Try it. Who knows, you may even like it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

First, practice standing in line, then...

By Dick Hirsch

Life is a educational process and by this time, I should have graduated and learned how to stand in line without stress. But, no; despite my best efforts while in line I still quickly become fidgety, a status that eventually leads to a combination of aggravation, boredom and anxiety.

Years ago I wrote a story explaining the differences between a Type A personality and a Type B personality. A Type A person is characterized as being highly competitive, impatient and concerned about wasting time. They get frustrated while waiting in line, interrupt others often, walk or talk at a rapid pace, and can often be seen repeatedly glancing at their watch, since they are always painfully aware of how little time they have to spare. A’s also insist on pushing and re-pushing the “close door” button on automated elevators and also rev their engines at traffic lights.

It is considered unhealthy to be a Type A, since the most often cited health risk associated with that group is high blood pressure, which can lead to coronary disease and premature death.

Of course a Type B is just the opposite: relaxed, seemingly carefree, patient, laid back, even laconic in their approach to business and social situations.

Before you start any self-assessment, I should emphasize that it is quite likely that an individual can navigate comfortably through life with a combination of A and B traits. Thus, it is possible for an A person to feel hassled and become agitated and anxious in certain situations while being patient and calm in other settings where a pure Type A would be going bonkers.

There are self help remedies. All the medical and psychological studies recommend that Type A’s either take up knitting, needlepoint or crocheting as a hobby and/or practice standing in line.

Years ago I chose to ignore knitting and those other pastimes and determine whether I could overcome my aversion to standing in line by adopting a new outlook when confronted with a line. It worked in a limited fashion, in places like the bank, the movies and the post office, all of which have lines most of the time. They are usually lines that are short and they move swiftly, without creating feelings of stress.

I have never done well with lines in governmental offices, where citizens form lines for various reasons, where a person registers, applies or pays for something. Such lines are usually not very well organized and time insensitive.

I mention all this because I just recently had cause to stand in the longest line of my entire life. It snaked around and around in a series of interlacing “S” curves. There were some 4,000 people in that line and they were all determined to stay the course and have their credentials certified and thus gain entry to the event.

My own determination to join the line and stay was severely tested but I knew from the outset there was no turning back since admission included free breakfast and free lunch, free advice from a cast of financial experts and, at the end of the day, free entertainment.

Most people see me as a Type B, but years ago I diagnosed myself as a classic blend of the two types. When confronted with certain situations some of my fierce Type A characteristics soon seize control and begin to roar like a lion in heat. I tried to recall all the many benefits that accrue to those who stand calmly in a line waiting their turn, but that memory game didn’t function with approximately 3,000 people waiting ahead and another 1,000 or so behind.

I soon found myself pacing and humming. I knew I was sliding into a downward trajectory since I hardly ever pace or hum. (It is impossible to pace back and forth or hither and yon while standing in a line since it is vital to retain your position. So pacing is reduced to a movement best described as unsatisfactory circular shuffling.)

I was stressed. Oh, how I wished I had taken a newspaper along that morning. I could have read it while standing, an approach I don’t recommend except under extreme circumstances. Many of the others in the line were talking on their cell phones and their side of the conversations drifted over the crowd. I kept hearing different versions of the same story. It went like this:

“Of course we got here early, but so did everyone else.”

The result? Eventually I became first in line. Did the experience improve my approach to lines? Grrr. I doubt it.



Post a Comment

<< Home