Ever since Erma Bombeck wrote her classic book, “Everything I Know about Animal Behavior I Learned in Loehmann’s Dressing Room”, I have been updating the title in my mind. I could have learned it on the freeways in Los Angeles, I could have learned it in the line at Costco, I certainly could have learned it at the DMV and it suggests one of the reasons that Toys ‘R Us went bankrupt!

Based on my experience yesterday, I’ve added a new player to the list.

There is a new candidate for bringing out the worst in my fellow human beings: “Everything I Know about Animal Behavior I Learned at the Apple Store”! It’s not that the staff wasn’t unfailingly polite; they were. It’s not they weren’t organized; they were. It’s not that they were unfair; they weren’t.

We seem to have lost all ability to wait our turn and any semblance of patience.

Nevertheless we seem to have lost all ability to wait our turn and any semblance of patience. We seem to be oblivious to the existence of others in the store, others whose needs (or at the very least) time slot may trump ours and, despite all the opportunities on our iphones, ipads or any other iproduct that was the reason for our entry to the store, we seem to have lost all ability to entertain ourselves.

The Apple store I visited was actually in the middle of a large shopping mall. The staff courteously entered my name onto their appointment list and not only gave me a time slot but offered to text me when I was next in line so that I wasn’t forced to sit, aimless and bored (we’ll get to that in a moment) in the store. With unexpected time on my hands and about 100 stores facing me, I was able to successfully put a dent in our bank balance as I (patiently!) waited my turn.

My desire to shop was limited so I returned to the store ahead of my appointment, prepared to reply to some emails, send a few others and read a book on my Kindle. I was neither bored nor aimless and really only unsure about which activity to focus on.

But my ability to concentrate was limited by the noise and activity of my fellow customers, mostly by their moaning and groaning and complaining, by their fidgeting in their seats, by their loud sighs of frustration, by their constant approaches to the sales staff. It reminded me of traveling with small children whose constant refrain is “Are we there yet?”

Not content to keep their kvetching to themselves, some customers began to loudly complain. “I’ve been waiting for an hour and a half!” demanded one. “That’s because you came two hours before your appointment,” a store assistant calmly explained. “Can’t you just check this for me?” begged another (code for “Can’t you take me out of turn?”) “Why don’t you have more staff?” grumbled yet another discontented visitor, amidst a sea of red-shirted employees.

Meanwhile I marveled. And I was sad. With more opportunities than ever to keep ourselves entertained, almost everyone in the store was at a loss. They weren’t playing games, they weren’t reading, they weren’t sitting and introspecting. It was time completely wasted. I imagine the same people complain that they never get a minute to themselves, that they don’t have time to breathe etc. Yet when that time is actually there, they are unprepared to take advantage of it.

But equally troubling as the wasted time was the abject lack of patience and inability to bear the slightest frustration. I was amazed by their sense of entitlement and unrealistic expectations.

Patience is an essential quality for almost everything important in life, particularly relationships and character building. Based on what I witnessed yesterday, I’m concerned it’s becoming a rare commodity.

Many years ago, a friend of mine was waiting for delivery of a prescription from the pharmacy. This was way back in the day when there were local pharmacies that made home deliveries. Frustrated by the pharmacy’s slow response, she kept calling to ask where her medication was. When it finally arrived, there was a little note inside the bag alongside the prescription. It read “Patience is a virtue.” Perhaps they should put that sign on the wall in the Apple store.