The elderly woman who runs the carousel at the beach had two remarkable features: deep wrinkles from too many summers in the sun and hot pink lipstick. A few years from now it is likely that I will only vaguely recall what she looked like, but I think I'll always remember her actions.
I stood between Reese and Brooke after they had mounted their horses. With my hands resting lightly on the small of their backs, I listened to the unmistakable carousel music and waited for the bell to signal the ride's start.
The bell rang. The carousel began to turn and then abruptly stopped. One more child had run toward the ride, and the attendant slowed it down in order to usher him through the entrance, help him onto his horse, and fasten his safety belt. Two more kids approached, and she let them on as well, slowly assisting each onto their horses, meticulously buckling them, and walking back to her station. She rang the bell once more, only to postpone it yet again when another girl neared.
Oh, come on, I caught myself thinking. They can catch the next ride.
Although impatient, it was a valid thought. The carousel ride only lasts a minute or two, tops. Those children could have waited at the gate, their hands gripping the rail, their faces peeking between the bars. They would have gotten on the next ride and been no worse the wear from the wait.
Then I thought about those mornings when I had run to catch the bus on my way to work, my heels clattering on the pavement as I picked up my pace. Some bus drivers pulled away regardless. They were on a schedule, and they were sticking to it. I'd wait the extra eight minutes until the next bus came, no worse the wear from the wait.
Still, how much nicer it was on the mornings when the bus driver stopped, reopened the door, and welcomed me aboard. I'd smile as I mounted the steps, offer a grateful thanks, and settle into my seat. Those days I felt as though I had won, as though I were eight minutes ahead of the game.
The carousel attendant must have known this. She had been attending that ride long enough to know that patience should trump punctuality, especially when dealing with children. It was her most remarkable feature, even brighter than the lipstick.