Condensation on morning windows, leaves changing colour and diminishing daylight are clear signs that autumn is only a few frosts away. Back-to-school ads remind us that at this time of year, routine and normalcy step in to replace the carefree and relaxing days of summer.
We see longer line-ups at the stores and with yellow busses back on the roads, we see longer line-ups in traffic. No one seems to mind too much. Why? Humans are creatures of habit and September proves it.
September brings line-ups for registration, line-ups for clubs, fall sports and other organizations that, like schools, are starting new seasons of activities and events. Students know this best of all with line-ups for recess, the cafeteria, bookstores and getting on the bus. Line-ups, love them or hate them, accord us the opportunity to learn two pillars of social grace — patience and tolerance. Earlier this summer I attended what some might consider a boot camp for learning how to cope with long line-ups. I made the pilgrimage to the land of the free and the home of the Happiest Place on Earth.
The Disney parks very quickly became an ongoing lesson on how to become more patient and tolerant of our fellow beings. Having mastered the art of moving vast quantities of people from A to B, the fine folks at Disney proved they are not just some Mickey Mouse operation. I recall being in line for a key attraction. After what seemed a long time of being elbow to elbow with kindred spirits, I saw what looked like the final destination, the goal, the sum of everything I was in line for only to discover that the line snaked around a corner, went just around the river bend or delved deeper into some hillside or underground hanger. I began to feel that my vacation was simply going to be one lengthy line-up. The happy music and random walk-bys of friendly characters however, was enough to distract me from the tediousness of the line. If anything, I learned to be hopeful. But by day two, I learned the great secret of the American Dream! I discovered the Fast Pass system.
The class system is alive and well at Disney. A Fast Pass allows you to get into a considerably shorter line-up while everyone else has to wait a much longer time. With a Fast Pass you can feel the elation of not having to wait an hour for that two-minute roller coaster ride. We need only expand upon this idea and apply it to all facets of our daily line-ups. Imagine a Fast Pass for the morning commute. Imagine a Fast Pass for the grocery store, voting, hockey games or rock concerts. Imagine walking into your favourite java joint and bee-lining it to the front — how popular you would be? Sadly, we do not have Fast Passes for daily life. We do however have the ability to be patient and tolerant. We can be mindful that we are not the only people with places to go and people to see. We can try to have more empathy for others.
September reminds us of how we are used to routines. September also reminds us that routines can come to a sudden and devastating halt. Nine years ago today we came to an abrupt awareness that nothing, like going to work or getting on an airplane, can be taken for granted. If anything we realized that this world needs far more tolerance, patience and understanding. Today makes me think of 2,977 reasons why I need to stand in line against violence, terrorism and injustice. Sept. 11 reminds me that in the great line-up of life, challenges will unfold along the way. How I treat others, through acts of kindness and respect, like not butting in line and occasionally letting someone go ahead of me, will make the journey much more enjoyable.
Tim Cusack wishes he could line-up his golf shots a little better.