or when a crowded restaurant has a wait for a table), it’s more tolerable than when there’s no discernible reason for the wait or when it seems like it could be easily avoided (like when there’s a crowd waiting at a checkout with no cashiers). It may not be pleasant, but people generally feel more at peace with a long wait if they know why it’s happening and feel that it’s an inexorable part of the experience. 

6. Take a deep breath. 

You don’t have to go fully into meditation mode to calm down. Try just breathing. Take slow, deep, even breaths from your abdomen. This lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood and kicks off the body’s relaxation response, lowering blood pressure and anxiety levels and making you feel calm. 

7. Think of it as practice. 

Patience is related to self-control, which some studies have found can be bolstered by practice. For instance, in one study of smokers, people who exercised self-control regularly for two weeks by avoiding desserts were more successful at quitting tobacco than people who didn’t practice self-control. So think of exercising patience as being kind of like going out for a run. It’s unpleasant, but the next time you need to run up the stairs or deal with a truly frustrating situation, the training might come in handy.

8. Remember that the wait feels longer than it is. 

Uncertainty, anxiety, and boredom all make waiting feel even longer. Not having anything to do while you wait in line for an unknown amount of time (except wonder if you’ll be late to work) will make your wait feel eternal. Psychology studies regularly find that people overestimate the time they spend waiting. Just remember that it’s not as bad as you think it is. 

9. If there’s a way to estimate your wait time, do it. 

People who look at real-time information about when buses are arriving do not perceive their wait time to be as long as those who have no idea when the bus will come. In one study, Seattle bus riders who used a real-time transit information app that kept them apprised of how many minutes away the bus was estimated their wait time to be 30 percent shorter than people who used traditional bus schedules (which don’t take delays into account). 

10. Admire the efficiency of the waiting experience. 

Fast food restaurants are very deliberate in the way they design their drive-thru windows. The customer orders at one window, then has to drive around the building to pay and pick up food (sometimes at separate windows). This means that different customers can be ordering, paying for, and receiving their orders all at the same time at various points in the line, reducing the backup created when people are fumbling for change or are slow in taking their food and driving away. Having to drive from one window to the other fills the wait time between ordering and receiving your food, too. 

11. Look for single lines that feed into multiple counters. 

One of the things that annoys people most about waiting is the perception that the line is not fair—that you won’t be served in the order you arrived. Feeling that a wait is unfair makes the time pass even slower. However, single lines that feed into multiple counters (like at the check-in counter at an airport or at a bank, where everyone waits in the same place for their turn with one of several available clerks) are perceived as significantly more fair. No one has to worry about whether they accidentally chose the wrong checkout line and got stuck behind that one slow person counting out pennies on the counter.  

12. Practice anxiety reduction. 

Anxiety is one of the key emotions that makes waiting feel even longer. If you’re anxiously awaiting some future event, try an anxiety management technique like deep muscle relaxation. In this exercise, you sit or lie in a quiet space, close your eyes, and focus on tightening and relaxing all the muscles in your body, one by one. Regular practice will help you get the most out of this stress reduction activity. 

13. Imagine the experience you’re about to have. 

Waiting is more pleasurable when you’re anticipating a coming event than when you’re waiting to make a purchase, psychologists find. Part of this may be because when anticipating an experience, you think about it in abstract terms: You can imagine all the possibilities of your upcoming vacation, while you know exactly what you’ll do with your new pair of pants. Being able to visualize the different scenarios and feelings that will arise makes waiting more pleasurable. 

14. Pay attention to anything but the wait. 

Studies find that watching the clock makes a wait feel longer. When waiting is the primary task, people estimate the time period to be longer than when they’re doing something else. So try to concentrate on something—anything—else. 

15. Think about it in terms of delayed gratification. 

While people like anticipating experiences more than anticipating buying products, waiting to buy something can still be enjoyable. All that waiting can make a purchase feel more valuable and important. Instead of thinking about being at the end of a long checkout line or not being able to buy that new phone until next year, think about all the enjoyment you’ll experience once you finally have it in your possession. 

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Shout! Factory
10 Surprising Facts About Mr. Mom
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

John Hughes penned the script for 1983's Mr. Mom, a comedy about a family man named Jack Butler (Micheal Keaton) who loses his job. To ensure their three kids are taken care of, his wife, Caroline (Teri Garr), goes back to work—leaving Jack to fight off a vacuum cleaner and learn why it's never a good idea to feed chili to a baby.

In 1982, Keaton turned in a star-making role in Ron Howard’s Night Shift, but Mr. Mom marked the first time he headlined a movie, and it launched his career. Hughes had written National Lampoon's Vacation, which—oddly enough—was released in theaters the weekend after Mr. Mom. But Hughes himself was still a relative unknown, as it would be another year before he entered the teen flick phase of his career, which would make him iconic.

In the meantime, Mr. Mom hit home for a lot of viewers, as the economy was on the downturn and more and more women were entering (or reentering) the workforce. But some people think that the movie's ending—which sees the couple revert to traditional gender roles—sidelined the movie's message. Still, on the 35th anniversary of its release, Mr. Mom remains an ahead-of-its-time comedy classic.

1. IT'S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

Mr. Mom producer Lauren Shuler Donner came across a funny article John Hughes had written for National Lampoon. Based on that, she contacted him and the two became friends. “One day, he was telling me that his wife had gone down to Arizona and he was in charge of the two boys and he didn’t know what he was doing,” Donner told IGN. “It was hilarious! I was on the floor laughing. He said, ‘Do you think this would make a good movie?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, this is really funny.’ So he said, ‘Well, I have about 80 pages in a drawer. Would you look at it?’ So I looked at it and I said, ‘This is great! Let’s do it!’ We kind of developed it ourselves.” In the book Movie Moguls Speak, Donner mentioned how Hughes “had never been to a grocery store, he had never operated a vacuum cleaner. John was so ignorant, that in his ignorance, he was hilarious.”

The players involved with the movie told Donner and Hughes they thought it should be a TV movie. Hughes had a TV deal with Aaron Spelling, who came aboard to executive produce. “Then the players involved were upset because John was writing out of Chicago instead of L.A.,” Donner said in Movie Moguls Speak. “They fired John and brought in a group of TV writers. In the end, John and I were muscled out. It was a good movie, but if you ever read John’s original script for Mr. Mom, it’s far better.”

2. JOHN HUGHES REJECTED THE IDEA OF DIRECTING MR. MOM.

Stan Dragoti ended up directing the film, but only after Hughes turned it down, because he preferred to make his movies in Chicago, not Hollywood. “I don’t like being around the people in the movie business,” Hughes told Roger Ebert. “In Hollywood, you spend all of your time having lunch and making deals. Everybody is trying to shoot you down. I like to get my actors out here where we can make our movies in privacy.” Hughes remained in Chicago and filmed his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, there.

3. MICHAEL KEATON GOT THE ROLE BECAUSE OF NIGHT SHIFT.

In 1982’s Night Shift, Keaton’s character works at a morgue and starts a prostitution ring with co-worker Henry Winkler. Donner had an agent friend, Laurie Perlman, who represented the not-yet-famous actor. She contacted Donner and pitched Keaton to her. “’Look, I represent this guy who is really funny. Would you meet with him?’" Donner recalled of the conversation. "So I met with him. Usually I don’t like to do this unless we’re casting, but I met with him because she was my friend. And then she said, ‘You have to see this movie Night Shift that he’s in.’ So I went to see Night Shift, and midway through I couldn’t wait to get out of that theater to give Mr. Mom to Michael Keaton. Fortunately, he liked it."

Keaton told Grantland that he turned down one of the main roles in Splash to play Jack Butler. “I just remember at the time thinking I wanted to get away from what I’d just done on Night Shift,” he said. “I thought if I do it again, I might get myself stuck. So then Mr. Mom came along. So I said no [to Splash] so I could set up this framework right away where I could do different things.”

4. THE FILM BROKE NEW GROUND.

Teri Garr, Michael Keaton, Taliesin Jaffe, Frederick Koehler, and Martin Mull in Mr. Mom (1983)
Shout! Factory

In 1983, more women stayed at home than worked, so it was a novelty for a man to be a stay-at-home dad. Today, an estimated 1.4 million men are stay-at-home dads, and 7 million men are their children's primary caregiver. “Mr. Mom became part of the vernacular,” Donner told Newsweek. “Mr. Mom represented a segment of men who were at home dealing with the kids who, up until then, really hadn’t been heard from. That’s what really told me about the power of film, because it spoke for a lot of men. It also helped women, because I think that women sometimes, if you’re a housewife, you’re not really appreciated for what you do. This sort of made women feel better about what they did because they knew that men were understanding it.”

5. TODAY, “MR. MOM” IS CONSIDERED A PEJORATIVE TERM.

More than 30 years after the film’s release, stay-at-home dads feel the term “Mr. Mom” should die. The National At-Home Dad Network launched a campaign to terminate the phrase and instead have people refer to men as “Dad.” In 2014 Lake Superior State University voted to banish “Mr. Mom” from the lexicon.

“At least, the pop-culture image of the inept dad who wouldn’t know a diaper genie from a garbage disposal has begun to fade,” wrote The Wall Street Journal, after declaring “Mr. Mom is dead.”

6. TERI GARR DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A MESSAGE MOVIE.

The movie redefined gender roles, but when the producers pitched the premise to Garr, they hid the plot reversal. “They just told me it was about a guy who does the work that a woman does, because it’s so easy,” she told The A.V. Club. “And I went, ‘Oh, yeah. Ha ha.’ It’s so easy. All the women I know who stay home and take care of their kids, they go, ‘Oh yeah, this is easy.’ Hmm.”

7. MARTIN MULL IMPROVISED THE “220, 221” LINE.

The quote everyone remembers from the movie comes from Jack, holding a chainsaw, standing next to Ron Richardson (Martin Mull) and discussing what kind of wiring Jack will use in renovating the house: “220, 221, whatever it takes,” Jack says.

“We’re doing the scene and it was okay,” Keaton told Esquire. “And I remember saying to the prop guy, ‘Go find me a chainsaw.’ When he comes back with it, he says, ‘You wanna wear these?’ And he holds up some goggles. I go, ‘Yeah.’ You know, they make me look crazy. And when Martin shows up, I know I should look under control, I’m not sweating it. I’m a dude. So we’re standing there, Martin pulls me aside and says, ‘You know what you ought to say? When I ask about the wiring, you oughta just deadpan: ‘220, 221.’ I died. It was perfect. I may have added ‘whatever it takes.’ But it was his.”

“That was a little ad-lib that we just threw in, but every carpenter or construction person I’ve ever worked with, they’re always quoting that line from Mr. Mom,” Mull told The A.V. Club.

8. MR. MOM OUTGROSSED HUGHES’S OTHER 1983 SUMMER MOVIE—VACATION.

Mr. Mom only opened on 126 screens on July 22, 1983, but managed to gross $947,197 during its opening weekend. Once the film went wide a month later to 1235 screens, it hit number one at the box office and spent five weeks at the top. By the end of its run, the film had grossed just shy of $65 million, making it the ninth highest-grossing film of 1983 (just between Staying Alive and Risky Business). National Lampoon’s Vacation, Hughes’s other film that summer, came out July 29 and ended its theatrical run with $61,399,552 (at its height, it showed on 1248 screens). Vacation finished the year in 11th place.

9. THE MOVIE LED TO HUGHES BEING CALLED “A PURVEYOR OF HORNY SEX COMEDIES.”

During a 1986 interview with Seventeen magazine, Molly Ringwald asked the writer-director why he never showed teen sex in Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club. “In Sixteen Candles, I figured it would only be gratuitous to show Samantha and Jake in anything more than a kiss,” he said. “The kiss is the most beautiful moment. I was really amused when someone once called me a ‘purveyor of horny sex comedies.’ He listed The Breakfast Club and Mr. Mom in parentheses. I thought, ‘What kind of sex?’ Yes, in Mr. Mom there’s a baby in a bathtub and you see its bare butt.”

10. MR. MOM WAS MADE INTO A TV MOVIE AFTER ALL.

In the beginning, producers wanted Mr. Mom to be a TV movie, not a feature film. But a year after the film came out in theaters, ABC produced a TV movie called Mr. Mom, with the same characters and premise. Barry Van Dyke played Jack and Rebecca York played Caroline. A People magazine review of the movie stated: “They and their three kids are immediately likable … But it goes downhill from there as the script lobotomizes all its characters. Here’s a textbook case in how TV takes a cute idea—and a script that does have some good lines—and leeches the wit out of it.”

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Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
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Central Press/Getty Images

Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 119th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."


Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."


Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."


By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

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