Clyde, Time Was: These are the lines of our lives

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 23, 2017

Time was, we spent a lot of time standing in line.

Remember elementary school? We lined up for everything it seemed. It kept us busy going to the cafeteria with green Melmac plates, taking a book back to the library, milk break, to go outside for recess, for fire drills, to get shots, for eye tests, even to get ready to go home. The most crucial was lining up go down the dark hall by the office to the porcelain water fountain with steps. That image may have been flushed away — replaced by plastic, crunchy water bottles even at every desk.

Lining up for the bathroom was a matter of sheep and goats with no LGBTQ law to make you “hold it” any longer. We were too busy reading what it said on the wall to worry about waiting in line.

The longest line was for the pencil sharpener, where some girl always poked you with her newly sharpened point that left lead under your skin.

Whoever was the shortest got to line up first, or maybe the quietest, the first to finish their work, or simply alphabetically. Go, Aaron; sorry, Zach. In the first grade we had to hold hands and go in pairs or a buddy system. Later we were told not to touch the person in front of you or give them a “flat tire.” Go figure. “Keep your hands to yourself,” may have thwarted our social skills for life.

How stupid do you have to be to stand in line at Wal-Mart? They have plenty more just like it — all made in China. Do you think the Chinese stand in line to buy American? Maybe movies.

Nowadays in downtown Salisbury queueing is limited to Caniche and Queens on Krazy Klearance sale days. The longest and seemingly perpetual line is of course at Hap’s Grill. Funny thing about that line is, some days it wags North and other days towards the Square. Who knows why people want fast food and eat it even faster — to make up for lost time, reckon, so they can eat more. There is reportedly an entrepreneur in New York who has 20 employees who will stand in line for you anytime, anywhere. Lucky we would be to have someone stand in line for you at Hap’s just to get a juicy cheeseburger to go and take home to slice on a homegrown tomato to wash down with our Cheerwine.

Ever notice, animals don’t line up to eat. It’s every man (or beast) for himself. Just try to explain the concept of “wait” to your pet. They don’t share well, either. Welcome to Animal Farm.

Free will is a curious thing. Why would we choose to wait in line at Food Lion? For one, there is no other choice, except sneaking into the express line and pretending you didn’t know.

Standing in line makes one stop and think about your existence in the world. As Marley’s ghost told Scrooge, “I wear the chains I forged in life, I made them link by link and yard by yard. I girded it on of my own free will, I wear it.”

Crackheads choose to sell you a line of coke. Drug dealers choose to smoke their first blunt. Criminals risk being in the line up. No one tells them to get in line and take turns to do it. Why does any human being choose addiction as the way out of their predicament? The final chapter is overdose. They come to the end of the line. According to a Rowan County Sheriff’s Detective, we can be proud of 67 this past month alone. That’s fifth in the state. Cabarrus County is No. 2. Thanks to the I-85 corridor. Can we put a checkpoint at exits to check for drugs coming into our community? Like the airport’s TSA agents? After all, like the airways, we do own the interstate systems don’t we?

Why do young, vibrant 20-year olds, full of life yet have nothing else to do with their lives? Who taught them that this is the way out? Why is their lifeline a tube in a hospital or on Narcan in the back of an ambulance? Wake up, people. Stop this madness or we are no better than the rats and cockroaches that hide in dark places to disguise our real “raison d’être.” Alternative counseling may be helpful.

Don’t stand in a line at the back of the church and lament, “I knew him.” Choose your lines wisely. Ask for advice. Next time you hear the call to line up — enjoy the wait; don’t get out of line or you’ll lose your place. Meet someone in line and identify with their plight. Be sure you get in the right line and you know what you want before you get to the front of the line and think about why you want it. Do you really need it or what are you going to do with it anyway? You might get what you asked for. Or you could, of your own free will, just simply and quietly, step out of line.

Clyde is a Salisbury artist who went through the legal process to drop his last name.