In the Waiting Line

Yesterday was an eventful day, not only because it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but because it was the last day of the Goya exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston. And it was free; a word that's as much fun to say as it is to hear...

...said the guy who once wrote "Fr(w)ee!" on an old bookshelf he placed on the corner.

I'm not particularly drawn to Goya—I barely have an opinion one way or another about his work—but there was such hype and interest surrounding this exhibit that I figured it would be worth checking out. And it had been a while since I'd been to the MFA, and the weather was nice, and on some obscure subconscious level going to look at art seems like a cool thing to do. In the warmth of the day I got off the subway a few stops before the museum, to turn a corner and see the longest line extending outside the door, down the stairs, onto the sidewalk, down the street, taking a corner, and ending halfway down the block on the side of the museum. It looked like someone had dropped a thread of yarn made of people. 

And I thought, Well. No thanks. And I walked away.

But it did get me thinking about the concept of waiting in line, and how bizarrely unnatural it feels to stare at the back of some stranger's head for 30 minutes to an hour while someone else does you the same favor. To be so close to people unknown without getting to know any of them. There are animals in the wild that create lines, but they're always marching forward in them; preferring not to stray perhaps in case of danger or of getting lost. The actual act of waiting in a line seems so human to the exclusion of every other animal in its conception that it all of a sudden that afternoon felt strange to me. I started looking around at the barren asphalt of parking lots and the charming walk-ups overlooking the (man-made...it wasn't lost on me) Fens, and thinking, How much of this is co-species inhabitable space? Do we need all of this space? Does everything have to be so big?

I grant you, it was a holiday, so the rhythm of the city was a little off kilter. But, those writers who write about urban spaces feeling alien...I can understand it in a strange, twisty sort of way. It felt so human it was other-worldly. Odd.