line drive

so i flew into gatwick airport today after a journey of what had already taken a good 12 hours.  as i stepped foot on the walkway, i felt the excitement of being in a new place coupled with the sheer bliss of simply being able to walk freely once again.  but what i walked into next became a slight distraction from that feeling - slight being somewhat of an understatement.  the queue (that's what they call "lines" in london) to enter the country through customs looked like it could have rivaled the release of the newest Harry Potter book.  i couldn't even see the end of it and i was fairly convinced there were no wizards waiting for me at the front.  the shock and horror of people's faces as they discovered what lay ahead of them was almost worth the wait itself... well, not quite.  but what i did find most interesting was something that i also witnessed a few months ago while undergoing the arduous process of renewing my passport.  (canada likes to make things as complicated and drawn out as possible, just to be different perhaps?  hm, maybe that's where i get it from)  a new law had just been passed stating that anyone entering the us or canada must have a current passport.  naturally, this coincided with the time my passport expired so the crowds were rather monumental.  there was literally at least a 7 or 8 hour wait every day to drop your application, and still no guarantee.  i thought i would beat the line up by getting there just before it opened. ha!  there were people who must have camped there overnight, the line was already hours long upon my "early" arrival.  there were even enterprising street vendors selling coffee and tea to the shifting mass.  i thought someone could also have done well selling gloves or scarves since it was the middle of winter and, of course, i had not gotten ready envisioning standing outside in the cold for 5 hours.  so, as you can imagine, there were many a disgruntled word, dramatic scoff or disenchanted whine.  in my case, there was mostly shivering and back stretching.  but as the hours wore on, a funny thing happened.  people started to get happier.  we started bonding over our shared misfortune.  we'd save each other's place in line as one took a bathroom or coffee break, we'd share how we never expected such a thing or how friends tried to warn us with horror stories of their own.  we rooted for each other as each got closer to the front.  we even came up with business concepts for the ambitious stander-in-liner, i think there even were people who would get to the front and sell their spots to the highest bidder.  after the 5 hours outside, if you were lucky and got there soon enough, you would get let in to the actual building to take a number and wait another few hours.  this was like a walk in the park however compared to the unforeseen test of will we'd just been through, so the spirits remained high, a little drained perhaps, but high.  i mean, c'mon, there was light at the end of the tunnel!  why i thought this was most interesting was because i had experienced getting my passport before, when there were not such massive line ups, and the whole energy of the place was very different.  no one really talked to each other expect to ask how long someone had been waiting, which was usually answered with a sigh and roll of the eyes.  so, when it finally got to be my turn, which by the way is what i imagine winning a gameshow must feel like, i asked the counter person about his experience of this wave of chaos.  what he shared elaborated on my hypothesis.  he said that people were so grateful and appreciative once they finally reached the front that they were the most joyful out of any crowd he'd witnessed.  he said that when there have been shorter lines and fewer workers, people become embittered and blame the system for not working fast enough.  their expectations are unrealistic but they're unwilling to adjust and they take it out on the poor people behind the desk.  in this instance, there was no expectation of getting there faster and the desire to believe a deluded reality was crushed during the first hour or two of waiting in the cold.  in some ways, after waiting in such a long line, there is also a feeling of accomplishment, a recognition of effort exerted.  and that always feels good.  sure it may not be as rewarding as robert deniro's epiphany in "the mission" but it has some humanizing elements just the same.  so again i experienced this at the airport, a kind of confused journey of self empowerment.  starting out with a state of denial and disbelief, then some suffering and senseless strategizing, only to surrender to the situation that existed outside of my control, embracing the moment and opportunity to relate with people, and finally, experiencing a feeling of freedom and liberation after surviving such a feat!  ha!  all that from a back up at customs.  funny right?