Here is something about me: I sometimes enjoy waiting in line.
It’s sort of like when Bill Slowsky, in attempting to download a super-enormous file, responds to the projected delay with “Ahhh…me time”* – it’s just nice to occasionally be forced to do nothing other than alternately stare into space and hope that the small heap of sauerkraut on the floor came from someone else’s cart.
That said, I do recognize that not everyone shares this, shall we say, Zen approach to grocery shopping and the like.
That said, I’ve come to notice a tendency among a number of my fellow supermarket/post office/theme park patrons, a tendency that is in its irrationality simultaneously very curious and seriously annoying: tailgating – that is, scooting closer and closer up behind the person in front of them with each forward movement of the line.
Earlier this month – the 15th, to be exact – having failed to heed my father’s advice that I (as a novice in the sphere of making money) do my taxes early, I found myself standing at the undesirable end of a very long line at the post office. But the authoritarian digital clock, high on the wall, read only “3:39” (i.e. “plenty of time before you have to worry about being audited for the twenty-seven dollars you owe”), and even though I was practically standing on Massachusetts Avenue, the weather was freakishly mild for April in Boston, and thus I was happy. That is, until someone lined up behind me.
She appeared, like me, to be in the general twenty-something range and vaguely professional – the type of chick about whom, once upon a time (in the days when I was less like a jaded, impoverished yuppie and more like a friendly, stupid dog), I might have thought, “ooh maybe it’s HER first Tax Day, too! I should try to make friends; then we can play UNO®.” Like me, she was holding a lot of stuff (overflowing shoulder bag of some ostentatious label, iPod, sheaf of important-looking-yet-way-disorganized papers, cell, et cetera). And she stood way, way too close.
If an individual’s need for personal space can be viewed as some point along a spectrum, I genuinely believe that I’d fall somewhere in the middle. OK, I am not factoring Culture into the equation (a deplorable move for the A.B. in Anthropology that I am, but this is not an academic paper); nevertheless, I feel it will suffice to say that I don’t mind riding the subway at rush hour and that I don’t like being spit on in conversation.
My point is that I am not someone who thinks that everyone, at all times, is standing too close. This chick, however, was, and she kept creeping closer, until her sheaf of important-looking-yet-way-disorganized papers bumped into me – not just my sheaf of important-looking-yet-way-disorganized papers, but actual, genuine arm. “How can she not notice??” I wondered to myself. “An outrage!”
As anxious as I was to get my Form 1040 safely postmarked, I came to dread the forward progress of the line; the postal workers’ every call of “next, please” was as good as a promise that, within a few seconds, the very pointy corner of a flat-rate envelope would poke me in the back of the head. I would fume a little, and my inner voice would go: “how can she even hear them talking with her headphones on? … Maybe she has nothing playing … I wonder why people do that … It’s so nice to have some me ti-”
“Next, please!” (Poke. And so on.)
To protect myself, I assumed a physical stance akin to the way people who have never surfed illustrate surfing: legs spread, knees slightly bent, hands held low, palms down. I even strategically angled my sheaf of papers so that it might serve as an extra buffer (and in doing so probably looked more specifically like what people who have never surfed do to illustrate surfing while they wait for their conference calls to start).
So what’s the rest of the story? I got to the front of the line. I sprang for a tracking number on my tax return. I left the post office. Fin.
Still: it’s annoying, right? Tailgating in line is, truly, even less constructive than tailgating on the highway.** It’s as though people think that inching up on the person in front of them is going to make them get to the front of the line sooner. A bit like people trying to brake whilst riding shotgun.
Or (far more hilariously, in my opinion) what my brother and I, as children whose early childhoods included neither processed foodstuffs nor commercial playthings, would do on the rare occasions when we might be allowed a few minutes with a friend’s Super Nintendo Entertainment System:*** yanking the controller sideways – and sometimes pulling the entire console off of its little shelf below the TV – in an effort to make Mario run faster.
Eventually, my parents yielded to the allure of modern living, and my brother, now 21 years old, grew into an absolute superstar at the art of video gaming without moving anything but his eyes and thumbs. I, on the other hand, don’t play ‘em anymore – I was never able to shake the control pad-yanking behavior, and it’s just too embarrassingly idiotic. But I still sort of wish that I could somehow collect on some small portion of the Wii profits, or, if not, that the line tailgaters would at least take their cues from me.
Feet (to be executed more skillfully in the future, I hope):
*I cannot seem to find that particular ”Me time” spot on YouTube or anywhere else, so anyone who can find a link or otherwise provide me it will get some sort of cyberprize.
**Unless of course you have the misfortune to attempt some vehicular tailgateage on one of those swell “brake job” drivers who really doesn’t mind totaling his or her own car to teach someone else a lesson, which is REALLY the least constructive scenario. Please always observe a safe following distance, y’all.
***I still get that funny feeling in the pit of my stomach when I see the image below…Is it weird if Luigi may have been my first real crush?