Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Instant Gratification

When was the last time you had to wait more than a few minutes or hours, or maybe a day or two for anything?

When was the last time you saved up for something?

I know, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? That is, if you’re a proper, bona fide grown-up. If you’re a kid, or if you have kids, there’s a good chance that pretty much anyone under, say twenty-one has never really waited for anything.

We used to wait for things all the time. We used to save up.

My first ever job was as a Saturday girl in a shoe shop. Fewer than half-a-dozen transactions on the average Saturday were complete by credit card, everything else was done by cash or cheque. Can you imagine that? Real money! I used to save up for several weeks for a dress I might be hankering for. In fact, I always wore the smallest size, so if the dress was expensive, I would usually wait for the sales, confident that at least one would be available at the discounted prize in my size. That was in the days when there were two sale periods a year: in January and June. So, I might have to wait for months. That was OK, it just gave me longer to save. Fads and fancies didn’t come and go quite so fast, then, either.

We waited for films, too, back in the day. For example. ET was premiered in the US in June of 1982, but not in the UK until December of ’82. It wasn’t shown on the television in the UK until Christmas Day 1990. It’s wasn’t unusual to wait five years or more for a film to hit the tv screens, especially in the days before video and satellite when we all watched the same three channels, and all watched the same shows at the same time on the same nights. Shows had viewing figures in the millions, sometimes in the tens of millions.

You might like your daily doses of instant gratification, but some of us remember anticipation, and, trust me, it was a lot more fun. People, these days, think of waiting for something as a pain in the arse, I think of it as a chance to enjoy the opportunity to anticipate its arrival, to wait with baited breath, to become increasingly excited, to enjoy the build-up of tension.

I still do it sometimes.

I do a little of each. I will enjoy buying something when I see it, so that new dress has its moment of instant gratification, and then it will sit in my wardrobe, with the tags on, until I have just the right occasion to wear it, and, do you know what? That can still take weeks.

So, the next time you can’t find the book you’re looking for at your local bookstore, or that dress in your size, don’t resort to the internet for a next day delivery. Why not order through the shop and wait... oh, I don’t know... three to five days for something to arrive in-store and then another day or two to go and collect it, and enjoy a the wait. 

Go on... Live a little.

By the way, I'm celebrating today. Some time, over night, my stats ticked over 100,000 hits on the blog. How cool is that?


  1. I think there's a lot of stuff out there that still provides plenty of anticipation, though in many cases the cause of the anticipation has shifted.

    More so than ever, the always-on connected world tells you what's coming up. You don't see an album in a shop and save up to buy it; instead you'll have seen updates on a band's website that they've started recording a new album, be drip-fed little snippets and await the day for it to finally be released.

    As a board game fan, I've bought games but been forced to wait weeks to play them due to opportunity or people's availability. But then these board game nights become proper occasions worthy of anticipation themselves.

    And recently I've started backing projects on Kickstarter. It's laced with anticipation, from the initial 'will it even get funded' stage right through to the final product being released possibly months down the line.

    Yes, I agree there's less call for waiting in this service-oriented, instantly gratifying world, but there's always something worth waiting for. Although now it's now more waiting for the object to exist than to save up to obtain it.

    1. Well said, and that argument rather renews my faith in the restorative properties of a dollop of good old-fashioned anticipation. Bravo!

  2. Waiting does more than just increase happiness; it is one of the gatekeepers to long-term happiness itself.

    Psychological studies have shown that even waiting 5 minutes before making a decision results in a better awareness of consequences. So the things we are prepared to wait for, are the things we really want for at least the medium haul.

  3. Being unemployed I've found ways to increase my fun spending. One of them is a particular brand of online survey taking that pays out in amazon vouchers. There is something great about clicking that last click and waiting for a "free" thing to arrive from the internet.