Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In the Queue

Twas the Saturday before Christmas Eve. The Oreland post office was closing at noon; our brilliant idea (arrive with a package to mail overseas at 11:30 AM) was shared by what looked like the entire population of our town. The line snaked through the building and out the door, all of us laden like Santas with heaps of outgoing gifts. As the minutes passed, the queue inched infinitesimally towards the counter, where there was only one harried postal worker to serve the whole crowd. It was pretty painful. A typical customer: "I need boxes, lots of boxes, for all these presents. I think I'll grab lots of mailing boxes and just stand here and try to cram things into them while everyone else waits. Oops, they don't fit. Oh, OK, they fit if you turn some of them sideways. Now then, where did I put my list of addresses? Did I leave it in the car?" Our fellow waiters started shrugging and chuckling, amiably resigned to being in the Oreland post office for the foreseeable future. The prevailing understanding and jolly mood made me CRAZY, out-of-my-mind impatient, mentally drumming my fingers, sighing loudly and checking the time constantly.  By the time we finished sending our little parcel to the UK, it was long past closing time, and the door had to be unlocked to let us out. We dashed to the car and I burned rubber getting out of the parking space, determined to somehow make up for each second we’d wasted.

I realize most people don’t love waiting, but I detest it with a passion I’ll bet few can muster. When the pediatrician’s office is running behind, I sit, drumming and sighing once again, with my feverish child, surrounded by other little hackers and wheezers. I flip through Highlights for Children (always a riveting read) and stew until at last our name is called.  I rate food stores exclusively by the number of checkers they have on duty (btw Shop n Bag is a 10, Dresher Acme is a -2).  My ideal grocery experience?  Well, remember the show Supermarket Sweepstakes? That would be me, barreling down the aisles, sweeping bakery trays and chicken breasts into my cart, done in a flash.  I would never, ever, wait in line to buy concert tickets, even if the headline performer was Elvis, back from the dead for one night only. 

It does occur to me, sometimes, that I could make productive use of the time I’m languishing in lines, or sitting on “hold.” Maybe if I were taking notes for a story, or whistling the score of “Cats,” or quizzing myself on the names of the seven dwarves, the minutes would fly. Or I could join the hordes of happy folk who make small talk, and the best of it, with each other.  Can’t I just relax?

Nope. Can’t do it. The world had simply better hurry up and honor my schedule.  I’m a busy busy woman! Don’t keep me waiting here! 


  1. really funny!!I hope i wasn't the lady behind you in line, sneering and rolling her eyes...
    merry Christmas!! and enjoy