Thursday, November 22, 2012

Waiting in line for a lesson on human nature

Once, a very long time ago, not on Black Friday, but that's not important, I decided to wait in a line to get the newest video game system that everyone just had to have. It may have been Christmas Eve. And it was at a store in the mall.

photo by Tom Taker via flickr

I'm not the type of person who would get up early and go stand in a line for hours for something that I could probably just order online, or pick up after Christmas. But I thought I had an advantage and I thought it might be fun.

I used to work in the mall. And I knew that there was a special, hidden door that I could use to get in before the mall opened. So, I got up at the crack of dawn--okay--maybe earlier. And I snuck into the mall--it was deadly quiet.

I found my way to the store and voila, I was first in line. I waited several hours there, like an idiot. At one point, the night security guard saw me and gave me a knowing smile when I told him what I was doing.

Gradually other people joined me. The first was a lady who said that another store in the mall down the way was open early, so she thought, sort of as an aside, that she might as well come down here have a try at a whatchit.

When there were about seven of us, the anchor, JC Penny, must have opened its outer doors, because there were people gathering at its mall door looking at us enviously.

We were the first ones in line! We were a definite in on the goods.

The lights came on in the little electronics store and we saw movement. The manager was preparing his till. Then he came to the gate and told us how this was going to go down. We were so excited.

Then the security guard opened the nearest, outside mall door and all hell broke loose.

I heard a woman screaming, "They're already in line! They're already in line!" A group of people carrying pillows and wearing bunny slippers came running around the corner protesting and calling for security--literally shrieking like madmen--or people who had slept on concrete.

Apparently, these people had been waiting all night outside. And apparently the security guard who smiled at me approvingly had been the one to make them wait outside instead of sneaking into the mall like I had.

There were twelve of them. And what do you know? Twelve was the exact number of whatever the watchit was that I was waiting for.

The man in the electronics store told them he'd called security to haul their screaming, protesting, obnixious asses away. This made the woman in line behind me very happy. And, like a petulant child, he threatened to not sell any whatchits at all if everyone didn't just calm down.

Finally, the interlopers or true-in-liners, depending on whose side you're on, quieted down and waited for more security, but refused to move from in front of our line. They had pieces of paper that they'd already used to number themselves in order of who showed up first.

So, the lady in line behind me somehow managed to get her own little pieces of paper and wrote out numbers for our order in line. She gave me number one. There was no way, in her mind, that these barbarians were going to get her whatchit. She was never going to shop at that little store again if she was cheated out of her whatchit. (This is the same lady who was only in line as an afterthought.)

Understand, I was waiting to see if, hope beyond hope, electronics-store dude might just have thirteen instead of twelve. Because clearly these people, rude and insane as they were behaving, were first in line.

Anyway, security arrived, the mess was sorted and the people who'd been outside all night were allowed to enter the store and make their purchases. They waited for each other to finish, eyeing us suspiciously, as if we were planning to jump them on their way out, and left together.

I got my name on a waiting list, went home, enjoyed Christmas, went out a couple of days later and got one of the prized possessions at Best Buy. No scramble, no line, no waiting. Pretty as you please.

This episode has so many life lessons contained in it, I'm not sure I learned them all.