Standing in line is a dull, miserable business, and during busy seasons like Christmas it can get even worse.
We humans have trouble being patient. We can’t wait to: grow up, for the weekend, be first on or off public transportation, have the best seat at the theatre, get through the checkout and so on. This impatience usually doesn’t do us much good though. We pass people on the highway only to later end up side-by-side in town, we rush onto the airplane to sit an extra half hour in cramped seats, and it doesn’t matter which checkout you choose, it’s always the longest.
Kids have even less ability to be patient. As a small example, I can tell you I see them streak across the front lawn at school every day in order to clamber on the bus before anyone else, and then announce this questionable achievement to all who enter.
“I was here first,” they’ll chirp gleefully. This is met with mixed results; often complete disregard. “So what?” say their friends. “Who cares?”
Who cares indeed, I think to myself, yet many do, one way or another.
On a past trip to Paris, France, my friend Susan and I were treated to quite an exhibition of this behavior—by grownups.
We had cued up in view of the Eiffel Tower for an evening glide on le bateaux-mouche, the open-air riverboat that carries hundreds of tourists on cruises up and down the Seine. Quietly we waited to board with a few other vacationers. A spring breeze rustled through the heart-shaped leaves of the many linden trees lining this ancient waterway, and the rising moon danced on its rippling waves. It was going to be a lovely voyage.
Abruptly, a tour bus purred through the entrance, parked, and flung wide the doors. We watched with mild interest until a seemingly endless mob of people suddenly poured onto the pavement and began RUNNING our way. We looked at one another in alarm.
“Surely they’ll stop once they reach us,” I said to my friend. But they didn’t. They swarmed Susan, me and the others, pushing and shoving; poking us with their cameras, ramming us with their backpacks, tromping across our feet. We were jostled, shunted and crushed in their mad rush for the front of the line.
It was rather like one of those unbelievable scenes from an old western movie. The ones where rampaging cattle run amok after an unexpected gunfight at the OK Corral, and stampede overtop innocent townsfolk out for a Sunday stroll.
These people simply bowled us over and took what they felt was their rightful place. Of course, I’m only speculating they felt that way. I couldn’t ask them since they didn’t speak English.
Fortunately most folks aren’t like that, yet Christmas shopping sometimes brings out the worst in people. Fight the urge to get irritated, plaster on a smile and take deep, cleansing breaths. Patience is a virtue.
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