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??

Empire State of Mine

Not that anyone has asked, but I’ll say it anyway: I thank my lucky stars I grew up in New York.

I mean, when you think about it, when my parents left their country for the U.S.—just after World War II—they could have ended up anywhere. Today, I could be saying that I hail from Gainesville, Florida or, that I was born on a cattle ranch in Nacogdoches, Texas, assuming they have cattle in Nacogdoches. And, maybe if that had happened, I would be saying I like these places very much.

Ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center.

Or maybe, if their plane had been going at warp speed and shot right over the states, today I might be calling myself a Canadian. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. They have a beautiful national anthem, after all.

So, given the odds, it’s a wonder my folks made it to New York at all.  By the city that never sleeps. The Big Apple. Where Mad Men dreams come true. Home to Woody Allen, Lady Liberty, an empire state of mind, and, as it turns out–me!

Which means, I grew up shopping at the Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan—the very same one that inspired Miracle on 34th Street. I went to school at P.S. 154 and, later, to P.S. 117. We didn’t bother giving schools names; after all, New Yorkers don’t have time for such trivialities.

When I was a mere infant, my mother and her friend, who also had a baby, would push our baby carriages to the supermarket and park us out in front, while they went inside and did their grocery shopping. All the while, we, babies, would be innocently lulled to sleep by the cacophony of traffic on Main Street. Who had time for finding babysitters? The streets were our sitters!

Growing up in New York, meant class field trips to the United Nations, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Hayden Planetarium. Does it get any better than that?

A view from atop of the Empire State Building.

Every time there was a new film playing at Radio City Music Hall, my family was there, listening to the organist play while we took our seats (boring!), and seeing a movie (the Doris Day films were the best!). And, when the film was over, it was exciting to see the fabulous, New York City Rockettes, tapping and kicking away, in all their glory.

Growing up in New York meant waking up at the crack of dawn to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, live and in person. We saw it in all kinds of inclement weather, with pummeling, freezing rain being the worst. Best of all, growing up in New York meant I got to see many Broadway musicals, like The Sound of Music with Mary Martin, and My Fair Lady, with Julie Andrews. I also got to see Here’s Love, a musical version of Miracle on 34th Street that flopped, despite my seven-year-old self, predicting to my school chum, that it would be a big hit.

I LOVE the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!

Growing up in New York meant that, as a teen, I got to see up-and-coming journalist, Geraldo Rivera, and his One-to-One benefit concert at Madison Square Garden. The line-up included John Lennon, Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack, and best of all, who can forget, Sha-Na-Na.

Growing up in New York means that I say “on line,” and not “in line” when I’m standing on a line and waiting my turn.

Being a kid in New York was so much fun that I’m hard pressed to find any drawbacks.

For, had I not grown up in NY, I would never have met Rod Serling in Central Park, back when he was still producing The Twilight Zone TV series.

Central Park in summer.

I wouldn’t have been able to read the local newspaper to keep up on that nefarious serial killer, David Berkowitz, aka, Son of Sam. And how would I have ever found a $20 bill at the Flushing subway station if I wasn’t in Queens at the time? Or mastered my cool, aloof, don’t-bother-me stare, while assertively striding through the streets of Manhattan?

Perhaps, too, I would never have eaten gads of steaks at Tad’s Steak House, only to learn they weren’t serving steaks at all. Horse meat was the meat du jour. Talk about indigestion.

And, I probably would never have experienced the hot, sweaty platforms at the subway station in summertime, or the crushing sensation that you feel when you wedge the subway doors open as they’re closing, because, if you don’t, who knows when the next train will come along?

Or the mobs of people everywhere, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in cramped restaurants, and dining so close you could almost kiss the stranger next to you on the cheek, but, why on earth would you?

I was raised in New York, which gives me carte blanche to call myself a New Yorker, or Nu YAWKER, depending on your accent.

New York and proud of it.

How about you? What makes your hometown special to you?