Most people have probably seen the humorous television ad for Jimmy John’s fast food sandwich shops. It opens with an establishment shot of a senior citizens rest home. Cut to a crotchety-looking old guy on the phone, placing an order to be delivered. Even before he hangs up, the doorbell rings and a voice announces “Jimmy John’s.” The man looks up and says, “What took you so long?”

I recalled the ad when I read that Amazon and some of the other on-line merchants are working hard to achieve same-day delivery on all customer orders. Actually, they hope to do better than that in the near future. With enough warehouses and personnel, they aim to cut delivery time to 2 hours or less. In order to meet this goal, some are considering using GPS-guided drones to carry packages right to our doorsteps. (I’m imagining a future Friday night, when a mid-air collision sends bits of pepperoni pizza raining from the drone-filled sky onto the startled pedestrians below.)

The primary battle in today’s merchandizing war is about who can assure customers the fastest delivery of purchased goods. We’ve come a long way in a little over a hundred years. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, folks who ordered from the Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalog expected to wait weeks or even months for their purchases. According to the lyrics of a song called “The Wells Fargo Wagon” – from the musical-comedy, “The Music Man” – the period from order to delivery was so long, buyers sometimes forgot if or what they had ordered.

There is something to be said in favor of anticipation. It is often more pleasurable than realization. Young lovers, for instance, who have been separated by the current pandemic know the exquisite, but bittersweet, feeling of expectation. Conversely, some married couples can testify that the pandemic has caused too much togetherness – and they are ready to repeat that testimony in divorce court. (According to show-biz legend, playwright George Bernard Shaw and actress Ellen Terry carried on a torrid love affair by correspondence, but when it was suggested that they meet, Shaw, an extreme rationalist, refused, saying it would ruin everything.)

Our society has come to expect instant gratification in most matters, and the merchants who can provide it will thrive. There are, of course, occasions when we need something immediately, but they are far fewer than we think. Not long ago, I ordered a new set of guitar strings on Wednesday afternoon; they arrived Thursday morning. I was impressed, but I hoped no one had to scurry around a warehouse and work up a sweat to get my order filled so quickly. I didn’t install them for a week or so. On the other hand, I appreciate the fact that I can read a favorable book review and have the book on my Kindle in a matter of seconds. With the advent of 3-D printing, we will come to expect similar instant delivery of many types of consumer goods. Eventually, the pleasant feeling of anticipation will disappear.

Author Eric Hoffer, who worked on the docks as a longshoreman, wrote several books that contain accurate insights into human behavior. He is best known for “The True Believer,” a study of mass movements and fanaticism. He argues that raising people’s expectations will inevitably raise their demands. The mathematician who took days to solve a problem cusses the slow computer for taking more than seconds. Hoffer would warn Amazon and the other quick-service advocates not to expect praise for delivering a package in 2 hours.

Instead, they can expect plenty of complaints if it’s late.

Retired high school teacher Chuck Avery grew up in Connersville’s Bucktown neighborhood and graduated in 1953 from Connersville High School.