Get in Line

If there’s a way to avoid it, I’d love to hear it.  But, short of hiring someone to do it for me, I’m afraid I’m going to have to keep on doing it myself. So, you might as well join me. Get on line (or in line, depending what region you’re from). For, it’s time to line up for:

The Queue.

You know what I mean. Somewhere, somehow, when you least expect it–not to mention when you do–there’s going to be a line with your number on it. And when that happens, you have no choice but to queue up.

This was the two-hour line we waited on to ride the Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios in Orlando, when it first opened.

Which is why, I always do what my mother taught me:  I bring along a book. This helps while away the hours as you weave through the torturous, misunderstood, and much-maligned, line.

There’s all kinds of lines: the one that snakes back and forth, where signs along the way indicate approximately how long it’ll take you to get to the front. “One hour from this point,” “Two hours from that point” and so on. Then, there’s the line where you’re assigned a number and you wait your turn, as you decide whether to get a half-pound of Swiss or Colby.

The folks at Disney World and Disney Land do it right. They give you the opportunity to get a “Fast Pass,” so you can return at a pre-designated time and it’s guaranteed that the queue will be way shorter than if you get on now, thank you very much.

At the grocery store, don’t you just hate it when you only have 11 things but the “15 or Fewer” line is closed, so you have to wait, along with everyone else on the line, while the lady in front of you has 106 items she’s purchasing, and one of those items doesn’t have a price on it, so they have to do a price check, and just when she’s finally all paid up, the 15 or Fewer line opens, but it’s your turn anyway, so who cares?

In the 70’s there were lines at gas stations for filling up your tank, that could last upwards of a day. Now, you can get the same experience by getting your gas at a warehouse club’s gas station.

My days of getting on line for concert tickets are over, but I do recall waiting seven hours to buy tickets to see Bruce Springsteen, back when I barely knew who The Boss was. Yet, when I went with a high school pal to buy tickets for a John Lennon concert, there was no line whatsoever. Go figure.

With tickets in hand, I arrived five hours early to get on line to see The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Yet, as early as I got there, I was still a block away from the front of the line. Luckily, I managed to get in to see the show, and during my five-hour stint in the line, I got to meet some very interesting people, including a girl, decked out in black, who hated her mother.

On a blistery hot day, I waited on line to climb up the 350 stairs to get to the top of the Statue of Liberty, only to find you can’t really get into her head no matter how far you climb.

But, the worst line of all was the one I was in last weekend. I went to see Clint Hill speak. He’s the retired Secret Service agent who protected First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and tells his story in the best-selling, newly-released book, Mrs. Kennedy and Me. Mr. Hill was with her when JFK was assassinated and I couldn’t wait to hear his story.

The bookstore told me its doors would open at 7:00 p.m., with the program starting at 7:30. I decided I’d get there by 6:15 because I didn’t want to risk not being able to get in to see Mr. Hill. Intuition told me there’d be a crowd. That plus, it had been announced on the local news.

So I got there and made a judgment call, one that would later prove wrong.  I made the assumption that if everyone was facing the door to the left, that meant I’d have to walk to the right and get behind the last person to take my place at the back of the line.  When I got there, there were about five people in a cluster, with their backs to me. So I cued up behind them, and stood there. They turned around and looked at me. One even smiled. But none said “Boo.”  Finally, about 20 minutes into my wait, a woman in the group asked me, “Do you know that this is the front of the line?”


My first thought, was, boy, am I dumb, quickly followed by, why didn’t they say something sooner?  My second thought, doesn’t anyone know the “waiting on line” protocol?

You’re supposed to face the front of the line, not the back of it and certainly not stand willy-nilly, helter skelter and all that!  How am I supposed to deduce which is the front and which is the back, if the people on the line don’t cooperate and follow the norm? I am not a mind reader! And, why did they take so long to tell me I was in the wrong place?

Needless to say, when I was finally hit with their two by four and kicked to the real back of the line, the back had moved to the next block, and all my effort to arrive early was practically for naught.  (I barely managed to squeak in to hear Mr. Hill talk.)

So, next time I find myself in the regrettable position of having to stand on line for anything, I’m making no assumptions. Instead, I’m going to say these magic words:


52 thoughts on “Get in Line

  1. The longest line that I have ever been in was a store checkout line, so I am curious. What if you have to use the restroom when you are stuck in a line for hours?

    • That actually happened to me when I was on the line for the Ellen DeGeneres show. Luckily, when people wait that long, they start forming bonds with each other, and start taking turns to go to the bathroom. They’re very nice about it. In fact, not only did I get to go to the bathroom at the hospital across the street, I had time to order some lunch in the hospital cafeteria! (That was the only place nearby!)

  2. If I had all the time back I’ve spent in lines, I’d be in utero again. My, but you’re a patient one. I’ve gotten spoiled living in the country as I do. Few lines for anything, the ones I have to wait in are usually short, and 9 times out of 10, I’ll know everyone in them.

  3. Oh gosh I would have LOVED to go to hear Mr. Hill speak! Please do a post about it. Loved the post, but I have a question what book did you bring with you this time? I can’t stand lines…with, or without a book!

    • Really, Nate? Are you interested in history or is it because of the assassination that you’re intrigued or what? Well, now you’re the second to ask for a post on Mr. Hill. Stay tuned…

      I brought my iPhone Kindle app and I was reading The Hunger Games. Yeah, no matter what, there’s no disguising how annoying the waiting on line can be. Sigh.

  4. I admire your tenacity, really I do. I am not a stand-in-line kind of gal. Although, I did wait for the Boss back in the day. Over Easter I took my son to Disneyland, you’re right they do it right. The FastPass is the greatest ever. We hardly lost any of our precious life’s minutes. Aside from the rant about queuing, you had me smiling all the way through your winding around the block tale, which reminded be about the crowds waiting to get into see The Hunger Games. WHY? I know I am kill joy.

    • Brenda, I think we had a lot more patience for lines in our youth. Nowadays, I will walk a mile out of my way to avoid them. Everyone needs their own version of a “FassPass,” don’t you think? Until then, lines or queues remain a necessary evil. 😉

  5. Firstly Monica, you got into see Ellen???? Is she as lovely as we see her on t.v.? And how fantastic was that? Secondly, the photo of the line at Disney made me laugh because I did exactly that, I watched people, laughed at a few poorly behaved ones and since I was with a bunch of college going nieces and nephews, time passed very quickly. Even worse, a malfunction with the HP ride made the 2 hr wait about 3.5 hours in total. How you make me laugh Monica, no matter where I am in the world or even if my Internet connection is down, I will save up your posts to read
    The British in me( don’t you love how delusional I am, to seriously think I am part British) makes me want to politely decline queuing anywhere, even if we did introduce it. I am always punctual and sometimes when I think I am really early, the line extends out the door and it takes about 2 hrs to get somewhere i.e. Twilight. Never am I going to stand in line for Twilight… I did it for Harry Potter but it all paid off… will I never learn?? You should see me at the pick up line at car pool in my daughters school 🙂

    • Oh, MM, wait until I tell you about how I got to go see Ellen. It was December during her second season. It was the first year of her December giveaways, 12 Days of Giving. I had long before signed up online to see her show. Within weeks of signing up, I got a call asking me if I could come to the show in two days. At first I said no, too short notice to get my friends together. Then I realized she had just announced that 12 Days giveaway, so I called right back and said yes. Four of us went and had a blast. From where we were sitting, you can actually see me on camera a couple of times. The gift? A surround sound system and a TiVo with lifetime subscription. OMG! Talk about cool. Waiting all day outside was so worth it. A lifetime of memories!

      Glad to hear I’m not the only one with crazy stories about waiting on line! 🙂

  6. My husband finds it amusing when I suggest we get a movie early — i.e., the New York mindset re: lining up, especially for a new popular movie, is ingrained. Sometimes he has good reason to laugh, since a weeknight at a theatre in the ‘burbs can amount to a private screening. Other times, at our small, artsy movie theatre, I have good reason to call the shots. All of which is to say, like it or not, gearing up to get in line is something I simply live with.

    • Maybe that’s where I, too, got the idea that I need to arrive early to get a good seat for a movie. My kids would want to kill me, though, when we’d be sitting in the theater 30 minutes before start time with nothing to do but wait. But it was ingrained in me. Which is why now I love my local movie theater with its reserved seating, so I can arrive just beforehand with no lines and no worries that I’ll get a bad seat. 😉

  7. Monica, this was so well written. I thought it was going to be a post describing queues and how to navigate them, but then it shot over to Ellen and finally to the etiquette of how and where to stand at the Clint Hill talk. Now you have got to write a post about what Mr. Hill had to say. What a fun evening…even if you had to sit toward the back!

    • Thanks, Annie! When it comes down to it, the world would be a lot better if everyone followed the rules of standing in line. A little line etiquette would do all a world of good. Mr. Hill was fabulous, so well spoken and literally brought tears to our eyes when he spoke of the assassination. It weighs deeply on him.

  8. I hate standing in line, but patience isn’t my strong suit! Had to laugh when I read about your experience lining up for Clint Hill’s talk. I can’t imagine nobody cluing you in on which way the line was snaking, though.

    • Yes, indeed, Debbie. Why didn’t they tell me?? Inquiring minds want to know. Well, I suppose they did tell me but why wait? I dislike people who cut, and yet, here they obviously thought I was a cutter, one who cuts by going to the beginning of the line!

  9. “WTF is the back of the line?” bwhahahaha! I love it! I hate standing in line. I like the idea of bringing along a book so pass away the time. The problem with that is what happens if we become so engrossed in our reading, people start cutting in front of us? No can do. I have to stay alert; with my five senses sharpened! The best line practice I’ve ever witnessed was in Venezuela. Have I told you I went there with Husband #1? The only good thing I got out of that marriage, besides the kids, but I digress. hee hee! We were in Merida and had to take a bus and to our greatest amazement, people were standing in orderly fashion in a line! Imagine what a sight to see, when we had just left Puerto Rico where people shoved and pushed to get on a the ten passenger van! I want to go Venezuela again someday. I miss the arepas! 🙂

    • Bella, the trick to reading while on line, is to only use one eye for reading and the other for keeping an eye on things. I call that the roaming eye, for it’s constantly on the look out for line cheaters and can give the “evil eye” on demand as needed, should someone “accidentally” wander in to the line at any given moment. How about those people who start waiting in line the night before or several days before. What if they fall asleep and find, when they wake up, they’re in the back of the line? Hmmm…. 😉

  10. The grocery line with only 2 people that you were lucky enough to swoop into turns out to be longer than the 12 people lines because these dopey people and the dopey(I have 2 hours of experience) checkout person have one mix up after another.

  11. –HaaHaaaa.

    I really don’t mind waiting … especially if I have somebody fun to talk with and a glass of nice wine. ❤

    Have a great weekend, Funny Monica. Xxxxx

  12. We still have times where we need to stand on the line in order to fill petrol in the car tank, but the worst “lines” were to have bread, just one piece per person, always, over years.

    • Oh, Nikky, that sounds tough, having to wait in line for bread. I’m grateful for many things, but in particular I’m grateful to live in a country where waiting in line for bread is not necessary. But, let me tell you about the price of gasoline. It’s skyrocketing here!

      • we pay 1.35 USD/ liter of gasoline BUT foreign companies that examined the gasoline the companies are selling us discovered that it is mixed with water and a certain gas that is ruining our car’s engine. Now of course we can have bread as much as we want, but at the first war threat suddenly we will have all the lines back.

  13. I hate lines, too. In fact, I decided a while back that there was nothing worth waiting in a long line for (sorry Disney) because I just don’t have the patience anymore. Movie premieries – sorry, I can wait til the DVD comes out; post office (on tax day) – I will not procrastinate, I will not procrastinate, I will not procrastinate, book signings – I’ll just check out You Tube and read the book. Sorry you had such a bad experience at the bookstore Monica, but thanks for turning that experience into a funny post!

    • Susan, stick to your convictions then, and leave the line waiting to us fools. When it comes to movies, I too, like avoiding long lines, but sometimes I still want to see it in the theater. So I wait until after its been out for a few weeks. Then I hit the theater!

  14. I don’t mind waiting sometimes but I hate lines. And if there’s more than one, the line I choose will take the longest no matter how many people are standing in it. I’m with you on bringing a book, though, to pass the time.

    • True, Shary. When there is more than one line, you do your best to judge but inevitably you end up picking the one that turns out to be the longest. Like you, Shary, I cannot begin to tell you how many times that’s happened to me.

  15. There is still nothing that compares to the line at the DMV, accept maybe the line I was in this week at the municipal tow lot. Appreciate the humor and the perspective.

    • Lisa, you’re right! How can I forget the DMV lines!! Luckily, in California the DMV has something similar to Disney’s Fast Pass. You can make an appt in advance and that helps move you through the lines faster.

  16. I am just waking up and stressed after reading this! Maybe we can have line-fillers like at the Oscars where they have seat-fillers. I want mine to be 6 feet tall, handsome and charming. Let’s give the line someone good to look and and talk to! keep up the great posts Monica. SLW

    • Sally, that would be pretty funny. Maybe we could hold auditions for line-fillers and see what talent they have. We’d want them to be scintillating conversationalists, maybe even tap dancers or jugglers, guaranteed to entertain those around them as they wait–and wait–on line! 🙂

  17. Hilarious post Monica, though you probably won’t appreciate my laughing at your queuing mishaps. I want to especially thank you for sharing your reverse queuing experience at the Clint Hill book launch – excruciatingly funny!

  18. Monica, this is perfect! I despise waiting in line and envy Oprah her ability to send people from her employment to ‘wait’ for her. Isn’t that cool! Of course, I doubt anybody would make her wait anymore. I heard a couple of interviews with Mr. Hill and have to say that he seems quite articulate and interesting. I’m glad you got to hear him speak even if it was from a distance.

    • Renee, I so wish I had the gumption and money to hire someone to do it for me. That would make it so easy! Clint Hill was amazing. He spoke with clarity and simplicity about his days with Jackie. He had slides of photos from those days (taken, mostly, by the house photographer). Everyone there was riveted, and I doubt there was a dry eye in the house when he spoke of the day of the assassination. It was an honor to be in his presence.

  19. It is often said that the British taught the world how to queue.

    Many years ago I remember in Birmingham (UK) The Carpenters were appearing in concert and the line for tickets was estimated to be almost 2 miles long. I hasten to add I was not in it.

    Not a fan of queues I must admit and I doubt if I would have the patience to wait in a long queue to buy anything. Having in the past worked in retail I am an in and out type of shopper.

    One thing that has always puzzled me are the people who queue for things like Apple products, I can’t see the point. People are taken in by hype.

    As to where the dront of the line is, that’s easy it’s the opposite end to the one your standing by!!!

    Good post Monica and so true.

    • Robert, from now on, I will make that assumption! No matter where I am when I get there, I will walk to the opposite side because chances are, that’ll be the end of the line! I think when I was younger I had more tolerance for lines than I do now. I’m with you. Will try to avoid at all costs!

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