lovehate: lining up

The concept of a line of people waiting for a thing is just wrong in so many ways.

There are two basic subsets of people waiting in lines for things.

The first reason people would wait in line for something is due to NEED or survival.  While this is a completely justified reason to stand in a line, it usually involves a socio-economic imperative (think Eastern Bloc during the Cold War or America during the Depression when line-ups for bread were longer than Chuck Heston's entourage through the Red Sea in the 10 Commandments).  If a person HAS to line up to feed his/her family, I'm going to be the last one to criticize. You do what you've gotta do.  But this doesn't make it right. Any system that requires lines for food disenfranchises its citizens from the start.

Which brings us to reason two: lining up for WANT.

Spending a month in a line to be the first person to buy a ticket to the latest Sci-Fi epic that hundreds, if not thousands, of other people have seen in other timezones or just through previews, is just plain depressing.  Pitching up a lawn chair and getting friends to hold your spot while you go to relieve yourself and buy another venti frappachino in the Halo or iPhone line isn't much better.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying buying, owning or having things is bad.  I might line up for something if I knew I could never get it again, but when I can return to the same place the next day, or next week, to get the same item, I'm not so concerned about being an early-adopter.  I get that there can be a social aspect to the line: the movie line prepares one for a shared experience, the tech gadget line places you among like-minded geeks or gamers who (at least on the surface) appear to "get" you when other people don't.

Lining up always seems like a far better idea in the planning stages as well.  You sit down with a friend and work out an ebay-like formula of the latest you could possibly get there to be the first in line.  You tell your boss you'll need to take 3 days vacation time attached to a holiday weekend.  You buy a cooler, a case of Red Bull, a box of your favorite energy bars, a new sleeping bag, charge your laptop, check with your municipal website to see if they've installed the wi-fi towers in the area yet, call friends that can come down to visit you, and write down some speaking notes for the inevitable television interviewer that's sure to ask you (as first in line) deep and penetrating questions about the thing you're waiting for.  You arrange a ride to and from the line and sleep 18 hours in advance of heading to claim your glory as the first, best, earliest adopter in your major metropolitan area.  As you round the corner ready to be bathed in the angelic fluorescent glow of the major electronic retailer's window display you find something's wrong, your formula was flawed, and apparently being the 23rd best early adopter in your major metropolitan area will have to do.

As you settle in for six days of cold concrete and strange bedfellows you think to yourself...


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