Thursday, November 09, 2006

Waiting in line... and waiting

I read a relatively lame PS3 line-up article and the responses to it on Slashdot today. I would have posted there, but their threading system seemed to be busted and my response seemed too long for the average attention span anyway. I figured you would be more generous. I'd love to hear your feeling on memorable line-ups when you are done reading...

There is an issue here that some people seem to be missing or ignoring in favour of the all too easy jokes.

I went to university in Canada back in the 9600/14400 days. Computer registration (for classes) wasn't an option that any but the most visionary had conceptualized and telephone registration was just in the pilot phase also known as the audio labyrinth of terror. I was a disorganized kid with no real knowledge of why I was even at university, much less how to effectively pre-register for my classes (here the discerning reader may read "pre-order my PS3"). If you didn't register by mail early enough, you got in a line. If there was a schedule foul up on the university's end (never happens), you got in a line, if your timetable looked like hell and you wanted to change a section or lab . . . well, you get the point.

All of this lining up mostly happened a couple of days before classes were to begin in September. Most of it happened inside, but a couple of the colleges were unlucky enough to have lines form outside the buildings. There were many hundreds of people in the halls and in front of the buildings formed into a few distinct lines, but also quite a lot of general chaos. Some people brought blankets, some ghetto blasters, there was a constant influx of pizza delivery personnel.

There may have been a shortage of deodorant, but there was no shortage of time. Time for a kindly third-year student to show me how to make a proper timetable and later to ask me out on a date (now I begin to make sense, yes?). Time to make several new friends that would last me the length of my studies. Time to get my feet under me as I discovered, Toto, that I wasn't in Kansas anymore.

I can't pretend that there is any loyal-order-of-line-formers and that everyones experience and motives are the same as mine. But, I kept going back to those lines year after year, even when I didn't need to go. I helped other people and ate a lot of pizza.

You're right, though. People don't smell so good after thirty hours in a line-up. The good news is that it's kind of like working on a farm, in a brewery, or at a packaging plant for onions (all of which I did as a student), you get used to it.

In case you missed my point, for many people, these line-ups are at worst a burden to be born and bragged about next time your commuting partner thinks the traffic jam is taking too long to clear, and at best they are a social event—a kind of mini-Woodstock. Many of the denizens of these lines don't work yet, and (perish the thought) many of us think our personal entertainment is more important, satisfying, and less expendable than our jobs. It makes me happy just saying that.

Now for the really great news. The fact that you think we are crazy makes most of us happy as clams. What kind of geeks are you anyway. Personally, nothing brings a smile to my face quicker than knowing I'm outside (preferably way outside) the social norm.