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?”

What?

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:

WTF IS THE BACK OF THE LINE??