How much do I hate standing in line? I would rather eat fast food than wait 45 minutes for a seat in a nice restaurant. There is no bargain in any store tempting enough to persuade me to line up in the predawn cold on the day after Thanksgiving for the privilege of fighting other shoppers for it. I once passed on the opportunity to climb up to the top of the Statue of Liberty because it would have meant standing in line for two hours.
I renew my car license tags by mail to avoid standing in line at the courthouse. Though to be fair, the county treasurer's office is equipped with a long wooden bench like a church pew, so the first 15 or so people in line get to sit while they wait. The seat of the bench is well-polished by generations of taxpayers sliding along it until they get to the front of the line; it probably hasn't had to be dusted in years.
But this week I stood in line for half an hour to buy tickets to hear Greg Mortenson. He's the former mountain climber who has spent almost 20 years helping to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and in a more logical world he would already have received the Nobel Peace Prize.
I knew tickets for his talk would sell out quickly once they went on sale at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, so I got myself down to the Civic Center promptly at 9:57. I was overly optimistic; 50 or 60 other people were already in line. More kept coming in behind me.
As we inched our way closer to the ticket windows, we made conversation, bonding in the way people do when they are sharing an arduous experience. The closer we got to the front of the line, though, the more ominous the news became from the successful buyers ahead of us with their tickets clutched in their fists. "They're already sold out except for the balcony." "They're saying not everyone in line will be able to get tickets." "They're saying you'd be better off to get tickets online."
Well, if we had wanted to get our tickets online, we'd have stayed home and done that, wouldn't we? Undiscouraged, we kept creeping forward. We told each other and ourselves how wonderful it was that so many people were eager to hear about Greg Mortenson's work. We pretended we would be glad for those people even if we didn't manage to get seats ourselves.
Mostly, though, we agreed that it wouldn't be fair if all the tickets sold out to those upstarts who were buying theirs online. We, after all, were more deserving. We were getting our tickets the old-fashioned way. Even if standing in line made us feel like singing the blues . . .
"We're just standing in line here and standing in line, and it feels like we aren't even moving.
At least all this crowd is too nice and polite to be elbowing, pushing, or shoving.
We hear from the folks near the front of the line that the tickets are selling out fast,
So we hope and we pray that we'll still get a seat when we get to the window at last.
While we're inching ahead, we are making new friends and we're getting along here just fine,
For we all can agree that the real enemy is the one buying tickets online."
At 10:28, I made it to the window. Did I get tickets? You bet. Balcony, third row, left center. Sometimes good-enough seats still come to those who wait in line.