Tell jokes and stories. Read a book. Or just talk to friends. Not about this. Something else. Something fun.
Wachovia employees, shareholders and customers don't know who will win the battle for the bank, and nothing can totally push aside worries about the future.
But if the waiting is the hardest part – thank you, Tom Petty – there are a few things anxious Wachovia watchers can do to take their minds off the brawl between Citigroup and Wells Fargo and its impact on Charlotte. Take it from people who have learned to be patient with things beyond their control.
Lawyers often spend days or weeks arguing a case, only to be left waiting for a jury to decide a verdict.
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Mark Calloway, a former federal prosecutor who is now a partner in Alston & Bird's Charlotte office, said the best way to endure a stressful wait for someone else to make a big decision is through distraction. He usually trades war stories with peers or reads a book.
“If you sit there every minute in anticipation of the decision, you'll drive yourself and everyone around you crazy,” he said.
Because his firm does work for Wachovia, Calloway couldn't talk about the bank's situation. In general, he said, a wait can be a time to plan, but not if it adds to anxiety. Also, people who won't be affected by a looming decision probably should hold off on questions and suggestions for those who will.
“Just be a good listener,” Calloway said.
With almost 50 years of experience, fishing guide Jerry Neeley of Bessemer City said he usually knows where to take clients to find bass, crappie or catfish in area lakes. But every once in a while, he said, the boat can sit in the same spot for an hour or two, with clients growing more anxious each minute they don't get a bite.
“It's a lot of pressure, mainly on me,” Neeley said. His secret: not letting silence last on his boat. “I have lots and lots of stories to pass the time away.”
“Fishing,” he said, “will teach patience to most anybody.”
So will being a cab driver. As fast as a taxi might get someone to a destination, drivers also must be adept at coping in the downtime between fares.
For Talaksew Temteme of Charlotte, that means reading, listening to music or chatting with other drivers. On slow days, he said, “it could be three hours” before another fare comes along.
That gives cabbies plenty of time to complain, but Temteme said the lack of traffic rarely comes up, mainly because it wouldn't do much good to gripe.
One industry that has seen more waiting games recently is airlines, especially with delays at other airports causing slowdowns in Charlotte. For one US Airways flight attendant, that lack of control is hard to handle.
“I'm not a very patient person,” said Jon Middleton of Charlotte. “I worry about things if I don't have an answer.”
Whenever he and passengers are on a plane that has been stopped on a taxiway for an hour or more, Middleton said he tries to ease the tension with humor.
“That sometimes is the only way I can sort of cope,” he said. “I really do try and distract myself and my customers.”
Middleton can identify with Wachovia employees wondering whether Citi or Wells will end up as their new boss. He was a flight attendant with Piedmont Airlines before it was bought by US Airways, then endured the America West merger and failed bid for Delta Air Lines in recent years.
Those deals brought stress, Middleton said, but dwelling on distant negotiations between executives only made him unhappy at work. Accepting his lack of control was better for his attitude.
“I just sort of step back from it and put it aside,” he said. “Somebody else is going to make the decision, and there's nothing I can do about it.”