Tuesday, February 21, 2012

First in Line

I'm always shocked by how quickly I can feel like I'm five years old again. It doesn't happen often, but when it does it's a rapid transformation that leaves me frustrated and slouching. On the bright side, it usually doesn't last long enough for me to start wearing my hair in a whale spout.

On Saturday morning, I arrived extremely early to catch my 11:30 Megabus to New York. For the first time I can remember, I was the first person in line. I plopped my bag next to the "New York" sign and pulled out a book to read while I waited. Other people came to check if I was in line for the 11:30 bus and stood to my left. It seemed my travel day was off to a good start. The line grew, buses arrived to let off people from Harrisburg and Baltimore, and the area became more crowded.

At about 11:10, a girl with perfectly styled hair, full makeup and expensive boots walked up next to me and dropped her bag. My initial assumption was that she had just gotten off a bus and was waiting for her ride... right next to me, at the front of the line for the bus to New York. It seemed ridiculous that she had intentionally cut me in line. Who is that blatant about stepping in front of fifty people? No one is that obviously impolite, right? 

"I'm sorry, you were standing where?"
(Okay, okay, she didn't look like anyone from Mean Girls.
She was probably perfectly nice.)
After a minute I realized that she was waiting for a bus just as much as I was. It had been too long for me to mention that this was the front of the line, plus she had her headphones in. I tried to tell myself that it didn't matter what some random girl thought of me, especially after she'd cut me in line, but I was too busy mentally flashing back to one morning eighteen years earlier.

When I was in kindergarten each class lined up before school by the front door behind the spray-painted first letter of the teacher's last name. School began at 8:30 AM and an aide would lead each line of excitable children into their classroom. It was always a treat to be the first in line, but it was impossible unless you got to school extra early. One morning, my mom dropped me off after driving my brother to middle school, which started a half hour before the elementary school. For once I was the first kid on the playground! I lined up right behind the A for Mrs. Azeredo and smiled with pride.

My elementary school after recent renovations
I'm not sure if they still have letters spray-painted on the hardtop.
Closer to 8:30, Clint* arrived. Clint lived two minutes from school, so he was first in line every morning. When he saw me waiting at the A for Azeredo, he walked up and stood in front of me. "You're not first," he explained. "You weren't standing on the A. You have to be on the A to be first." I don't think I cried, but it was definitely a crushing moment for five-year-old me. Even though Clint and I went to school together for another nine years, I think I made all my decisions about his character in that moment.

Looking at the girl now in front of me in line who was either oblivious to her rudeness or daring me to ask her to move, I was again the five year old with the scrunchies and teal leggings who hadn't stood on the A. I was frustrated that I had suddenly regressed eighteen years and that I still didn't stand up and say that the fact that there is room between me and the New York sign does not mean that there is space to cut me in line. You don't have to stand on the sign to be first.

Not pictured: the line
Luckily for me, the morning had a happy end. It turned out that the girl was waiting for the 11:15 Bolt Bus and left after a few minutes. Later, when a group of girls who had been conveniently loitering near the front of the line tried to board the 11:30 bus first, the ten people standing behind me and the Megabus employees yelled until they moved closer to the back. (Being the type of people who loiter near the front, they did not walk all the way to the end of the line.) The man in line behind me pulled me up front and made sure I got on the bus first. It made my day and helped me chip away at the residual tragedy of that morning when Clint stood on the A for Azeredo.

Was being first in line a big deal for you when you were little?
Does it bother you when people ignore rules like "don't cut in line"?

*His name wasn't Clint. I figure it's better not to mention names because he might think I'm weird for remembering this story, and maybe he'll be ridiculously famous in a few years and I'll wish we were friends. Who knows?

1 comment:

  1. At the movie screenings I go to (to write reviews for my film blog), there is SO MUCH cutting. I am technically one of them too, but I always make sure I have someone standing in line for me - usually my mom or dad - so it's not as bad as just randomly strolling up to the front of the line, IMO. If you get there at 4:30-5pm for the 7pm movie, and are 10th in line, you will undoubtedly be 20th-30th when we go in ... it's ridiculous.

    But I'm glad that girl wasn't ACTUALLY waiting for the same bus as you :). What were you going to NYC for? I have yet to take Megabus (it goes from A2 to Chicago, as I'm sure you know) but I've heard it's nice.