Monday, December 5, 2016

We All Have to Wait in Line: And Maybe That's A Good Thing.

Ordinary (adjective) 1. of no special quality or interest; commonplace; unexceptional; plain or undistinguished       

Everybody it seems has the chance to be a VIP these days, you know, a “VERY Important Person”.  Extraordinary.  Able to go right to the front of the line.

Even at my local movie theater. Recently while waiting in a long line at Cinema One to Infinity, to buy snacks to accompany my watching the latest superhero flick, I looked over and saw a brand new VIP line for the concession stand.  That’s right. Golden hued line markers demarcated a very select corridor, where members of the “Premiere” club (which of course you have to pay an extra fee to join) can now whisk right to the front of the line, thus bypassing ordinary ticket buyers like me, who have to patiently wait to purchase an absurdly large cherry Coke, a tub of butter soaked popcorn and an overpriced box of Junior Mints.

No thanks. I think I’ll just wait here in line with everybody else.

Yes, I’m sometimes tempted to want to be a VIP, a celebrity, famous, above it all somehow, one of a kind, anything but ordinary. Who doesn’t? That desire is certainly encouraged by the culture we live in now, that pushes us at seemingly every turn, to either worship fame and fortune or covet being extraordinary, or wish to be set apart somehow, and always, from every one else. 

We’re preparing to usher in our very first celebrity in chief as the new commander in chief, having survived an election that was more like a reality TV show than a substantive and thoughtful exchange of ideas. We spend countless hours on social media, posting, tweeting, snap chatting, all in the hopes that someone, anyone, might “like” us, re-tweet us, give us a thumbs up, or a smiley emojji, all to confirm our extraordinary status in cyberspace. If we don't like the long lines almost anywhere--at the doctor’s office or Disney World or at the airport--for a price we can find a way now to avoid the wait. And our TV screens are filled to overflowing with shows about getting famous or being famous or fawning before a celebrity or pining to be a celebrity ourselves. 

Strange days.  If everyone is a VIP, is anyone a VIP?

Kind of makes me pine for the days of waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Remember?  There once was a time—pre-electronic renewal--- when just about everybody, every one, from the extraordinary to the ordinary, had to spend time in line at the DMV, at least once a year.  No line cutting either. Just sitting on a hard back bench or cracked plastic chair, staring up at a “Now Serving Number…” display, as muzak softly played in the background.

Now that was a humbling experience: being reminded that at the DMV, the line did not discriminate. Ever. If you wanted to get a new license or register a car or procure plates, you had to take your place among the masses, both the VIP and the very unimportant folks too. Not to overly romanticize that experience but there is a gift to just getting in line. To just standing in line. To just taking our place in the “unexclusive” group called humankind and then to be ordinary, just like every one else. 

There are still a few select places in this world where VIP lines or seating isn’t available, or needed.  Like at church or any house of worship. There you just pick up the hymnal and sing along with the whole congregation. All God’s children have a place in that choir.  In the voting booth too: regardless of how we feel about last November 8th, there was a real joy and excitement that day, about having each of our votes count, no ballot less important or more important, than any other.  There’s still a long line at the local grocery store, the corner gas station, and in the crowded malls this December: “NEXT IN LINE PLEASE!”

Most days, every day really, the truth is that us humans are just ordinary, like every one else.  We are in line, with everyone else. We are not better, nor worse, than anyone else. On average, we are average.  Trying our best to do our best and looking for a little grace and a little kindness and a little humility, as we stand in the line called life. 

I’m OK with being a VOP: a very ordinary person.  And if you ask nicely, I’ll even save you a place in line.





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