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Monday, March 21, 2005

Standing in Line

4:00 pm: I am exhausted after pulling an all-nighter. But I have things to do. I have to post this letter before 5 pm today. And then I have to rush to a meeting at 5 pm. Enter the University bookstore. I could spend a whole day in this book haven, but too much on my mind right now. I’m heading straight to the post office located conveniently inside. Oh dear! Disappointed sigh as I catch sight of the impossibly long line weaving through the aisles of the bookstore. The line is huge, and I shall be at the very end of it.

I make my way there. There’s a lady with her son, about 5 years old. They don’t seem to be waiting in line, but I can’t be sure. The lady’s looking at a blue folder with the UofT logo emblazoned on it. The kid’s wandering about, his winter boots making clonking noises as he walks. “Excuse me, are you in line?” I ask. “Yeah,” she replies.

Suddenly, she is in line, at attention, son with her, blue folder chucked in disarray atop a neatly stacked pile of identical blue folders. I step behind her, checking my watch periodically. My eyes are closing. I’m going to have to stop pulling these all-nighters! And it’s getting close to meeting time – I’ll be late if this line doesn’t start moving.

I hate standing in line! I should have come earlier!

4:06 pm: The woman in front of me is getting restless. The line is moving – slowly. Strange thoughts float through my mind. Hey, perhaps I could take a nap standing up! No, that would be too weird. Instead, I marvel at the cashier’s slowness. But the woman in front of me doesn’t share my fascination. She wants to move. She can’t stop moving. Now she’s fiddling with a postcard. A pink ballerina graces the front. Despite myself, I start making comparisons. A ballerina’s graceful, but just watching this woman’s incessant movement is making me jittery and annoyed. And her son – his constant clomping keeps disturbing my sleepy reverie. I’m gonna scream!

4:07 pm: Behind the darkness of my closed eyes, her voice penetrates. She’s telling her son she’s going to check out something at the other end of the bookstore. He wants to come with her. She turns to me. “Would you hold my place for me? I’ll just be a minute.” I hesitate. I hate holding the line for people, but no one’s behind me, and she’ll just be gone a minute anyway. And it might be nice to have a little break from her nervous dance. Plus she looks kinda scary. That does it for me. “Uhh, ok,” I say reluctantly.

4:10 pm: I’m past the ballera postcard now, and she hasn’t returned. She’s probably doing her shopping while I hold her place in the line. I’m bored to death and thinking evil thoughts.

4:15 pm: One person sneaks up behind me. Then another. Then a couple. The line behind me is getting snakier than ever. Minutes pass. Where is she? She said she’d just be a minute. I can’t hold her place like this while other people are waiting. That’s unfair.

4:25 pm: Finally! I’m getting close to the front of the line, but still, the line’s moving veeery slowly. No sign of the woman and her son yet. I’m getting agitated. It’s just not right for someone to be gone so long and then come back expecting to be served before everyone else waiting so patiently. She said a minute. She’s been gone for many. She’s forfeit her place in the line long ago. I hope this doesn’t get confrontational. I’m near the front. I’ll be over and done with by the time she gets here.

4:30 pm: Four more people ahead of me! I’m getting there. The feelings of elation are mixed with frustration. It’s getting late. I’m going to be late for my meeting. And I need to get this letter in on time. I sure hope that lady doesn’t come back.

4:34 pm: My God, I hear clomping. It’s getting louder by the second! They’re coming! Oh no! My heart beats a little faster. What to do, what to do? Perhaps she’ll see the huge line and go to the end like she should. But no! She’s coming. Think, think. Clomp, clomp.

Aha! The line is such that I can avoid her if I want to. I pretend not to see her. Thankfully, she doesn’t say anything to me. But that’s because she’s spotted another victim. She seems to know the woman behind me, and they’re having a long and very loud conversation about work and school and everything in between. Okay, she’ll stay there. Fine.

4:36 pm: She breaks off her passionate conversation about all the trials she’s been through in life to speak to her child in hushed tones. “Go stand in front of her,” she advises. Suddenly, her son squeezes his way past me. The nerve of mother and son. Can’t do anything about it. Seething is good at this point.

4:38: I get to the counter, the boy in front of me. Suddenly, the woman pushes in front of me, her conversation with her friend long forgotten. The cashier looks at both of us. “Who’s first?” she asks. I hesitate. I feel grumpy and mean. What right does she have? Then, being the relenting fool that I am, I give in.

“You can go ahead,” I say, looking over at the woman now in front of me. She’s still not looking at me. No thanks, no nothing. “Is that okay with you?” the cashier asks. “Yeah,” I confirm, still seething inside. I watch as the woman gets her package mailed, and then waltzes out, no backward glance. What can I say? I’ll be late for my meeting, my mail’s just narrowly missed the deadline, but God help me, I’m just happy I’m not her.

4 Comments:

  • At 3/21/2005 10:55:00 PM, Blogger Fej said…

    You held up well. I normally shy away in situations like that but I don't think I could have held my tongue if I were in your shoes.

     
  • At 3/22/2005 05:46:00 AM, Blogger cncz said…

    what makes me feel better (which is probably an overgrown nafs but still) is knowing that she sucks for doing what she did.

    Also, do you find that hijab helps you keep your mouth shut when you otherwise wouldn't? Sans hijab I am crunk, but something about the hijab makes me tone it down. salam alaikoum!

     
  • At 3/22/2005 01:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh my gosh you are the Canadian version of me!!
    Glad u posted it cos things like this happen to me all the time. its like i got sucker all over my face or maybe they think im a walkover cos of my hijab either way they're right. :}

     
  • At 3/22/2005 05:35:00 PM, Blogger Safiyyah said…

    Fej: Did I mention she looked really scary? :-D

    Cncz: What do those letters stand for anyway?! I've been wondering for the longest time. They'd better have some significance. If they don't, just make something up for me, will ya?
    Thanks for the support. Regarding your question about hijab - I've been thinking about that a lot lately. If I weren't in hijab, would I have responded differently? And I'm not sure I would. I think these are just personality traits. I've always been extremely sensitive about hurting or embarrassing others, and public confrontations have never been my thing. I'll expound upon this strange tendency in an upcoming post, inshaa Allaah.

    Madame anonymous: You made me laugh. I really am a pushover in some cases, but good to see that there are others like me! Thanks for the comment.

     

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