As a parent, I am very familiar with the question, “Are we there yet, Dad?” It amazes me how distorted our perception of time can become, even as an adult. Of course, time flies when you’re having fun. It’s clear that our perception of the passage of time depends on how we spend it.
Following a recent surgery I performed, I sat in the surgical waiting room with my patient’s family to share the details of their loved one’s procedure. A few feet away, I overheard a small boy impatiently ask his father “just how long did it take for them to build?” I immediately knew that the father had told his son that Rome was not built in a day. Clearly, the little boy did not understand the comparison. Perhaps he even thought that Rome was built in less than a day. After all, a day can be a very long time when you are waiting to see your mom.
To a patient, the surgical experience can seem like a time warp. To those in the waiting room, it can seem like an eternity. I always try to set reasonable expectations, but it is often difficult to predict the total preparatory, surgical, and recovery time. I often make a deal with my patients’ loved ones: if they don’t watch the clock, then neither will I. They usually take that deal.