Tis the season for long lines. I was waiting in the Walmart customer service line. I was there wearing my yoga pants, practically a poster child for Walmart attire. I do have to justify myself here— I had just left yoga class. So I did actually have a good reason to be in my yoga pants. (even though they weren’t really yoga pants. You know, the flared bottom ones that are the business casual equivalent in athletic wear. No, I was standing in the returns line at Walmart in my black and grey patterned yoga leggings. My day will only go up from here.)
The line was backed up all the way to the vision center. And I seemed to be stuck right in front of the men’s bathroom entry for, like, at least 7 years. So just so you get a good picture, there I was: standing in front of the men’s bathroom at Walmart, wearing my loud yoga leggings, with yesterday’s hair that just got thoroughly flattened by plow pose, holding my returns under my arm. If you needed a confidence boost by comparison today, you’re welcome.
I could tell I was going to be there a while. I don’t do midnight Black Friday shopping, but I felt like I could now relate to those who do. I hunkered down and wished that I had carbo loaded for breakfast. I began reading some on my phone (thank you, Kindle app). I’m reading a great little book for writers that a friend recommended: Bird By Bird. I’m really enjoying it. I was getting pretty engrossed but interrupted several times to allow a wide swath for passage to the crapper. I was actually really surprised at how many men had the call of nature. I thought men had hollow legs for bladders, but I digress. So, I am at a point in my book about making observations, about being the cheese in “The Farmer in the Dell” and standing alone and observing. Well, I was standing. I was alone. But not really standing alone. I decided it was close enough, and knew that the author didn’t mean it literally, so I observed, and there seem to be some archetypal line waiters.
This sweet octogenarian could out-wait Moses. She could stand there for hours with otherworldly patience and not even flinch. In fact, she might even let the lady behind her with the 2 year old actually singing “The Farmer in the Dell” 18 times go in front of her. This lady is a saint in line waiting. If you ever see this woman get agitated, abandon hope. Just give up and try back another day.
The Earbud Phone Talker
This person has both an inflated concept of her self worth and an underestimated gauge of her voice volume. She can’t wait to have this conversation after she is out of the line. She also doesn’t trust anyone in the line enough to ask if she can step to the side for a moment and then get back in line. She just stands right there and lets everyone hear her business. She also confuses half the people walking by because she is too lazy to just hold the phone up to her ear so people know she is on the phone. It is actually funny as the observing cheese to see who tries to answer her, thinking she is talking to them. (If you are one of these Earbud Talkers, then I beg you, please reconsider your whole life philosophy that got you to this point. Maybe leave the earbuds in the car. That’s a great place to start.)
I saw more than one pair in line on this occasion. There was the Seasoned Veteran Couple, who barely had to talk except to silently make fun of yoga leggings with a knowing look. This couple might not actually enjoy each other’s company anymore, but they have a rhythm with each other and, for the most part, would rather run errands together than solo. There was also this other couple. I’m not sure whether to put them in the Alpha Female Couple category or Oblivious Male category. She was carrying rather large and somewhat heavy items for return. She rested the boxes awkwardly on her knee several times. If he ever offered to help, I certainly didn’t see it. And they never traded off. I mean, I’m all about doing things myself. But if there is something that is going to feel twice as big and heavy to me than my husband, I’d probably let him tote it.
This guy is pretty self explanatory. He doesn’t have any items to return. His stare is creepy. He is probably wiring bail money to a creepy cousin and might not be allowed within half a mile of a school or playground. Just hope that you aren’t immediately in front of him in line. You will probably feel his creepy breath on the back of your neck anyway.
The Mom and Child
This duo can change the whole atmosphere of the line. If the child is cute and happy, other waiters will make goofy faces and wave. If the child is tired, hungry, or just tired of waiting, Mom will be exasperated, half of the waiters will roll their eyes and the other half will feel sorry for the duo.
There are also some people you may see in line that are intriguing and out of the ordinary. Like the woman I saw that seemed different for some reason. Then when she was digging in her purse for her wallet, her very official and heavy looking badge surfaced inadvertently. Hmmm.
Not only are there these usual suspects of people in line, but also there seems to be a pattern to the stages of line waiting. There seem to be about 7 stages and some real similarities to the stages of grief.
7 Stages of Waiting in Line
- Denial/Shock—holy sh!%! How it is possible for this line to be this long?? Surely half of these people are here on accident.
- Bargaining— I’ll search through my purse to see if there is anything I can bribe these people to let me in front of them in line. Unfortunately, all I can find is a pair of children’s socks and a bag of almonds.
- Acceptance— ok, it’s just part of the task at hand. It can’t take that long. I’ll just read a little while I wait.
- Anger— it is taking that long.
- Hope— I am next in line. I feel little happy bubbles jumping around in my belly. I might actually get out of this place with my sanity!
- Disbelief with more Anger— I am next in line, the person has left, but for some reason they aren’t ready for me yet. What the hell could they be doing that they aren’t ready? Just say “next.” Don’t tell me she’s going on her lunch break. I will lose it if she is going on her lunch break.
- Joy— they said “Next in line, please!” I look around to be sure that is me. Yep, me! Oh I’m so happy! Now where is that receipt….
So over the next few weeks, happy shopping, and happy line waiting.
May your lines be short, your receipts be in the bag, and The Creepers be way behind you.