There’s a part of us that wants to shed the limitations of civilization. What difference do all those arbitrary lines in society make anyway?
Say, for example, we’re standing in a grocery store and the line isn’t moving quickly enough. Then again, what line could possibly move at a speed we’d find acceptable? We look at our phones to distract us. We can watch movies we’ve seen a hundred times, check our voicemail, email, messaging service and telepathic connections, if we’ve got the right app.
The phone doesn’t offer much relief, as our boss has sent us an instant message that reads, “If you don’t bring those cupcakes back within three minutes, you will be on cupcake duty for the next six months.”
It’s our fault. We saw that lane six was probably longer than lane seven, but we picked six because we saw a headline in a magazine about Julia Roberts and we wanted to read the other headlines in a magazine that was out of stock in lane seven.
Lane six is at a complete stop as the cashier waits for the override.
“Come on!” we want to scream. “We gotta deliver these cupcakes before we lose our job!”
But we don’t scream any curse words, despite an impulse that is working its way up our spinal column. Another urge hits us. We want to jump on the conveyor belt and dance to “Cotton Eye Joe,” while kicking away the other groceries. But we don’t do that, either.
We hold back because everyone has a camera, and we don’t want to be the supermarket dancer on YouTube forever.
We consider convincing ourselves that our venting might become a way to contribute to society. Maybe other people waiting in line somewhere can laugh at us, as we act out their frustration fantasies.
But, no, we’d have a hard time going to PTA meetings or running for office if our opponent could show we didn’t have the temperament to be a leader.
We keep our composure. It’s just cupcakes, right? Then again, we still have to do our work and this means we’ll be home later than we wanted and we won’t get a parking spot near the gym tonight, which means we might have to walk an extra quarter of a mile before we run 6 miles. It’s so unfair!
Curses are echoing around our brain. We grind our teeth, tap our feet, shake our head slowly and blow our bangs off our overheated and thickly lined forehead.
We hear the words, “Come on, come on, come on,” in our head, but no one else seems to care about our agony. Oh, great, now we have to go to the bathroom, which will be difficult because as soon as we get back to the office we are serving the cupcakes at the party.
Don’t think about the need for the toilet. Oh, right, sure, that’s worked so well in the past. Why hadn’t we thought about that around, say, tax season? Sure, if you don’t think about it, taxes will just go away.
Then the curse words slipped out. We shouted them. We look around, wondering if we’ve damaged our reputation. This can be the smallest town on the planet. No one is holding a cellphone in our direction. No one seems to be waiting for us to do it again. Everyone does, however, take a step back from us.
We breathe a sigh of relief until it hits us: Two rows away is an overheated mother with three children holding onto her shopping cart. One of them — he looks like he’s about 6 years old — is staring at us without blinking. Maybe crossing that line was a mistake, as shame has replaced anger.