How To Wait In Line
-Or-
That Time I Got Punched At Whole Foods

There is no instruction manual for waiting in line. It is a natural phenomenon; an innate human instinct, like walking upright, or feeling uncomfortable about Owen Wilson movies.

You need simply to stand behind the last person. The Brits call it a queue. The Native Americans call it Maize.

But I'm sure this has happened to you:

You're on line to purchase a sandwich, or a roto tiller, or a sack of lima beans, or what have you, and someone joins the line behind you.

No big deal. You've got your spot in line, he's got his. Life's good.

So good in fact, that the line is moving. You take a step forward, and the guy behind takes two steps.

Now at first, you'll want to give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps the people behind him took three steps, and he has no choice but to split the difference. The cumulative effect of 3-4 close-standers can really add up.

The line moves up again, and suddenly the person is bumping up against you.

This calls for a casual backward glance, because unless there is a ten-car pile-up behind the magazine rack, THERE IS NO REASON THIS PERSON SHOULD BE TOUCHING YOU.

"Oh, excuse me, I didn't mean to bump into you there," should be the response from a normal person.

Instead, you find a mouth-breathing troglodyte who has no idea he is puttering into you like a spring-loaded wind-up toy against the kitchen wall.

He appears to have all his chromosomes. He can operate an iPhone with some effort.

Yet he seems completely unaware that his elbow is in your breast pocket.

Rather than club him with your sack of lima beans (or what have you), you may turn gently, lean to either side, or scratch an imagined itch. You hope this motion will alert him that you are not in fact a man-shaped arm rest.

Nothing.

Clearly the chap has very poor spatial relations skills. You briefly imagine him jamming sliced bread horizontally into a toaster when you notice the line has moved forward again.

This time, he's sidled up next to you! He is standing beside you on a single-file line. You're now co-third in line.

This is not allowed! There are no ties in the race to the register.

Now you're pissed, because in the grown-up world, there is no need to call "No Cutsies" in advance. It is a universal statute enforceable by the U.S. military, if I'm reading the Constitution correctly.

You would easily confront this person about his extraordinary lack of etiquette, except that now you're wondering: If he doesn't posses the innate social cognizance for line-forming protocol, what other mental defect may be lurking? Voice Immodulation Syndrome? The dreaded "Mad Hands" disease?

It's just too risky. You have a family at home. Well, a goldfish anyway, and Sanjaya Jr. ain't gonna shake flakes into his own tank.

But you can't let this jerk get away with cutting, especially such a flagrant, broad-daylight offense.

So now it's on.

How far forward can you move without cutting the person in front of you? If you did that, the chain reaction would surely lead to anarchy.

It's all about positioning from hereon in. You've got to box him out, lock him into that single file.

A hairpin turn around the Malaysian Cocoa-Dandelion Earth Bars is a great opportunity to halt his advance. Meanwhile, be sure to stretch often, and take up as much horizontal space as possible. If you're not clinically obese yet, try stuffing your coat with bubble wrap. It may just give you the edge you need.

In the end, this guy would really require balls the size of Calcutta to take you down at the register. And if he does, he's probably got "Mad Hands" disease anyway.

If that's the case, take it from me - just let him ring up his Malaysian Cocoa-Dandelion Earth Bar first.

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