Every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost
This is a doctrine of self-preservation, which is said to be the first law of nature. As the French say, ‘Sauve qui peut’ (‘Save himself who can’). The phrase ‘the devil take the hindmost’ means ‘bad luck on the one who is last.’ Proverb Hunter
Yesterday was kindergarten registration, so I prepared myself for it. I put my big stack of papers in perfect order in a manila envelope, loaded up snacks for the three kids who would be my companions in a very long line, and gave myself a pep talk that went a little something like this:
"Adele, someone is going to be rude or cut in front of you in line today. You will be tempted to seethe and give her dirty looks and say something rude about her loudly to your children but don't give in. Be the mature one. Be the adult."
I knew it would happen because around here, it always does. The other day at Jamba Juice a lady totally walked around me and the kids to cut in front of me and order her smoothie. At Old Navy, a lady didn't give a care when her 9-year old kid dodged into the bathroom ahead of my 2-year old who was doing a very escalated potty dance. People speed up instead of letting me change lanes to exit the freeway. They snatch Costco samples as if they were the last food on Earth in a post-apocalyptic young adult novel.
Survival of the fittest.
So we got in line at kinder registration half an hour early to try to avoid a little of the craziness. One of the ladies in charge pulled some chairs out in the line pathway for some of us because the wait was going to be a while. We were in line behind a lady who had brought her 5-year old and he and Josh huddled around her phone and a game of Angry Birds.
Then a lady tapped the shoulder of Angry Birds Lady in front of me. "Excuse me, is this the line for registration?" When she learned that it was, she proceeded to insert herself in the line next to where I was sitting, and directly behind Angry Birds.
I said something quietly, and Angry Birds made an effort with a "well, it starts back there, actually..." while pointing behind me, but for some reason Cutting Lady was suddenly deaf. You know, maybe the room was a little loud. Another lady tried to get directly behind Cutting Lady, but had a harder time making it look legit, and eventually she gave up and got behind me.
I started to feel very grumbly. I began to seethe. I gave dirty looks to Cutting Lady's back. I tried to calm down by reminding myself that hey, I knew this was going to happen. I gave myself a pep talk, remember? I'm totally above this. And maybe she means to get behind me when we all stand up and the line starts moving?
But when they came around handing out numbers and asked who was next, Cutting Lady happily took her number before mine, and that finalized it. It was now set in stone. I was #30 instead of #29. Take it from someone who just turned 30 -- there is a HUGE difference between the two numbers. Talk about carefree self-actualization and the indulgence of every whim versus a mortgage and real life and crying babies to feed.
I'd like to say I was totally above it. I wanted to be totally above it. What's the big deal? It's just one more person in front of me. But when my little baby, who was spending his birthday without a nap sitting in a stroller, started crying, I have to admit I just might have been thinking, "I hope that's annoying Cutting Lady. That'll show her!" Yes, passive aggressive at its finest.
Darwin would love kindergarten registration.
So. We waited in line. My baby cried, my children fidgeted and squirmed, people urged me to move my little bundle of noise and chaos forward when the line moved. Another guy tried to cut in line in front of us saying something like, "Oh, I was here earlier and came back..." when questioned, but of course he didn't have a NUMBER and the NUMBERS were the doctrine of CONCRETE FACT. So he was sent to the back of the line.
We finally made it into the Celestial Conference Room of Heaven except instead it turned out to be the Un-Oiled, Giant Machine of Red Tape and Checking Boxes Out of Order and Rifling Through Papers and Making Photocopies and Slow-Writing, Slow-Moving Ladies Behind Tables. But the exit doors were open, and the breeze outside tempted us with the promise of being done with kindergarten registration forever. Or until I come back for my next kid and do it all over again.
And then we were done. We were outside; we were free. And it didn't matter that the lady had cut in front of me after all. And I was so bummed that I'd grumbled and boiled inside because there went the opportunity to forgive someone instantly and effortlessly like I'd wanted to.
I feel like this "every man for himself" attitude is sucking me in. I am ashamed to admit it, but I find that I have to consciously slow myself down when I see other parents arriving and walking toward Joshy's preschool class door. And at Happy Hollow when a lady yells "Run! Run!" to her daughter so that she can beat out Bennett's short little legs to the coveted fire engine car, I am sorry to say I may or may not cheer Bennett on with just as much enthusiasm. And sorry to say that Bennett lost.
I'm a seether! I'm a hold-that-grudger! I'm petty! I can't let go of things that don't matter! Am I going to give in to the first law of nature like all the rest of them??