I exert considerable energy to avoid store lines at Christmas, purchasing gifts while Rudolph is still reddening his nose on the beach.
Then, in December, I stumble through Walmart’s doors at 10:30 p.m. to escape lines. I won’t recall how I got there or that I parked my car at Lowe’s. But I’ll have plenty of time to search for it.
Many Americans, like me, despise standing in line — strange, as we spend our lives queuing up. During preschool years, we line up to bawl on Santa Claus’s lap. As elementary children, we form lines to go outside and inside. We broaden our horizons as adults, waiting in wedding reception and funeral home lines, queues at hotel desks and ballparks.
Even at church, we fear the potluck will run out of KFC before we reach the front. And will the sins of those at the head of confession lines rank higher than ours?
At best, we grit and bear it. At worst, we yak on phones.
Interestingly, people who declare there is no right or wrong morph into Moses when someone crosses a certain line: Thou Shalt Not Cut In. Businessmen, Harley riders and little old ladies all want to stone the criminal with Old Testament zeal.
Yet neither God nor OSHA has specified that we stand in lines. Why do this? Especially since we should be first. Always.
Part of the answer lies in our culture. Americans stand in line for the same reason we drive on the right, not the left; eat Kellogg’s Raisin Bran®, not blood pudding, for breakfast; and wear clothing in public — most of the time. It’s what we do.
But I like to think there are better reasons.
Bottom line, standing in line means we put others first.
Years ago, my husband and I entered a McDonald’s in Madrid, Spain. No lines formed at counters. Instead, customers rammed each other like football linemen. Hubby and I waited in vain for game’s end. Eventually, our hungry stomachs won. Readying elbows, we dove into the pack.
If only my elementary principal, Mrs. Talley, had arrived to tame us. If the ghost of my childhood Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Mamie Skeet — wearing her usual weird hat — had admonished us with Jesus’ Golden Rule, we might not have sold slivers of our souls for Big Macs.
Now I appreciate more than ever you who keep your elbows to yourself and wait patiently in line. And this December, if we allow others to go first, we will light up Christmas lines like the natal Star.
Mrs. Talley and Mrs. Skeet would be proud of us.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What will you do while waiting in line this Christmas?