“The Line” was inspired by seeing lines of women and children in Somalia, Rwanda, other war-torn countries and regions experiencing famine; old photos and films of bread lines during the Great Depression and World Wars, present-day lines for soup kitchens and food pantries.
In New York City lines are unavoidable, though not always as desperate. We settle into lines at the DMV, the post office, for a movie or trendy bar. When I first arrived in the 70’s, I used to stand in movie lines in Times Square while friends waited in Howard Johnson’s. Times Square wasn’t what it is today (a theme park), it was gritty and peculiar. There were employees and patrons of peek-shows and porno shops, con-men and freaks, hookers and pimps. It was a marvel to a little girl from northern Appalachia, a hypnotic spectacle I took in eagerly.
I confess that I sometimes enjoy the camaraderie of a line. My local fish store, at certain times of the day, has a long line of shoppers with whole fish in bowls, waiting to tell the man behind the counter how we want it cut and cleaned. We discuss recipes and politics; we gossip. Grocery store lines are the only chance I have to read tabloid headlines, statements that conjure up fantasies beyond the fallacious stories within.
Of course, there are those lines we haven’t the patience for when we’re in a hurry, those that turn up unexpectedly. There are lines that oblige us to contend with angry or psychotic people. Londoners wait patiently in their queues; it’s not always so in New York. Books help. iPods help, but you might miss something interesting.
I was once in a movie line in Boston when the temperature was -5 and the people in front of me were eating ice cream. (It was the 60’s.)
What “in line” experiences have you had?