Let’s Talk About How To Use A Line

The door to my daughter’s pre-school classroom opens out. To the right of the entrance is a sign-in sheet for parents to sign their child in or out. To the left are the children’s cubbies. And on the right, just past the sign-in sheet, is the rest of the classroom.

The placement of the sign-in sheet always creates a bottleneck at the door. That’s because the minute pre-schoolers see their adult, they make a b-line for said adult. So while parents are signing their kids out, their kids are diving into their arms. Nobody waiting to get into the classroom can get past the hugging parent at the sign-in sheet. So there’s a hallway/door jam gridlock situation that happens each and every day. Parents and babysitters waiting to pick up their pre-schooler politely wait one behind the other until they are the grown-up on deck at the sign-in sheet/hug spot.

This is commonly known as a line.

If you’re thinking, “Duh Meredith, I know what a line is,” don’t be so smug. Not everybody seems to know how to use a line. Like the lovely woman at Margaux’s school waiting behind me to sign her child out. After two whole seconds of waiting, she cut in front the whole line, and skipped the whole bottleneck situation to check her kid out.

Prior to her intrusion, the line thing had been working out really well. One parent would notice another parent waiting to sign his or her child out and would stand behind that person to wait, too. Another grown up would come along, notice one person standing behind another, and assume it was a line. That grown up would stand behind the first two and so and so on.

It was a wonderful system until that line-barger ruined it. See it’s all but impossible to call out asshole behavior of parents whose children go to school with yours. Being a part of a school parent community can be a longer commitment than some marriages. It’s best not to make too many enemies. Karma will bite you in the ass when your kid comes home to announce his or her best, best friend in the world is the child of the person you called out.

So no one says anything to the line-barger for fear of Crips and Bloods worthy retaliation. But her behavior didn’t sit well with me. I wondered if she actually was the first person to have literally been raised by wolves, wolves who had never waited in line.

I wondered what kind of person she is in other aspects of her life. God help her when she has to pick her kid up in a carpool line. Cut the carpool line at elementary school and you can expect a contract out on your life or a Salman Rushdie-style fatwa put on your head with a league of SUV driving moms wanting to put your head on a platter.

That’s when it occurred to me that the line-barger might not actually know how a line works. Maybe she thought all of us other parents were doing something entirely different than picking up our children despite the fact that we all have kids in that classroom and it was time to pick them up. Possibly she thought we were Coldplay groupies hoping to get tickets to a show. Not a Chris Martin fan herself, she chose to skip what she thought was a line for scalpers, and pick up her child.

Truth be told, the line-barger isn’t the only person I’ve come across who doesn’t seem to have been given a user’s manual for lines. Try to get on a congested freeway onramp at rush hour and someone will always try to sneak his or her Mac truck of a car in front of you when it’s finally your turn to get on the freeway.

Coffee places are ripe with line-bargers who, when called out, will say something insulting like, “Oh, is that a line? I didn’t see it.” As if the 32 caffeine deprived people standing in front of him were just there for the friendship.

And let’s not forget what a shoe sale can do to even the most well mannered of shoppers. Upon hearing the word discount, Mother Teresa might have even fallen prey to line-barging. She might throw an elbow just to get ahead.

I will admit that from birth, I was precocious in lines. I understood that people standing behind one another, all facing the same direction while waiting for something, constituted a line. I didn’t need to be taught or told. I just knew.

Clearly I’m Mensa in lines, but not everybody is. So I thought I’d explain what a line is for my line-barging friends who were either raised by wolves or assholes.

When more than one stranger is standing behind one another, they aren’t gearing up for a Conga line. They’re waiting in line for something.

The proper place to join a line is at the end, not the beginning.

If you cut a line and don’t make eye contact, it doesn’t mean we can’t see you. We can. And we will mentally imprint your face in our brains and wish ill will upon you for the rest of your life.

When you say, “Oops, I didn’t see there was a line,” and then you still don’t move to the back, it’s clearly to all within earshot that you’re full of shit. If you were really sorry, you’d move.

Never cut a line in front of people you know. They’ll never forgive you and they’ll spend a lifetime plotting revenge.

So the next time you pick up your child from school, go for a coffee or do try to get Coldplay tickets, take a moment to notice the dozen people who have been standing there for hours. They’re not there for their health or the companionship. And they will go to their graves referring to you as “That asshole who cut the line.” If you’re not prepared to live with that, than wait in like the rest of us.

And if you are prepared to live with that, wait in line anyway. Chances are you’ve got a lot of bad karma for the 47 other shitty things you do daily. It’s best not to piss the fates off any more than you already have.

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