Sally pulled her purse strap higher on her shoulder and tapped the shoulder of the bearded man scribbling in a spiral notebook at the end of a long line. “Pardon me, is this the line for the book signing?”
The man looked up. “I don’t know. Probably.” He went back to writing in his notebook, shuffling forward as the line moved without looking up.
“What do you mean you don’t know? Do you just stand around in lines for fun?”
Just then, another woman approached, clutching a book to her chest. “Is this the line for the book signing? I’ve been looking forward to this for months!”
“I don’t know,” Sally said, looking around for a sign or something.
The woman frowned. “Why are you standing in line then?”
Sally tipped her head at the man still writing in his notebook and ignoring them. “I just asked him if this was the line, and he said he didn’t know.”
“Well, let’s ask someone else then,” the woman said. She raised her voice. “Hey, lady in the green coat with the great boots. Yes, you. Is this the book signing line? Okay, good. Thank you. Nice boots, by the way.”
Sally grinned. “Well done. I’m Sally.”
“Jenny. I don’t like to waste time. It’s bad enough we have to stand in this line for an hour. Could you imagine finding out it was the wrong line?”
A couple joined the end of the line. “Is this for the book signing?”
Jenny nodded. “You’re in the right place.”
Sally turned to the man writing in his notebook. “It is the book signing line, just so you know. Is that where you wanted to be?”
“I don’t care, as long as it’s a nice long line,” the man said.
Sally glanced back at Jenny. Jenny shrugged. “What’s nice about waiting in lines?” she asked. “They just keep you away from all the other things you could be doing instead.”
The man shuffled forward in the line again, still writing in his notebook. “Look,” he said, pausing for a moment and turning to look at Jenny and Sally. “Are you going to try to talk to me the whole time we’re in line here? Because if you are, I’m going to go find a different line.”
The woman in the green coat turned around. “What do you mean a different line? There’s only one line for the book signing and this is it. If you go stand in another line, you may be able to buy a tee-shirt or a slice of pizza, but you won’t get your book signed.”
The man sighed. “I don’t care about the book signing. I just needed a nice long line to stand in.”
“Why?” Sally raised an eyebrow.
“I think best in lines. I used to go to the DMV to write my college papers. They have some great lines there. I wrote the first draft of my thesis at Disneyland. They have the best lines on earth.” The man shrugged. “I’m here on business staying at a nearby hotel. I don’t know where the best lines are, but this one looked nice. Now I’m not so sure.”
“Oh. All right.” The woman in the green coat turned around.
“The doughnut place on the corner has long lines,” Jenny said.
The woman behind her leaned forward. “The grocery store on the first day of the month at dinnertime.”
Sally nodded. “The post office in December. Or most places the day after Thanksgiving…” She turned to look at the man, who was ignoring them and scribbling in his notebook again. She wondered what he was writing. She opened her mouth to ask and then decided to leave him alone.
“So what did you think of the novel,” Jenny asked, holding up her book.
“I can’t believe that the letters survived that long in the attic. Wouldn’t there be water damage or mice or something?” Sally said.
“Oh, don’t say anything more,” the woman in green said. “I haven’t finished it. Let’s talk about the last one. When the chef picked up the phone in the end, who do you think she was going to call? I’m still not really sure.”
“She was going to call the doctor,” Sally said at the same time that Jenny said, “She called her daughter, of course.”
They laughed. “Here’s what a line is good for,” Sally said. “It makes a good impromptu book club.”
The woman in green laughed. “You’re right. Hey, writer guy, go ahead and go ahead of me so I don’t have to talk around you. It’s not like I’ll have to wait any longer to get my book signed.”
The man shuffled forward without looking up, still writing. The new friends returned to talking about the books. Waiting in lines wasn’t that bad after all.