Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Queues, or lines as they are also called1, are in danger of being altogether destroyed in the modern era. With the advent of the internet, ATMs, self-service checkout, and a cacophony of other devices, man is in danger of losing the ability to stand and wait for something.

In light of this, I'd like to take a few minutes to instruct you on how we can keep such a salacious scourge from falling on mankind.

Ignore your surroundings

There are signs posted above you instructing you how to interact with the upcoming threat. They may tell you to have your boarding pass ready. They may tell you to use this counter if you have 10 items or less. Whatever the sign, whatever the verbiage, please, keep your eyes to the ground and fingers in your ears. You pay attention to posted directions at your peril.

Pay with exact change

It's annoying to carry around pennies, because they weigh down your coin pouch, so please, instead of finding some decent use for your change (hobos, small children, parking meters), pull it out and count up to whatever six digit number just appeared on the register. Use the smallest denominations possible. Keep the change in a hard-to-reach, smelly location, like your kidneys.

Better yet, pay with a check

Credit cards are evil and of the devil, but checks are the divine right of kings. Pay with them everywhere, for every expense. Wait until you know the exact amount, and every item you have yet to purchase is loaded away in some deep dish cart, then slowly rummage through the folds of your robe for the satchel containing your checkbook. Forget a pen. Write slowly. Make a few mistakes, necessitating another check.

Buy as many groceries as humanly possible

Fill the cart with them. Fill another cart with them. Bring your firstborn and make her/him push a third cart. Stock up on every deal imaginable. Do this every week. Then find the dude who's just buying chocolate milk. Race ahead and get in front of him in the only line. It's his fault he hasn't done his duty to the human race and procreated, and hasn't found a need for the thousand individually packaged gram-sized servings of Gerber baby food that you're about to watch the checker swipe one by one for the next six hours. Take away his last shreds of dignity, and sneer as his chocolate milk breakfast goes warm, then sour. Laugh. Smile. Be smelly.

Call anyone, for any reason

It's important people understand you're important. Bank tellers, grocery store clerks, salespeople, and especially the people behind you in line need to know you're important. Pull out that cell and yap. Yap about anything. Keep yapping during the entire processing experience. Yap about the queue. Yap about how long it's taking. Yap about how everyone in line hates you with a bloody passion. Act like you've just been pulled out of bed by a dead panda when the clerk interrupts your conversation. Make annoyed noises, like sighing. Roll your eyes.

Keep your ID in a safe place

People could steal your wallet at any time. Be sure to keep your ID separate from any and every credit card you own. Keep it as far away as physically possible from any other card. Preferably in your shoe. Act surprised when someone asks for it. Try to explain that the clerk doesn't need ID because it's you. Pull out anything other than ID to present as ID, like business cards, love notes, used tissues, and gum wrappers. Offer to call someone to have them tell the clerk it's you. Make a scene for as long as you can. The people behind you don't have anything better to do in life except listen to how you are Edgard G. Himmelskibet.

Stand on the left

Anytime, anywhere. Whenever there's a left of anything, stand in it. Plop everything you own around you. Build a fortress. Better yet, bring a friend, and have her or him stand on the right so you form a human wall, a veritable sandwich of insuperability. Move in tandem, occupying as much space as is possible. Hold hands, but keep your arms outstretched. Migrate through the world like a pair of lead beach balls tied together with titanium towels.

Ask questions that are answered by posted signs

Phrase them exactly as written. Question the answers as if you view them as morally wrong. Refuse brochures explaining procedures. Demand your right to speak to someone and give your viewpoint on the matter.

Transact simple business in person

The ATM can take deposits, but please, by all means, go talk to a teller. Be chatty. Tell him or her about your ducks. Don't think about using that ATM over there that was specifically built, programmed, and provided for you.

Make special requests

Preferably only when there are people behind you. Ask for it without mustard. Change your mind and ask for it with mustard. Laugh about that. Ask where their meat comes from. Ask what kind of mustard they can provide. Take a friend, and laugh at the answers. Ask how many calories each dish has. Taste every flavor before you make your choice. Make them earn every penny they get from you.

Stop in front of an empty lane

Just stand there. Rummage through your purse looking for your metro card that will let you through the gates that about sixty people are trying to use right this rush-hour instant, and yet they can't, because you couldn't foresee the need to swipe your card at the exit like you have done three hundred thousand times.

Keep your wallet hidden for as long as possible

It's not like you knew several years before coming to this store that you would eventually have to pay, and in paying, would need use of your wallet. Stash it somewhere like the portion of your back you can't reach. Contort yourself as you pull it out after the cashier has stared at you for thirty seconds after every possible thing has been done. Embrace awkward silences while your fellow humans wait. Look at the people behind you in line as you do this. They would all, down to the last man, beat you senseless in a dark alleyway this very instant if given the opportunity.

1. I once tried to explain to a British lady how there was a 'big line up front' and she gave me a look like I was absolutely nutters.


Amy said...

One of your finest posts.

Diana said...

I couldn't stop laughing...