Chickens Out of Line

The line for a limited seating event offers a lesson in humanity and also explains why bouncers exist.

BigB, littleb, Mac and I had taken a new ferry service to Newport for the day. We knew seating was tight, so we headed back to the landing an hour early to make sure we could get seats on the return boat. There were a number of people sitting on the seawall leading up to the boat landing, but there were no ropes, no signs, and no personnel indicating that this was the ferry line. Turns out, it was a line, at least according to the people sitting in it.

We are mostly respectful of social order, but we didn’t see any reason to sit on the seawall next to the last person sitting on the seawall, line or no line. We had a three year old with us. She doesn’t swim and the ocean was within drowning distance.

We proceeded to the ferry gate, parked the kids under a nearby tree to play, and stood with a group of other non-Seawall-sitters. A number of people sat on benches around us, and others were seated on the lawn. They, also, in an abstract fashion, seemed part of this alleged line.

The seawall sitters were pretty sure there was only one line, however, and they were in it. At this point, there were, perhaps, 40 people in the vicinity, possibly waiting for the ferry.  The seawall sitters were getting a bit nervous, and perhaps because BigB is tall,  they turned on him first.

A pseudo-friendly man with an expensive bicycle, one of the early arrivals, not a seawall sitter himself, but an advocate for the seawall sitters, smiled a ‘hey loser, let me help you out’ smile, and let BigB know that the line formed to the right.

BigB smiled back. It was his ‘l suspect you might be a jerk’ smile. “Oh. Thanks.  Do you work here?”, he inquired, politely.  BigB is always polite. At first. It is his super power.

“Umm, no, but we’ve all been waiting here for awhile and the line starts down there.”, proclaimed bicycle guy, jerking his head towards the end of the line, confident in his correctness.  BigB smiled his, ‘yup I was right about you’ smile and didn’t respond.

Then, a group of five showed up and joined their relatives standing around the gate to the landing.  I noticed that bicycle guy did not say anything to them.  Possibly, their camoflage pants, NRA t-shirts and ungroomed facial hair discouraged him.

Next came lobster shorts woman.  She suddenly arrived on the scene, a petite, athletic type, wearing blue shorts with tiny red lobsters, marching up and down the landing like Napleon might if he were alive, wore  lobster shorts instead of a big hat, and was pissed off about something.

Right about that time,  I wondered, out loud, why people would line up at the end of the seawall when about a hundred people were going to descend on the landing at 6:10 PM, ignoring all the people already sort of lined up.

Lobster shorts woman saw her opening and pounced, “Well, the line forms to the right and when the ferry comes, those of us in line are going to get on first.”

“Oh hi. You work here?”, BigB asked, smiling politely.

Meanwhile, a guy who tends a bar somewhere in Newport but lives in Providence sat on the Seawall to the left, practically begging for a revolution, and then another big party plopped on the lawn and opened a picnic basket. It was  5:45.

There was a hum, by now, coming from the line.  It was almost like a telephone wire.  Electric. Angry. It might have been the gnashing of cosmetically whitened teeth.

A wizened old hippy wandered up from the seawall.  What he was doing waiting with the seawall sitters was a mystery. We made eye contact.  I must have looked puzzled. “I’m counting the people.”, he said.

“Oh. How many did you count?”, I asked.

“Sixty-five”, he said.

“So we’re all good, right?”, I said, thinking to myself, “If there’s only sixty-five people here, I have a 26-inch waist.”, knowing it wasn’t true, but wishing it was.

“Yup but there’s only 150 seats”, he smiled, “Could get ugly.”, and then he sauntered back to update the line on his head count. He was very smart. Possibly a line whisperer-I’ve heard they exist but have never seen one in real life. For a moment the angsty seawall sitters seemed subdued.

It was 6:00.  More people appeared, milling about the landing area. A woman from the Seawall sitters approached. She was possibly an elementary school teacher, or maybe a sea lion trainer, but definitely a team player. “Don’t forget to remind everyone that the line forms to the right!”, she encouraged, with a friendly smile. Everyone smiled back. Bartender guy asked, “You work here?”.

More people arrived on the landing, ignoring what had, by now, become a very obvious line of agitated would be ferry passengers. I imagined pitch forks and torches; feathers and tar. The crowd edged in. I realized that even if we did make the ferry, there might be a mutiny before we reached land again. Bicycle guy circled the wagons, using his bike as a barrier, offering safe passage to his new camouflaged, gun-toting friends on one side, and the seawall sitters on the other. Lobster woman had disappeared to defend her position.  The hippy might have gone for ice cream or maybe he never existed. The sea lion trainer smiled beatifically from her spot near the end of the line.

Long story short, almost all of us got on the boat, including every single person on the landing, benches, and lawn, and almost everyone in the seawall line.

Moral of the story: Some people live within the lines. Some people are oblivious to the lines. Some people rejoice in living outside the lines. Take note. React accordingly. Just because someone says there is a line doesn’t mean you have to get in it.

Except, probably,  if that person is a bouncer.

Chicken out

Some photos from the day








  9 comments for “Chickens Out of Line

  1. jenny_o
    July 6, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Hilarious – and instructive. I am a line person, my husband is not. The next time I see a maybe-line, I’m going to ignore it and see what happens!!! My husband thanks you in advance.

    Nice photos! I hope you had a lovely ride, with no sea-sickness involved (that’s the thing we always had to think about with our motion-averse daughter).


    • July 6, 2016 at 5:48 pm

      Hi Jenny-I’m a line person, too, but it wasn’t that obvious of a line when we first got there. Kind of funny the way it happened. Apparently there was a big enough uproar that the ferry company had to start taking reservations, which is basically like hiring a bouncer, I guess. It was a beautiful day and so much fun.


  2. Doug in Oakland
    July 6, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    I don’t like standing in line. Mostly because I’m disabled. Sometimes when I have to stand in line at the Highland Hospital Pharmacy to pick up my meds, another line-stander will tell me to sit down and they will hold my place. This has happened a couple of times, but mostly these days those lines aren’t too long. Sometimes they take a long time, though, and once the woman in front of me fainted and the Rapid Response Team came down and put her on a gurney. They seemed competent and professional and made me feel much better about what might happen to me if I just couldn’t take it anymore and sat down on the floor or something.


    • July 6, 2016 at 7:05 pm

      Hi Doug-sounds like the pharmacy needs a seawall for people to sit on while they wait in line! It’s a hospital-wouldn’t you think they’d have thought about the fact that people might be too sick to stand in line? They should put in a number system like they have at the deli. Come to think of it, the deli should probably have a seawall, too.


      • Doug in Oakland
        July 7, 2016 at 1:06 am

        They have a number system, but you still have to stand in line when your number is called. I call mine in beforehand, so I don’t have to mess with the whole drop-off-and-wait-two-hours-in-the -room-with-the-awful-TV bit, but before I figured out the phone robot thing, I stood in line a long time a few times. Considering the fact that they are the County Hospital in Alameda County, and right smack dab in the middle of Oakland, the service there is awesome. I sort of love that place.


      • July 7, 2016 at 11:07 am

        Hi Doug-I’d like to design waiting rooms. For sure, there would be better television, better reading options, and better upholstery. And maybe a few interactive displays and a pinball machine. A tiki bar. Whoa, that’s a whole other post.


  3. Doug in Oakland
    July 7, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    Sometimes they take your cell phone number and text you when your number comes up, but you still have to stand in the line when you come back in. My speech pathologist’s husband made a film called “The Waiting Room” about the ER at Highland and it’s awesome. I don’t know how to watch it if you don’t have the DVD, but there is a website from which it can be obtained.


  4. July 7, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    This is what I love about Big B. His ability to be affable and polite but ever so slightly menacing at the same time. Like he just might have a blade concealed in his spotless white tennis shoe. It’s a real gift. -GG


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