Thursday, August 18, 2011

mrs manners

Yesterday I took my best friend's son to his sophomore orientation at the gigantic neighborhood high school. I knew it was going to be crowded but I thought, naively, that there would be a smooth organization to guide us through. Because THAT'S HOW I WOULD DO IT. I forget others are not as anal uptight efficient & prepared as I am.

I intuitively got in line to pay for his ASB card & yearbook figuring those things would be most useful in completing the other mysterious tasks ahead. After about 20 minutes of waiting, I was nearly to the front when I noticed a young man skirting the side of the now much longer line. He headed his cute blond Hollister self right up to where I was standing and smiled; I smiled back and stepped closer to the Wait Here sign. He wavered as he realized I was clearly not allowing him to cut in front of me, and it was then I noticed his mom behind him. When I met her eyes she murmured in a laughably unconvincing way, "Honey, we can't just cut in front of all these people..." And here is where I failed. I failed the three sweet boys who were behind me during the 20 minute wait, I failed High School Musical hopeful & his fool mother, and I failed any young people within earshot because all I could allow myself to do was give a slight nod and tight smile before moving a step forward to save my own spot. What I really wanted to do was what I ended up doing 90 minutes later, after another longer wait.

The last thing for my friend's son to do was pick up his textbooks. I didn't quite understand the logic in giving teenagers big expensive books to take home (and lose in their summer-fevered bedrooms) two weeks before they actually need them but apparently it makes sense to the school, and the boy had found a darling young woman to stand in line with so we stayed. And stayed. After 20 minutes, we were standing in the same linoleum squares we'd started in. When I looked toward the head of the line, it was amoeba-like by the one open window to the book room; people seemed to be moving in & out of that area with no regard for the rest of us. I was still stinging from the earlier incident and growing weary of so many teen bodies OMGing around me so I took a position at the front, memorizing the faces of those legitimately waiting there.

All was fine [though excrutiatingly slow]  for nearly a half an hour during which there was some measurable movement; calculating about 3 minutes per student, I was 15 minutes from freedom. Suddenly, two giggling girls popped in front of my guy & his friends. As fast as a mom-dressed ninja, I slid forward and announced, "Oh no, this is not going to work out. We've been waiting 45 minutes in this line. Please go to the end." The group of kids nearest these two froze but one of the line-cutters looked right at me with fierce sass: "I have to leave, like, right now." I told her so did I along with the rest of the people in line - please head on back to the end. Big sigh, bigger eye roll, a bit of a stomp. But away she (and her chagrined friend) went. Everyone exhaled around the empty space they left and a few looked sideways at me with - admiration? Fear? Mortification for whomever I was escorting? I tried smiling as if to say "All good now, carry on!" but I imagine I looked a bit more hysterical suburbanite than beneficent citizen.

And then we went to the mall where I did not scold anyone, surprisingly.