The waiting is the hardest part
I have a problem with lines - the waiting part, specifically.
You'd think that after being on this planet for more than half a century, I'd get over it. After all, I've been waiting on lines for most of my life: going to the auditorium, the cafeteria or a fire drill at school; getting into movies, games or a concerts; passing through security and boarding planes; standing outside women's restrooms pretty much everywhere; and, of course, cursing at the DMV - where sometimes you wait outside on line to get inside and stand on other lines.
Sitting in traffic is a type of line; so too is waiting on hold for customer service.
Though I've worked on patience, used deep breathing and embraced compassion, a trip to the grocery store the other day reminded me that I still had a long way to go before I'd reach line acceptance.
It turns out that maximizing your options at checkout is complicated.
For me, it starts out as a simple navigation process. Where’s the express line? How many registers are open? Which has the shortest line?
Next comes the wagering. One line has fewer people, but some have more items in their carts. The express lane is short, and I’m only three items over the limit. Does anyone really count the items anyway?
That line over there looks like the longest – but that cashier is moving fast! She’s a veteran. Ooh, not that cashier, she’s talking to everyone. And certainly not the cashier-in-training.
I pick checkout line five. Not too many folks, only one heavy cart, cashier keeping her head down and focusing on her job. I park my cart. Check my emails. Cross off errands on my list. Check Twitter. Check Facebook. Look around.
Hmm, line three’s moving faster. That guy there two people away from the cashier, he was further behind me a few minutes ago. Now he’s beating me. Same for the lady with the screaming kid on line eight.
What’s the slowdown here? Uh-oh. “Aisle five needs a price check.”
Why isn’t that lady bagging her own groceries anyway? And please stop fighting with the cashier about what you think the price should be.
Okay, here we go. One cart away. Slowing down for the elderly. That’s okay, one day that’ll be me. Oh wait, it already is. Great, there’s a bagger to help her.
What? She wants to write a check? Who does that anymore? And she forgot her reading glasses?
I know what you're thinking: Get over it. We all have to wait. And I'm trying.
Sometimes I try to remember David Foster Wallace's words of wisdom in This is Water about not taking my fury out on the frantic lady working the register.
Other times I remind myself that I too have been the cause of a lane slowdown.
And on rare occasions I high-five myself - like when I catch a new cashier moving into position behind her register, ready to flick on her "open" sign, and then shove my cart to the front of her line.
I admit it. I have a problem with lines. Maybe you do too.