First Come, First Served

John Jericiau

By: John Jericiau

It’s 7 am on a Saturday morning and I’m summoned to a line full of sleepy adults waiting to sign up their offspring for summer swim lessons at the YMCA. The lessons are cheap, the instructors are good, and the parking is free. We have a YMCA family membership. I want my boys to continue to progress in their swimming skills, especially since I really love to swim, and I think it’s important that a child know at least how to keep himself afloat in a body of water.

I’ve been on a Master’s swim team here in LA for over 15 years. I’ve done many ocean swim races, triathlons, and Ironmans, and competed in a 12½ mile swim race around the island of Key West. So I’m committed to swimming. But this is ridiculous. The weight machines at this YMCA are somewhat antiquated, but does that mean that the registration process has to be? Hasn’t anyone here heard of online registration that one can do from the comfort of one’s home? When we want to take a city of Santa Monica class we are all battling it out at 6 am on the announced date, only in this case we’re in our pajamas while sipping tea and sitting criss cross apple sauce on our carpeted floor in front of our laptop and the TV. Even the state of California has it right when they open up new campsite reservations on the 1st of each month for dates 8 months in advance. They don’t make us camp out in front of a state office building to reserve our campsite – we use our computer!

It bothers me that I’m here at the YMCA on a Saturday morning, and not at my normal 6:30am to 8:00am Saturday swim workout. Now does that make any sense? What also bothers me is that no one else seems to mind. Even when asked by the head of the aquatics department if the registration system they have devised is working for them, no one complained. Not one person. Most said very silly things such as “This is really the only way” or “It has to be fair, and first come first served is the fairest.” Of course, these opinions were shared by the two moms in the front of the line, closest to the registration table looking all smug with their Starbucks cups in hand and sweat suits on. The rest of us were too defeated to voice our displeasure. It was like we somehow deserved our pain and were not worthy of an opinion because we did not get up in time to get a front spot.

We get in line for so many things in our lives. Groceries, for example. There are three groups of people that I let get ahead of me in line when I’m in the grocery store. One group is anyone with children. I’ve waited in many lines with my ticking time bombs, praying that the explosion does not happen until we are safely in the car with the groceries. Every minute I have to spend with them in the line is another opportunity for them to notice the display of candy and gum calling their names, at which point I spend the rest of the time in line trying to distract them or keep their hands just out of reach of the goods. Is there any way the store could put a glass partition in between the candy and the kids? I’m just saying.

Another group I let by is just out of respect, and that’s the elderly. And by elderly I mean 85 or above. The 65 to 84 year olds probably walked to the store from home and are enjoying their once per day interaction with the human population and don’t mind waiting in line.

Last but not least are the in and outers. These are the people that have run in for a few things on their way to a party, or were home and realized they needed milk or water, and after their sprint shopping are able to carry whatever they need in their two hands without a cart or basket. You can just feel them burning a hole in your forehead as they stand behind you in line and stare and watch you start to empty your 37 items onto the conveyor belt. You try not to make eye contact with them but the pressure is too much. You just have to glance at them, and then it’s all over. A simple toss of your chin toward the direction of the cashier and they are passing you in line with thanks, and maybe thanking you again as they sprint for their car if you’re lucky. On a good day the cashier may even chime in with a ”Good looking AND a good person too”!

Now that’s a line I like.

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