First In Line

When you wash your hands, when you make a cup of coffee, when you’re waiting for the elevator — instead of indulging in thinking, these are all opportunities for being there as a still, alert presence.

Eckhart Tolle

There aren’t many things we have to wait in line for these days.

Paying for items at a grocery or department store, maybe. But you can order those items online for pickup or delivery. You really don’t need to wait on line. And long gone are the hours of waiting to buy concert tickets.

Some of the 25 and under crowd might have a hard time remembering when movie theaters didn’t have reserved seating, so they have no clue about the suspenseful game of “will or won’t we get in,” as you stood with your date or clique to see a summer blockbuster on the weekend. You’d have no idea if you were going to get in to see the movie, if you’d be able to sit with who you came with or, if you’d be stuck in the dreaded first row, craning your neck to look up and not to get nauseous from being so close to a 30 foot screen.

Waiting in line builds character by teaching patience. #ThingsPeopleOver40Say

One of the places that is a throwback to the halcyon days of waiting, is the braid salon. Many of the braid salons that I’ve been to have no app to take appointments, because they don’t take appointments. It’s a first-come, first-serve world. On a summer Saturday morning, it could be worse than the day after Thanksgiving Black Friday sales.

The salon opens at 9:30 a.m., but due to the way my anxiety is set up, I leave the house to secure my spot. I find a parking space, and as I exit my car, I can see a light haze in the air. It’s already 82 degrees at 8:30 a.m.

The next sensation that hits me is the aroma of something spicy made by people skilled in cooking West Indian or Latin American dishes. It smells divine and feels like home.

I walk to the northwest corner of Hempstead Turnpike and Elmont Road and sit on a green wrought iron bench, two storefronts down from the salon. I’m on the border of Queens County and Nassau County in Long Island. In Queens, the street is Hempstead Avenue. In Nassau, it is Hempstead Turnpike.

from Google images

I’m first in line. Perfect. My box braids will take any where from five to seven hours to complete (hopefully), but at least I’ll have the rest of my day to do whatever. People underestimate waking up early and getting tasks done and out of the way before the rest of the world gets in gear. I don’t. Early bird worm catching is my forte.

I’d intended to read the novel I brought with me, but as I sit alone and look around, I realize that the environment I am in, is more vibrant than the one I held. I switch my novel for my journal.

On the ground are two bottles of Olde English malt liquor, a crushed Newport box, a Gatorade bottle laying on its side – filled halfway with something that looks like chocolate milk, two plastic bags – one white and one black swirling each other in the light breeze, like the dancers in the opening sequence of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video and three trees, sans leaves, standing guard like skinny sentries robbed of their clothes. This trash remains because the Queens border is in spitting distance along with potholes. If I were further in Nassau, the sidewalk would be spotless and the roads smooth.

From my vantage point I can see promises of fuel to help folks get through their day in varying forms from gas (an Exxon, with unleaded gas for $2.75) carbs (Burger King), transportation (Mavis Tire Store), heaven (Bethel Baptist Church), Elmont Discount Store and a small MoneyGram location that advertised via a scrolling red neon sign – tax services, bill payment, mortgage solutions, divorce and Metrocards.

Then there was El Caramba, pollo a la brasa – which I assume is the source of the divine smell.

One block west, going towards the Queens border is the beginning of the Belmont racetrack grounds – I see the barracks, presumably for groomers and other track staff and further back, stables.

An older Black man with a head of closely cropped white hair, wearing a light brown t-shirt, matching shorts, white socks and white Nikes is walking towards me and says “are you writing about me?,” with a laugh. “Not yet,” I answer with a smile, as he passes by and goes into the bodega at the end of the street. Four minutes later, he approaches from the opposite direction with a white bag looped over his wrist, does a slight bow and implores me to have a nice day. I smile again.

As the light turns red, an older model Black Nissan Maxima slows down in the right lane and blasts a song with a Latin beat at a decibel and energy not matching the morning serenity.

An N6 bus from Nassau headed west towards Jamaica bus terminal, pulls up to the curb across the street on my left to let on passengers – a woman in a beige hijab, burgundy top and beige skirt and a young Black man in a black t-shirt and yellow basketball shorts board as a Black woman with a short haircut disembarks and immediately opens a navy umbrella open to shield herself against sunrays.

An airplane passes overhead on approach to Kennedy airport and horns honk to prompt the lead cars into motion as their drivers have picked up their cellphones and become engrossed in the screen versus the change in traffic signal.

I do a timecheck on my phone. It’s 8:55 a.m. I wait some more.

Copyright © 2020 Kimfinite Possibilities – KMS. All rights reserved.


  1. Nice slice of life! I really see this scene in my mind’s eye. When I am my best self — open and not allowing my shyness and reserve win out, I have fun sharing a joke or a gripe with my fellow waiters. Sometimes I even get to make a new friend or two.


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