Friday, November 27, 2015

Getting to the head of the line

It took two hours just to get to the sign that said "Enter Here." This was only the formal beginning of the line which was roped off to discourage  jumpers. This photo was transmitted to Kathleen back in Minnesota for vicarious enjoyment.
Lunch line integrity was paramount in high school. English teacher Ray Reuter earned meal money using his photographic memory and his index finger to instantly banish the rare jumper to the very end of the line, no exceptions, no excuses.

We derided “Sugar Ray” behind his back, but appreciated his important work when it was directed to others.

Mess hall chow lines are equally disciplined, self-policed mostly. In the field, military tradition dictates that officers eat last.

Those are the old rules. This is now.

The decline of Western Civilization has been hastened by the corruption of the queue. Waiting your turn has no value, patience no virtue. All things, apparently, no longer come to he who waits.

Amusement parks have contributed to this demise with special higher-priced line-jumping passes callously extending wait times for everyone else. You can get to the airport two hours early, but it makes no difference. Airlines, in their race to raise revenues, will sell you the right to make others wait while you board, this purchase allows you to spend extra time in that cramped seat but be first to stuff the overhead. . . and still arrive at your destination at the same time as everyone else.

It happened again last night, this time at the popular Pala Casino Spa and Resort where the line to enter the Thanksgiving Buffet looked like the scene from Exodus. Patrons were waiting untold hours to put down $46 for an orgy of culinary excess.

Our party of six remained undaunted.

Stan volunteered to anchor our place in line, which had been held for the past hour by Andy and his girlfriend. This practice seems woefully prone to abuse, but customs vary and you go with the flow. No Sugar Ray here.

Members of our party could circulate about the casino at will, checking back from time to time. Meanwhile, the anchor enjoyed an epic phone conversation with his wife back in Minnesota, who was watching the Bears beat the Pack. But after another hour or so, little headway had been made to the Pala Tribe’s Paradise.

“This line has to be corrupt,” Stan announced dismally to his host and dear friend, Hai Dang. “We’ll be here for at least another two hours.” The men were ready to bail, but not the ladies. So they meekly held their position, though now convinced that the line had huge leaks, that other patrons somehow were slipping in unseen in front of them.

Hai disappeared again into the jangling bowels of the casino. He’s a charming fellow, for some reason people instantly like him. Stan has received plenty of speeding tickets. A state trooper once stopped him on the way to International Falls, dead to rights. When the trooper saw Hai in the car, he politely issued Stan a warning ticket, Stan's first ever.

Hai had been gone about a half an hour when suddenly the wait was over. “This way, now,” our hostess gestured urgently. “Come!” Reluctant to leave the hard-won position in the forever line, Stan went anyway. Were we just giving up? Had someone slipped the line boss a twenty? After all the waiting, it couldn't be over.

But it was.

Somehow, in his travels about the casino, Hai had struck up a conversation with a slot machine junkie. After they got through the part about her son the doctor, an anesthesiologist, a Johns Hopkins graduate now practicing in Manhattan who doesn’t pay enough attention to his mother anymore, it was Hai's turn to tell her why he was here and how long the wait was, and she had the immediate solution.

From left, Hai's mom, our Angel, our hostess,
 momentarily on the padded Elite bench
while a 
table is prepared.
The woman must remain nameless, because, she chuckled, her husband didn’t know she was there. So we’ll just call her Angel, because she was. “I have lost so much money here I have earned an Elite Membership,” she laughed. Among her privileges, she has the right to go to the head of the buffet line, and bring her guests with her.

She quickly adopted us, and sure enough, her credentials opened a special side door marked with words like “Gold” “Platinum” and “Elite.” Inside, we received a big discount and were soon whisked to a private table set with huge silver buckets for discarded shells centered on a still-spotless white tablecloth.
Those ordinary folk outside would just have to wait. The elite were here to eat.

We thanked our Angel profusely, and she returned to her evening of inserting money into the noisy machines, faithfully paying for her special privileges.

As we joyously began the evening’s engorgement, we couldn’t help but ponder another life lesson: It seems that now the biggest losers go straight to the head of the line.


Becky Jerdee said...

Wow, the decline of Western Civilization!

Sosie said...

Great story! I'm sure Angel was thrilled to assist six nice hungry people. Sort of validifies the value of her patronage at the casino, doesn't it? Random kindness, at "no" cost.
Not the same, but similarly, Bill and I stood in the Always Long line at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. A couple walked up to us from across the street. "Are you two together, just the two of you?" And as we were, the couple took us out of line and with them directly in at the Members Only door. "We come here often. As members, we can take two people with us every visit, so you are our guests today. We have fun watching the line, looking for two nice people." We thanked them profusely and then we went our separate ways. Soon after, we became members.