Why Is There a Queue?

by Robert A. Bak

We are now living in an age of instant gratification. The idea of waiting for anything is so alien to so many people. We have to wait in line for so many events, at the bank, especially at the airport, or just getting a cup of coffee. Time or the lack of time for most people is a daily challenge, and waiting is not for them. New Yorkers are not recognized as being very patient, but if there were a time, it would be now.

The last month had been dark, cold, and overcast, with on-and-off rain and showers. The general public had been getting cabin fever, excessively early for their well-being. Finally, there was a break in the weather, and the weekend forecast was for a sunny and warm period. A perfect time to get out and about, take a walk, and enjoy the warm sun. It seemed that everyone in the city has decided to do that.

And of course, that was the weekend that I would go to New York to visit friends. To my West Coast eyes, the area around the West Village and Chelsea have undergone a total transformation. Over the last many years, once beautiful areas had become ultra-gentrified. Many of the old buildings were being transformed back to their original beauty. With new buildings going up as condos, apartments, and chic businesses. A lot of the old meatpacking plants, some not used for years, have gone through substantial changes. Only the beautiful old facades have been kept, to maintain the illusion of times vanished.

I came upon the new addition to the area, the High Line, New York City’s “Park in the Sky,” an abandoned elevated railroad line that had served the area for decades. The last trains ran in 1970. The city was going to tear it down, but a group of developers thought it would serve well as a strolling elevated green park. The High Line starts at Gansevoort Street, below West Twelfth, and then twists and turns its way up to Twenty-Third Street. Park benches and trees and grassy areas have been added in sections the original train tracks have been kept as a reminder of its history. Now it has become a major new attraction for the city.

There is an old saying: “It isn’t a good neighborhood if there isn’t a Starbucks.” Well, in fact, within five blocks, I discovered there were three. I went into one on Greenwich Avenue, along with the blocks of old brick and brownstone buildings. The side streets were tree-lined and beautiful, just the way I remembered that area being many years ago. Of course, there was a line to place your order, nothing new here about waiting in line. I found a small table near the back and took my seat. It turned out, my seat was near the only bathroom, and, of course, there was another line of people waiting to use the facilities.

As I was enjoying my Grande Latte, it became increasing clear that the idea of a queue for the bathroom wasn’t going over well. As more and more guests were coming in, some went straight to the back. By the looks on their faces, seeing such a line wasn’t what they had expected. As they were waiting, the baristas were calling out the orders for a Triple Grande Latte, a tall French roast, a double-shot Americano, a mocha soy light foam, and one Tazo Earl Grey tea. Others were ordering bagels with cream cheese, or a crumb cake and one patron ordered a cinnamon twist. But the strangest order was for a Grande decaf espresso with extra foam.

The orders were coming out fast and furious. There was a constant flow of people coming and going. It was nonstop—with so many different languages being spoken by those waiting in line, from those of the locals, and the many tourists visiting New York!

Some even tried to go to the bathroom door to see if it was open but were quickly reminded there was a line, and they’d have to wait their turn. You did not have to ask for the bathroom key. Oh no! All you had to do was to follow the line of people waiting to go.

Some of the visitors in the line took the whole situation in stride. Others got on their electronic devices and either e-mailed or twitted their opinions to their friend. I finished my latte and decided to join the queue. I asked one of the employees just ahead of me, “Is it always like this?”

She replied, “It’s been like this all day.”

So we waited in the queue, and finally my turn came. What a sense of accomplishment! I had survived the wait.

As I exited the communal bathroom, I noticed that the queue hadn’t grown any smaller. In fact, it had just gotten longer. All of these poor souls, having to wait in line. You could see the looks on their faces that they were not happy. But when you have to go, you have to go.

The one bright side: You never know who you might meet in one of these thought-provoking queues. Being patient is not a strong suit for most people. Some of us have learned the art, and we take all of this in stride; others are confronted every day with this challenge. Time is what you make of it.

And what is extraordinary is that all of these people will come back again tomorrow, and the next day, and go through the whole waiting process all over again.


BIO: Robert A. Bak has been involved with the entertainment business for many years. First starting as a stage manager Off-Off Broadway in NYC, and then working in Los Angeles and Albuquerque. He has been a director and producer of plays with national award-winning playwright William Derringer. Robert’s short story “The Magic Room” was a 2016 finalist with Fiction Week Literary Review. His other creative works are forthcoming or have appeared in Work Literary Magazine and Agave Magazine.