Why do we wait (in lines)?

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Scotty Olin, 22, waits in his tent for the opening of Harry Potter And the Deathly Hallows, part 2.

By Travis Mayfield

There is a bizarre, contradictory duality of thought people in this country are able to maintain about waiting in lines.
 
On one hand, as Americans we’ll go through all kinds of background screening and willingly allow the government to peer into the darkest corners of our lives in order to become a “trusted traveler” and spend three minutes less getting through the TSA security line at airports.
 
We will shun all human contact at the grocery store, giving up even a simple ‘hello’ in order to ring ourselves up in the faster checkout line using a robot.
 
Hands down, we will pay significantly more money at any number of theme parks for the ‘privilege’ of cutting in front of other schlubs to get on the merry-go-round three times in a row.
 
Don’t tell me you don’t revel at the chance to do each and every one of these things. Because I know, no matter what you say, you do.
 
Yet, at the exact same time, as a people we are continually adding to this national (and oddly patriotic) myth of the glory of line waiting.

We will literally wait hours, days, even weeks or months in a line to buy the latest iProduct. 
 
A beloved kid’s toy or book being ruined by some Hollywood hack on the big screen? Heck yes, PLEASE let me camp out for a fortnight on the cold and wet sidewalk for a chance to see it at 12:01 a.m. the morning it is released (despite the fact that your friends saw it at a corporate moral event for free the day before).
 
Or a sale? Maybe not even an actual sale, but the cult-of-hope that there is SUPPOSED to be a sale after Thanksgiving, on wedding dresses or on a new color of Glassy Baby (seriously folks, these are fancy candle holders and they do not bestow everlasting life).
 
Worse than all of that, however, we celebrate these line experiences. We plan in advance for them. We collect all our friends. We dress up for them (it is unclear how you can even physically put 3D glasses on over a giant head-engulfing plastic Optimus Prime mask?). 
 
And then after it is all over we brag about them.
 
“Oh man, remember when we waited in front of Cinerama for the entire decade of the 90’s for Phantom Menace and then it sucked?”
 
“I slept in a urine soaked gutter outside the Shaftsbury Theatre 17 times to see the original London cast of RENT from the front row 17 times!!”
 
But why do we do this? What has lead us to worship at the alter of the ‘church-of-the-line’ so faithfully?
 
Do we lack physical human interaction so much in our daily lives that our DNA acts as a magnet for any collection of other beings with similar DNA standing still in proximity to each other for a significant period of time?
 
Did we wait in lines (and enjoy/hate it) before the telegraph? 
 
Before the telephone?
 
Before email?
 
And if not, what does that say about our future?
 
Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Microsoft (oh wait…never mind)?
 
I’m not complaining about ‘all those new-fangled gadgets, I’m just trying to understand how all of this happened without anyone really noticing
 
By the way, I have my own line-waiting-war-stories (see above RENT reference) and yet there is one more piece to this insane puzzle that I must take some responsibility for, and that is the media obsession with lines.
 
So clearly YOU like to wait in lines. Still *I* as a reporter love nothing more than covering you waiting in said lines. I’ll put you on TV on the radio and online. I’ll revel in THAT experience. I’ll grant you your 5-minutes-of-fame for your crazy line-waiting. 
 
Truthfully, what does that say about me?
 
I’m really not sure. But if I don’t stop writing I’ll start asking about why *you* will read/view/listen to stories about the lines you aren’t waiting in. This in turn compelling me to cover even more line waiting, thus spurring that national myth of the glory of line waiting we’ve already discussed and the questions of human interaction and lack of physical contact and on and on and on until I close my eyes and cease to exist.
 
However, before I turn off my laptop I must offer one final question.
 
Will there be a line to get into Heaven? And if not will it still seem as cool?

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