A different perspective on lines

Douglas Fritz • Jul 27, 2019 at 10:47 PM

I don’t remember the first time I encountered a time-consuming line.

More than likely, I was a baby in my mother or father’s arms. But as I grew up, I learned lines were not fun.

Sure, there were times when it was exhilarating to reach the front of the line — like the old rollercoaster at the Myrtle Beach Pavilion, the Great American Scream Machine at Six Flags over Georgia, or the log flume at either of those places. As a side note, I think I could still ride any log flume pretty much all day. Greatest ride ever.

Lines quickly found a home on the things-to-avoid list. Measuring the wait against the reward often led to something with a shorter line — or better yet, no line at all.

Such thinking can be problematic. Standing in line is inevitable throughout the course of life. And sometimes you stand in line for no reward at all. For example, waiting for the opportunity to give someone else your hard-earned money.

Fortunately the Internet has saved us from waiting in line for many things. You can pay bills online, buy groceries, and avoid the cell-phone store.

Some businesses have mastered the art of fake lines. Your name goes on a list and your waiting can be done somewhere other than the place of business. You just need the app.

At restaurants, you can use call-ahead seating to fake-stand in line while finishing your shopping. Or, at some places, you can order your food online, drop into the restaurant, and grab the to-go bag not only without a line, but also without face-to-face communication with anybody.

But you can still sit in line, or even sleep, for that big concert ticket or football game.

One day, you’ve purposely avoided lines at every turn. But there’s one stop left before you get home: the grocery store. There you are, holding a jug of milk that is too cold for your fingers. You’re hungry for dinner, exhausted from work, and that football game you didn’t stand in line to get tickets for starts in 10 minutes — and you’re 20 minutes from the house. You didn’t DVR the game because you planned to watch it live, and now here you are — in line.

You imagine the scenario of the opening kickoff going back for a touchdown, followed by a pick-six, and it will be 14-0 before you hit the couch.

Making matters worse, you can’t use your cell phone to pretend you’re dealing with something important. Why? Because you have milk in one very cold hand while balancing cereal, chips, eggs, bread (which you’re trying not to squish), and a tomato in the other. The reason you have all of those things in your hands is because you didn’t want to push a cart or grab the little basket.

So there you are. In line. Again. In the express lane, no less. And you’re almost certain the person in front of you violated the 10-item limit by three or four. Wait, does a six-pack of Pepsi count as six? Or one? Their rulebreaking could be egregious.

Anyway, you reach the register and put your stuff on the counter and the cashier says, “Did you find everything you need?” And you say, “No, I need $10,000, and I didn’t find it.” She laughs, politely, but she’s not amused. Millennials don’t like dad jokes.

You rush to your car, jump in, and drive out of the parking lot to the red light — where you wait in line. Of course you have to stop at Pal’s for tea — in line, of course.

Back at the house, you grab your tea and head for the couch. You turn on the television and — nothing. The cable is out.

In sadness you call the cable company and you hear, “You are caller number — five — in queue.”

Despite all of this line madness, there’s something to remember. The goal of a line dweller is to be first. But there can be a better place than first in line.

That place is last.

In today’s society last is rarely first. But how would our world look if the opposite was true? What if willingness to put others’ needs in front of our own was the rule rather than the exception? And what if nobody took advantage of it?

Some day when you’re in a big rush, let someone else get ahead of you in line. It might be a small thing that turns into a big blessing.

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