The other day I saw people waiting in line for the opening of the Good Will store in our town. I don’t know the reason they were waiting there. Perhaps they were waiting to submit job applications or for an interview for a job. Perhaps they were waiting for the store to open so that they could obtain necessary items. I’m not familiar with the social services agencies around here and have not yet checked out the Good Will store. What I noticed was the now familiar practice of marks on the pavement indicating six-foot spacing. People are supposed to follow the direction of those marks in order to provide safe space during the pandemic. Marks on the pavement have varying effects on different people. Some were clearly ignoring the marks and standing closer to the person in front of them than indicated. Others were trying to observe the spacing even when it meant leaving a mark with no one standing on it. Others were rigidly moving from one mark to the next regardless of what the people around them were doing.

At least it appeared that most of the people standing in line were at least aware of the marks on the ground. That is quite a bit different than the arrows in the grocery store indicating the direction in which customers are supposed to pass through the aisle. It seems to me that there are very few people who are observing those instructions. I try hard to comply with the instructions, which frequently means I have to travel the length of an aisle that has nothing I want to buy in order to get to the aisle that has the merchandise that I want. It certainly seems that I am in a minority when it comes to direction of travel. I have had other customers show a little recognition when I meet them in the aisle. A few have even said, “Oops! I’m going the wrong way!” The recognition doesn’t seem to translate into a change of behavior, however. Usually they continue the full length of the aisle in the wrong direction. A few people seem to believe that ignoring the other customers is the best way to deal with the grocery store. I’ve been tempted to say to several people, “Obviously, when they put those arrows to indicate which way to go through the aisles they didn’t mean you. Those signs are only for people who are able to read.” I wouldn’t really say that, but the thought does enter my mind from time to time.

The process of moving involves a fair bit of waiting in line. I had to make an appointment and then I had to take a number in order to get my Washington State Driver’s License. The licensing office was nearly empty and I didn’t have to wait after I got into the building. I was the only one with that particular appointment time and the space was nearly empty. I still was directed to stand on the pavement markings outside the building as a worker asked the health screening questions. The place where we got the licenses for our cars doesn’t take appointments. I really had to stand in line there three times. It took that many trips to have the necessary items to complete the process. The line was outside and twice I waited in the rain. They did have umbrellas available for loan for those waiting in line.

Like the driver’s license office, many of the other places where lines form have changed the process of physically waiting in a cue to a process of making online appointments. We haven’t had many medical appointments during the season of Covid, but those we have included quick trips through empty waiting rooms. Instead, we have waited in our car in the parking lot until our cell phones rang to indicate it was time for us to enter the office. There is no checkout line at the library desk. We don’t even go into the library building. Instead, we place our request for books online and pull into a drive up space where our books are delivered to the open rear hatch of our car. When I want a popular item from the library, I can check the status of my wait for the item. Right now I have one book on hold with four people ahead of me in line and another with ten. I don’t know how many copies of the book are available, but once when I was sixth in line it took less than a week for me to get the wanted book. I’m pretty sure the library has multiple copies in circulation.

One of the frustrating “waiting in line” experiences for us is the wait for Covid vaccination. Our county has a web site that makes appointments available. We have been eligible to get our vaccinations for a month now, but the county doesn’t have enough doses of the vaccine. Each week we check, sometimes multiple times per week, but we haven’t yet gotten into the portal that allows us to make our appointment. So far each visit to the web site has resulted in getting to a screen that says, “No first dose appointments currently available.” Although our city has a drive-through vaccination site, there have not been any appointments issued for that site for four weeks in a row. We don’t know how many people are in line ahead of us to be vaccinated, but it makes sense that there would be many. We are relatively safe, with our limited exposure to others and our retired lifestyle. We are willing to wait our turn, but we don’t know how long we will be waiting. In the meantime, the web site has a beautiful photograph of tulips growing in the field - a kind of promise that spring is coming and beauty is around the corner. Maybe we will get our vaccines by the time the tulips bloom. We now live in a county that produces millions of tulip and daffodil bulbs that are shipped all around the country.

Waiting reminds us of the others who also are waiting. We know we aren’t the only ones who are anxious. We’ll try to be polite and honor the others who are waiting as well. And when our time comes, we’ll be grateful.

In the meantime, I know a grocery store that has removed the arrows from the aisles. They just didn’t work.

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