The Art of Hesitation

Have you heard the saying, “She who hesitates is lost”? It’s one of those motivational phrases you see on energy bars or that your 14-year-old yells while you’re waiting to turn left into the arcade parking lot. It’s a pithy little phrase meant to inspire bold action. But like most oft-quoted snippets, it’s not always true.

Sometimes you eat the energy bar, only to end up shouting adrenaline-fueled suggestions throughout your afternoon meetings. Sometimes you lunge for an opening in traffic and cut off an overloaded soccer mom who flips your kids the bird.

She who hesitates is not always lost. Sometimes, like the proverbial tortoise and hare, she who hesitates wins.

I have found this to be especially true when it comes to travel. By lingering at the back of the Hobbiton tour, I got the best pictures and extra time to explore without anyone telling me to stop touching everything. By bringing up the rear of our spelunking group, I got more time to savor the glittering glowworm sky. And because I was at the back of the whitewater rafting queue, I saw firsthand how not to flip the boat and got to enjoy the rapids without everyone else piling up behind me.

Being first is overrated. Most of the time.

A few years ago, my husband and I attended “Breakfast with the Koalas” at the Sydney Zoo. I’m an absolute sucker for this stuff. Wildlife and food – what could be better?!

On the big day, we arrived to find a small crowd of around 30 attendees. We located our seats and breakfast was served – a veritable buffet of savory delights for the guests and eucalyptus leaves for the koalas, who soon appeared on their climbing poles, ready to (slowly) chow down.

Our fellow humans quickly abandoned their warm meals and swarmed the methodically munching koalas. The human barricade of flashing cell phones wrapped around the small koala enclosures three- or four-people-deep, all jostling for a better vantage point from which to capture the perfect Instagram image.

Oblivious to all the attention, the koalas chewed their leaves and meandered slowly from one vegetation cluster to the next. Beneath, their human visitors ogled and posed, the snapping of cameras fused into a red-carpet buzz. A woman in front won the selfie jackpot when one curious koala reached down and gently toyed with her hair.

It’s easy to get swept up in all this. But as a veteran traveler, I knew to let the flurry of activity pass. I’d wait for the chaos to die down while I enjoyed my beautiful breakfast, then step in for maximum experiential enjoyment. Let everyone else flame out fast – I wanted a more in-depth, less crowded and much more memorable experience. 

What I didn’t know is that koalas don’t care about being first or last – or selfies for that matter. They only want two things in this world: food and sleep. And, as I would soon discover, there is very little time between the two. When the crowd of selfie-snapping tourists cleared, it revealed a pack of peacefully slumbering marsupials.

I left my breakfast and took my place, now first in a queue of one. The koalas remained completely stationary, dangling from the trees like over-sauced drunkards. You could barely see them breathe.

Dismayed, I snapped a few halfhearted pics. I had hesitated … and lost. No koalas creeping along the tightrope. No koalas munching leaves. No koalas playing with my hair.

I turned around and snapped a solitary selfie, which was when I noticed a slight movement in the frame, just over my left shoulder. It was barely perceptible. I turned around to confirm and sure enough, there was movement. One comatose koala was unconsciously pooing.

The other girl got “friendly koala plays with hair.” I got “dreaming koala defecates.”

Well, kind of.

The effort proved far too taxing for the unconscious critter, which halted midway. It slumbered happily onward upon its perch, its last digested meal dangling blearily from its behind.

Don’t stop there, I thought. Push through! Don’t you know, she who hesitates is lost?

Forty minutes later, both koala and poo were dangling in exactly the same place. Turns out, the saying doesn’t apply to koalas. Poo now, poo later, or stretch it out over the hours in between – either way, you’re still a koala and your next meal is just a slumber away – whether you hesitate or not.

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