Drawing the Line

The determination expressed in the Community Essay "An American I Will Become," by Gladys Alam Saroyan (Feb. 11), serves to remind we who are native-born of the problems that every generation of immigrants must contend with. But one item in that essay diminished my admiration for the writer: her attitude about waiting in lines.

No one really much enjoys waiting in line, though it can often be interesting. But her deep animosity (hating it "more than you will ever know") I find incomprehensible. Without waiting our turns, we would be little different from a pack of wild dogs squabbling over a carcass.

Having visited cultures where forming a queue is utterly unheard of, I have come to appreciate that this simple and rational convention is an epitome of civilized behavior. Defending against both anarchy and privilege of rank, the line is democracy. Protecting the weak and meek from the strong and aggressive, the line is justice. Allowing relaxed discourse or contemplation rather than promoting anxious shoving and angry elbows, the line is civility. So I find it troubling that Saroyan, even after living here for 16 years, has not come to see the institution of the public queue as a convenience rather than an aggravation, a blessing, not a curse.



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