Hump Day: Hurry up and wait, but don’t jump your place in line

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

I’ve accepted my fate. I’m not even worrying about it anymore. The gods seem to have it out for me. No need fighting it. No need getting angry. It’s out of my hands.

Arriving early somewhere does me no good. Something always goes wrong or there’s a delay of some sort. For instance, a friend of mine and I decided to have supper at a popular all-you-can-eat buffet. We went to a movie beforehand and then hopped in our respective vehicles to head across town to the restaurant. So far, so good.

I got there before him. Since we’d attended a matinee, it was still quite early – just after 5 p.m., as a matter of fact. We wanted to avoid the throngs of early-dining seniors and tourists who would most certainly be arriving by the dozens at any moment. I sat down in the restaurant’s lobby and waited. Then I waited some more. I really couldn’t go in before him because he’d likely never find me and I’d planned on treating him anyway.

At first, the crowd seemed pretty reasonable. I noticed a few people wander in – a mixture of seniors and tourists. All were headed toward the restaurant. I was trying to avoid having to wait in line, not that it would be the end of the world, but why wait in line when you don’t have to? I waited some more – and some more again.

What I didn’t know was that my friend got caught up on an urgent telephone call on the way over to the restaurant. Not the end of the world, but I was wondering where he was and was growing impatient. I knew it would be happening at any moment.

What’s ‘it’ you ask? Well, ‘it’ is the internal radar of every senior and tourist that tends to go off like dynamite and send an invisible signal across the city that it’s time for supper. You know how birds tend to migrate in groups? You’ve seen those big flocks flying overhead, right? You wonder how they know when and where to fly, right? Well, that instinct to migrate also exists in seniors and tourists – except that it’s the instinct to head to the all-you-can-eat buffet on a weekend.

While I was losing patience and waiting for his arrival, I heard the low grumble begin in the air and the vibrations in the floor – kind of like what you hear and feel when you put your ear to the track to check for an oncoming train. (At least that’s what they do in the movies.)

Then it started. Every senior and tourist imaginable began descending on the restaurant. Senior couples dining alone and with friends. Carloads of them, sometimes – six or eight a time. All of them walking slowly and methodically and appearing seemingly from nowhere in the lobby. In the movies, the zombies utter, “Brains! We want brains!” At the restaurant, the throngs arriving en masse at the same time walked in a trance-like fashion with their arms held out in front of them while moaning, “Buffet! We want the buffet!”

Well, now, by then I was just beside myself. We could have had a sweet spot at the front of the line. We would have watched the restaurant owners weep as they saw both of us arrive. We’re both big guys. Whenever we arrive together at an all-you-can-eat buffet, the owners usually beg us to leave them a few crumbs for the others. We just tell them to hide the children and pets for their own safety and keep everything nice and fresh, especially the expensive stuff.

When my friend eventually arrived and we got a table, a lot of the good stuff was already picked over and we didn’t get our jollies making the owners cry. They were already crying. I don’t know how all-you-can-eat buffets stay in business. If I owned a restaurant that offered an all-you-can-eat buffet and I saw my friend and I walk in, I’d just point a loaded crossbow at them and say, “How hungry are you? Can you outrun this?” Twang! I’m usually never that hungry. Good way to learn how to run fast, though.

The same phenomenon goes with me and cash register lineups. I’ve just come to accept that whichever lineup I pick will have some sort of issue. Someone will need a rain cheque or will challenge the price of something, slowing up the line. Or they’ll be yakking on the phone. Or they’ll decide to get into a deep conversation with the cashier. Like the late, great comedian John Pinette used to say in his act, “Get out of the line!”

Whenever I’m in line at the cashier and another one opens up next to me, I make a point of ensuring the person in front of me gets the opportunity to go there first. Often, they’re very grateful and will move ahead to the new line or will simply thank me and head over. By the time I’m done being Mother Teresa, however, the person in back of me has skipped over everyone entirely and ran over to the new line.

Some good cashiers will put the line-jumper in their place and politely put me to the front, while at other times (translation: most of the time), they’ll simply say nothing and leave it up to me to have a conniption. I never do. I want to, but I never do. Basically, if you’re in that much of a rush and don’t have the common decency to wait for others to go before you, then fill your boots. That doesn’t stop me from imagining you getting into your car and the entire thing exploding into a fireball like something you’d see on The Sopranos, but in the end, it’s no big deal. Karma will get you somehow.

If you’re like me and cursed with permanently finding yourself in the slowest line no matter where you go, it’s just better to accept your fate. There’s not much you can do about it. Besides, it’s kind of fun imagining how the person who cut in line at the just-opened cashier will surely meet their imminent demise. Kaboom!

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