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Absurdly Long Wait

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Come on! Where am I supposed to crush candy for the next 46 years?

"Fill out Schedule B. You should receive your burgers in 6 to 8 weeks."
The Simpsons, "Bart the Fink"

You need to wait for things, that's a fact of life and you cannot avoid it. Waiting for an appointment with the doctor, waiting for your pizza, or just waiting for the street light to change. But if you are lucky, you won't have to wait long.

Except in fiction, where you are never lucky, not only you will never wait bare minimum, but the actual time you need to wait will be stupidly long. Things that normally would take hours, at most, will take days, or even weeks! And if something normally takes weeks, can expect to be waiting for a few decades.

This is a comedy trope to put the character in a frustrating situation and show how determined (or dumb) they are for being willing to withstand the wait. Sometimes you can see someone else that has already been waiting. If they have been lucky they might need a shave, if they aren't, they won't need a shave...ever again.


This trope can also be played for drama when a vital question is put on hold for sometimes decades.

Supertrope of Ridiculously Long Phone Hold, Right on Queue, Snail Mail, and Take a Number. Compare Ticket-Line Campout, when the character subjects themselves to an excruciating wait for another benefit, normally simply being first. See also The Bore, when a character is wasting someone else's time by speaking too much. Contrast Instant Home Delivery. Penal equivalent is Longer-Than-Life Sentence.



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  • Brian Regan joked about calling the phone company so he could get his service installed and happy to hear that now they can simply flip a switch to do it.
    Brian: Can you flip it right now?
    Operator: We are gonna flip it Thursday, late, or Friday, or sometime in November.

    Comic Book 
  • Tragically described in Persepolis. Marjane tells the story of a relative who asked for a passport to travel to Germany, where he could cure his cancer. Due to bureaucratic hurdles, the document came after his burial.

    Comic Strips 
  • FoxTrot had an arc where Roger has to go on a business trip. When he finally arrives, his driver is a cobweb-festooned skeleton (actually a costume).
    Roger: You don't have to tell me it was a long flight.
    Driver: Mind if I call the office? We had a pool going on when you'd arrive.

    Fan Works 
  • Olive's Last Partner: Olive and Otto invite Oscar out for lunch, but they end up waiting nine hours for him to finish up with taking ID pictures. The only reason they stay behind is that Olive promised that she and Otto would take Oscar out to eat.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Passengers, the hero prematurely awakes on a Sleeper Ship and sends a Distress Call back to Earth. The system tells him he will have to wait 55 years for a reply due to the huge distances involved.
  • Inverted in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Kirk asks Scotty how long it would take to affect repairs on the Enterprise.
    Scotty: Eight weeks sir! But you don't have eight, so I'll do it for you in two.
    Kirk: Mr. Scott, have you always multiplied your repair factor by four?
    Scotty: Of course, sir; how else can I keep my reputation as a miracle worker?

  • A man had the opportunity to speak with God:
    • Man: "God, how is life for you?"
    • God: "For me, a million years is the same as a second."
    • Man: "And how would you feel about a million dollars?"
    • God: "For me, a million dollars wouldn't be more than a dime."
    • Man: "Would you spare a dime?"
    • God: "Just give me a second."
  • Russian Humor in the Soviet era had a joke where a man goes to the car dealership to buy a car and is told that it will arrive in five years. He asks if it'll arrive in the morning, as the plumber is coming by that afternoon.
  • A common Snipe Hunt is to tell the victim to go ask some third party who's in on it for a "long weight" or "long stand". Instead of an actual piece of equipment, they get to stand around weighting (er, waiting) for a long time—or not, depending on how long it takes them to catch on.

  • Larry Niven's World of Ptavvs. Kzanol is returning to his home planet of Thrintun in a starship. After his ship completes a hyperspace jump, it needs to recharge its batteries to make another jump. Unfortunately for him, the ship's power plant suffers a disastrous malfunction and is destroyed. The ship's brain screen (computer display) shows "Time to recharge battery:" and "Reestimate of trip time to Thrintun:", both followed by a spiral: the Thrint symbol for infinity.
  • In Nineteen Eightyfour, as part of the enforced poverty scheme, it is precised any bureaucratic demand for housing repairs will take around five years. Another example is marriage authorisations, yaking years to conclude.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Married... with Children episode "Rock of Ages" has the Bundys waiting for a flight in the standby section of the airport. The wait is so long that one person is covered in cobwebs, holding a newspaper with the headline "FDR Promises New Deal".
  • Parodied in The Chris Rock Show with a skit about "The Make You Wait Hair Salon", where due to various factors like overbooking and incredibly inattentive stylists, clients wait for so long some of them have actually died.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch has Hilda and Zelda visit the Yikes! Magic Crisis Agency for advice on how to handle the three-hundred-foot beanstalk outside their house. They ask an elderly lady in front of them how long she's been waiting. Her eldest son is 52; he was born in the line.

  • One ribald single-panel cartoon in Penthouse is set in an obstetrician's waiting room. There, an expectant mother with a prominent bulge inquires, "Have you been waiting long?" to the lady beside her. The lady has clearly already given birth, with an umbilical cord running from her beneath her dress to a naked grown man in the seat beside her.

    Video Games 
  • In 7 Days a Skeptic, the spaceship's escape pods require several hours of system-automated preparation before they can launch. Which is completely counterproductive for an escape pod and just serves to keep you trapped on the spaceship with the killer.
  • Subnautica: Early on, you'll receive an automated message from the Aurora stating that a rescue team should arrive in "9...9...9...9...9...hours".
  • The Longing is all about this. The game takes 400 days in real time to finish (though time does also progress when the game is not active), everything in the game is absurdly slow and the player character doesn't even walk fast.
  • If you die and choose to stay dead in Shin Megami Tensei IV, Charon will flat out tell you that "your turn [to cross the River Styx] will come up long after the wind erodes the boulders to sand." Considering the billions of people ahead of you, he may not be exaggerating.
  • The Witness: If you want 100% completion (ie. solve every single puzzle in the game) you'd better be prepared for a ridiculously long wait. One of the puzzles requires watching a video of an eclipse that's over 50 minutes long. (The camera must be pointing at the video the entire time or else the puzzle cannot be completed. Meaning the player cannot do anything else in the game while waiting.) Speedrunning of this game has a 99.8% category which requires solving every puzzle in the game except this one (because the speedrunner literally cannot do anything during this puzzle than wait for over 50 minutes.)

    Web Animation 
  • The Champions (2018): When Ronald Koeman appears on the Confession Cam to talk about Barca's efforts to make Messi more comfortable in his bed, he mentions that they have plans for elaborate renovations to Camp Nou in 2024. A lawyer then whispers in his ear, leading him to correct himself and say 2025, then after the lawyer whispers in his ear again, he sheepishly admits "...someday".
  • ENA: In "Temptation Stairway", ENA gets trapped in the Great Runas during a festival, and is told by Ulysses that she won't be able to escape until the next celebration. When asked how long of a wait, Ulysses responds 10,000 years in binary.

    Web Comics 
  • This strip of Toonhole has a true Blind Date turn into a deadly experience.
  • This is played for drama in I'm the Grim Reaper. Upon finding Ana's corpse in the freezer of her apartment, Liam calls emergency services, telling them that he's not only found the victim of a murder but knows exactly who did it. Because society has degenerated into a complete Crapsack World, though, he's informed that it will take almost a month to send help unless he makes a substantial bribe to the operator. This marks the start of his Face–Heel Turn, since even he can no longer deny that the world is a completely hopeless place.

    Western Animation 
  • Invoked in Dave the Barbarian by Chuckles, when the heroes came to collect a debt he owed, he ordered his servants to say he was not home and that he would come back in nine thousand years. Dave doesn't care, since he brought a magazine.
  • Futurama:
    • From the episode "A Biclops Built For Two", Professor Farnsworth happily announces to the Planet Express crew that they now have internet service:
      Prof. Farnsworth: Good news, everyone! Several years ago, I tried to log on to AOL, and it just went through!
    • In "How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back", the Planet Express crew find that the line to get inside the Central Bureaucracy is so enormous that one visibly elderly man is still waiting on his birth certificate. At one point, the line moves backwards, presumably because someone had a baby. The crew decides to cut to the chase by taking Bender and pretending they're there to deliver him.
  • The quote comes from The Simpsons when Krusty was found out to be evading taxes and the IRS started to take control of his businesses, including Krusty Burger, so all orders are made like filing taxes (and take as long to go through.)
  • In South Park, Season 17 "Informative Murder Porn", the Get Cable! cable company, which is a jab at Time Warner Cable, loves screwing over their customers with this trope. When Randy asked for his channels to be unblocked, the front desk representative tells him they'll schedule a technician to fix it but he has to be home between the hours of six AM and three PM all of November, which Randy refuses to do. When the kids try to get certain channels removed from their cable boxes, they're told they would need to shut off their cable boxes and wait three weeks for the technician to shut them down.