Waiting in Lines

Before the iPhone, waiting in lines was a completely different experience. Pro-Apple Users say the time felt wasted and can cite how many hours are spent in traffic, at the supermarket, at the bank, picking kids up from school, at the post office, etc. Now, with smart phones, one can check email, Tweet, Facebook, Pin, upload photos to Flickr, update reading lists on Goodreads, follow favorite blogs, listen to great podcasts, see who isn’t on Google+, check new connections on Linked In, dominate your friends or get Pwned in Words with Friends, Shazam the song playing on the speakers (It’s Summer Breeze by Seals and Croft) and so much more.

On the flip side, if you took some of that time to just be, to listen, to observe, to take in the moment, you might find a peace in the ability to just be quiet. Jonathan Fields wrote a very convincing essay called “Reprogramming the Twitch: Lessons Learned from Two Months Without a Phone” which, while reading, I nodded at, agreed to at parts and still decided, yeah no that’s not going to happen. I like my iPhone next to me. I like all those things I can do.

Patience varies depending on the line you have to wait in, what you’ve accomplished so far and what is yet to be done. Nobody is patient all the time and for me, using my iPhone helps distract me from the fact that I’m waiting. The wait is usually because of an inept clerk or an overly needy customer: two things out of our control. After waiting in lines in Israel, I found it much easier to wait in lines in America. Let me explain the difference.

This is what waiting in line in America looks like.

In America, there are lines. Even at the AT&T store, where there isn’t a clear line, everyone knows who came in first, who was after them, and wait patiently until it is their turn. Sometimes in a long(ish) supermarket line, you hear the grumbles of how long it’s taking, but until you’ve waited a half an hour in a line whose position you have to be vigilant about because someone is always looking for a way to push into your place in line. I’m not sure those American grumbles are really merited. In Israel, you really wait. Every line at the super market is open and every line has at least five people in it with very full shopping carts at any given time on any given day. Apparently there aren’t enough grocery stores. The line at the post office and pharmacy have evolved into number taking, but the line at the airport is unmanageable.

That's me in there waiting to check in for my flight, or buying some milk.

In Israel, there are no lines. There are crowds. There are hoards of people, some without the common decency to slap on a little deodorant before putting their winter coat on in July and then standing next to me with sweat literally dripping off their noses. Seriously, how am I not supposed to gag when I see droplets? And did that guy not feel the droplets? I would feel droplets hanging off my nose. It was an effective tactic. I didn’t shove him anymore. I was afraid he might turn and a droplet would land on me.

I was trying to come into Israel and unlike the United States or Britain or Germany or any other country I’ve been to with clearly marked lines with rails, in Israel, there are merely windows which you must shove your way towards. There were two windows for Israelis and both windows were also servicing the Russians. I was surrounded by Russians in line and apparently there is also no common courtesy in Russia for line waiting because I was shoved and pushed and prodded.

Unlike Israelis, who are usually short and provide me with a bit of fresh air when I’m in the crowd, Russians are tall. They are tall and they smell differently than I’m used to. That is literally the nicest way I can put it. I’m sure not all Russians smell like this, but I think my skin started to absorb the hoard’s smell. It was not pleasant.

To be honest, I contemplated fainting just to get to a place where I could breathe without smelling what someone had for dinner. But I stuck it out and finally made my way through. I had to find a happy place and I did that listening to Alison Rosen’s podcast with Doug Benson. I laughed out loud at several parts causing concerned looks from those around me, but it made me feel like I fit in because despite the enjoyment I derived from listening to the podcast, I was still concerned about who brought the funk. And my face showed it.

In addition to the pushing, prodding, stinking mass that I became a part of, were the self-entitled line cutters. We all just got off of a long flight, some longer than others (13 hours from LA) and there is nothing, no good reason, why you should literally push in front of others to be in the front of line. There is a disabled line and a line for parents with kids. If you don’t fit in those two lines, you have to wait in the hoard with us. ugh.

So, while I understand and can agree with many points on giving up the iPhone or our dependence on it, I was reminded severely that if only for the grace my iPhone gives me while waiting in lines, I shall never it up!

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