'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
I CAN’T WAIT TO BE SPECIAL
Some people are born with photographic memories. Others are born with great singing voices. I, too, was born with a rare and amazing talent: no matter what the situation, I always without fail get into the slowest moving line.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the check-out lines at a supermarket, the counter at a fast food restaurant, or the toll booth on the Interstate highway. I always—always!—get into the slowest line. It’s just a special gift I have.
Before I realized I was blessed with this extraordinary talent, I tried, like most people, to find the fastest moving line. After all, waiting in line is not the most exciting thing in the world, and it can be downright frustrating to see other lines moving briskly while the line you’re in is moving slower than a glacier. All you really want to do is purchase the product, or pay the toll, or get through the turnstile as soon as possible.
I used to try to figure out which line would be the fastest. The first and most obvious criterion was the number of people already waiting in line. If, for example, in a supermarket there were four cash registers open and three of them had long lines, while the fourth only had two people in line, I would go to that fourth register.
But it didn’t matter. As soon as I’d get into that seemingly “best choice” line, without fail one of two things would happen. Either the customer who just had her groceries scanned and bagged would suddenly say, “Oh my, I left my wallet in the car. I’ll be right back,” and then shuffle out to the parking lot, causing the cashier to shrug her shoulders and gaze off into the distance; or, if that didn’t happen, the computerized cash register would suddenly freeze up, and while we waited for a manager, the cashier again would shrug her shoulders and gaze off into the distance.
Either way, I’d just stand there—also shrugging my shoulders and gazing off into the distance—and notice that other shoppers were entering the store, making their selections, going through faster moving check-out lines, leaving the store, driving home, and presumably eating the food they just purchased, while my ice cream slowly melted in the shopping cart.
After a while, I tried a different approach. Instead of seeking the line with the least number of people, I’d evaluate the type of people in line. For example, I once read a magazine article that said in fast food restaurants, never get in line behind a parent with small children. Instead, get in line behind adults, who order quickly, pay quickly, and move out of the way.
But for me, this plan never worked. I’d go into a McDonalds and notice that one register had a harried looking mom with three pre-school toddlers, while the other register had just a couple of adults. So I’d get in line behind the adults, only to discover that the employee taking our orders was a “trainee,” soloing for the first time and not quite grasping the concept of computerized cash registers, while one of the adults in front of me was a “No wait, I’ve got exact change!” kind of person, who will rummaged through each and every pocket, no matter how long it takes, to locate those elusive two pennies.
By the time I finally got my food, the three pre-school toddlers at the other register had graduated from the eighth grade.
Always choosing the slowest line was very frustrating—until I discovered it’s my special gift. Everybody has to be good at something, I finally realized, and this is my unique talent. So if you see me in the supermarket shrugging my shoulders and gazing off into the distance, I’m not frustrated. I’m just basking in my special talent. And if you don’t want your ice cream to melt, you might want to get in line far away from me.
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