30 Jun Waiting In Line
The other night I attended a lovely wedding on the beach in Netanya. After the Huppah the guests were led along a candle lit path to a sumptuous buffet and sitting area. Besides being offered to switch my shoes for clogs, the first stop for most people was the four-sided bar where drinks were being served. Despite the multitude of bar tenders, each side of the bar was several people deep, and they were all jockeying for position to place their orders. As my turn approached, a woman standing next to me asked me how was it that I seemed so relaxed despite the pressured atmosphere of everyone desperate to get their drinks. I told her I have been waiting in lines for a long time and knew that once you get in line you will not end up empty handed. She gave me a strange look and made an order that was so picky, it would make any bartender crazy.
Having lived in Israel for the last 40 years, I have spent a lot of time standing in line. In the “old days”, I stood in lines at the bank, post office and Kupat Holim. As Israel modernized, those waiting in line experiences moved to the supermarkets, pharmacies and parking Lots. Today, most of us experience waiting in line when going through security checks at the airport, trying to get seated at a popular restaurant or getting into a sold-out concert. The big difference today is that while waiting in line, one is usually holding a smart phone that provides a nonstop opportunity to be entertained, to communicate or respond to e-mails.
So, what prepared a young man from the Southside of Chicago who grew up in an era where one could not distract himself with a device, to adapt to the Israeli experience of waiting in line? The answer lies in what I experienced as a young boy when my late father would invite me to attend a Chicago Bears football game. Back in those days, the NFL regular season consisted of 14 games with 7 of them being played in Chicago. He had two season tickets for each game and my father allocated his season tickets as follows: First game of the season went to my late mother, because those games were always played in warm weather, second, third and fourth games went to my father’s pals. I got to go to the fifth and sixth games when the weather was a bit chilly and the seventh game he usually sold because it was too cold. When I got to go to those games, my father always sent me out to buy myself a coke or hot chocolate at half-time. The problem was half-time was only 15 minutes and the other 40,000 fans also wanted to buy something to eat or drink during that limited timeframe. Every year I went through the same experience; I was too small to reach the height of the counter and the throng of adults pushing made it almost impossible for me to move forward. Nonetheless, my small size did allow me to inch through the crowd but by the time I reached the counter, I could not make myself heard to the vendor. Finally, (and this happened every time) some adult would look down at me and shout, “Let the kid place his order!” This led the crowd to part and the vendor would lean over the edge of the counter and supply my beverage.
While waiting on those lines, I never lost hope and knew that ultimately my request would be fulfilled. As I stood next to that woman at the bar the other night, I felt like I was 9 years old again at Wrigley Field waiting for my hot chocolate. That stranger standing next to me could not understand why I was smiling despite my thirst, but in my mind, I was just waiting for someone to shout out, “Let the kid place his order!” I needed no device to distract me as I was waiting, because I was having too good a time anticipating getting served.