I Balk The Line

by Mike McHugh

140424 I Balk The Line 2 500It’s true that the pace of life is slower here in the South, and nowhere is that more evident than when you’re waiting in line. Southerners are a patient sort for the most part. They don’t quite measure up to the British in this regard, for whom queuing up is an instinct. When the Olympics came to London a couple of years back, the lines formed weeks in advance, and that was just for the bathrooms.

140424 I Balk The LineI’ve yet to develop the patience to stand in line. Like most Yankees, I inwardly seethe whenever I have to wait more than two minutes for service. To our credit, rarely do we take our rage out on others in line. We reserve this type of behavior for when we are on the highway.

Still, I’ve been tempted. It’s usually when I’m making what I expect to be a quick stop, only to end up behind someone with a transaction that rivals in complexity to a corporate merger.

Convenience stores are the worst places. Let’s face it; the only reason I ever go into a convenience store is because it’s supposed to be, well, convenient. It’s certainly not for the prices. I mean, not even a hospital could get away with what they charge for a packet of aspirin.

140424 I Balk The Line Lotto 400But I would walk into a convenience store, get my aspirin, go to pay, and already with a splitting headache, end up behind some person who wants lottery tickets. He’s got a list with more numbers than The Guinness Book of World Records, and he proceeds to buy a ticket for each one in every possible permutation—straight, boxed, bagged, squared, and multiplied by the speed of light. It’s more than the poor cashier, who, I’m sure, was not hired for his mathematical skills, can handle. And so the manager, himself no Stephen Hawking, has to get involved. They proceed to confer like football officials reviewing a disputed call. Speaking of hospitals, I could have got my headache attended to more quickly had I gone to the emergency room.

140424 I Balk The Line Cocktails 400Bars are almost as bad as convenience stores. I’m a beer man, myself. A bartender can handle my order in a matter of seconds. But invariably, I end up having to wait for my drink behind someone who is getting cocktails for his entire table. And I’m not just talking rum and Cokes. No, I’m talking cocktails that would tax the ability of a potions professor at the Hogwarts School. That’s why, if I owned a bar, I would put in an express line for beer drinkers.

I further believe that there should be a law against waiting until you get to the front of the line at a fast food restaurant to decide what to order. There is simply no excuse for this, what with the menu so prominent that you can make up your mind while you’re still two blocks away. They refuse to tolerate such behavior in places like Philadelphia, where you would be subjected to severe insults should you the least bit hesitate when asked if you want fried onions on your cheesesteak.

But that would never happen in the South. Here, indecision is regarded as a virtue, which on second thought may be just as well. No one should feel put on the spot over such weighty decisions like whether to super-size his meal deal.

© 2014 by Mike McHugh

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