Next!

Sometimes I just can’t get it right. Like the other day. I went to a basketball game at the Garden with some of my family. I go pretty often, and it’s always the same deal. Get to the Garden, get through the human wall of scalpers seeing if you want tickets, meet up with whoever it is you’re meeting up with (by the stairs!) and head inside to grab some beers before the game starts.

Right before the main entrance, you have to pass through security. Again, this always follows a pattern. You have a bag? Open it up so the security guys can pretend to look through your stuff. I didn’t have a bag. There’s always one line, everybody filing up to get checked out by one security guy, even though there are like ten security guys just standing there.

You do this enough times, you know it’s coming, you stand there and hold your arms out, the security guy gives you a little pat down, and that’s that. My first mistake was probably bypassing the one line and approaching one of the several available security guys. And nobody had to ask me anything, I just stood there with my arms out, ready to go.

And this security guy must have thought to himself, “What the hell’s this guy doing, I didn’t tell him to get out that one line,” because, that’s another thing these guys like to do. They let the line get ridiculously long, and then they start berating everybody, like, “Hello? Step on down. You’re wasting time people. There’s more than one line.” But here I was, taking initiative, not waiting to be called over. On top of that, I’m automatically spreading my arms. This guy must have been thinking, “Spreading his arms? I didn’t tell him to spread his arms. Nobody spreads their arms until I tell them to. I’ll show him!”

Because instead of patting me down he just kind of stares at me for a second, me, standing there with my arms out, waiting for him to feel the outside of my pockets, my cell phone, my keys. That night I had my Kindle in my pocket. I just found out that if fits perfectly inside the front of my winter coat. I’m thinking about what I’m going to say to him when he feels it, and asks what it is, because I don’t want to automatically just say, “it’s a Kindle,” because maybe not everybody is that familiar with Kindles, but is an e-reader really a better choice of words? I don’t have time to finish the thought, because the guy shouts, “Next!” really loudly, right in my face, “Next! You’re wasting everybody’s time, buddy. Next!”

He didn’t even pat me down. And I don’t even know what to say, I’m like kind of pissed off. But as soon as he shouted, “Next!” I immediately started walking. It’s funny what your body automatically does when you’re in a certain situation. Like whenever I’m on any sort of a line I’m always operating on autopilot. So even though my mind knew something was off here, I was still blindly following orders, “Next!”

And so I’m like ten feet ahead of him, and I’m getting angry that he called me out on preemptive rule following, and so I shout out in response, “No, you’re wasting everybody’s time!” but I knew it was a stupid thing to say. I was too far ahead, I was talking over maybe five people, five other people just shuffling along, trying to get inside, nobody really wanting to deal with any of this bullshit. But it was too late, I already said it. There was no reaction from the security guard, so I just walked forward, didn’t look back, hoped the whole situation would maybe just erase itself from my consciousness.

But then my mom says to me, “What’s going on? Was he talking to you? Were you talking to him?” and I’m just like, “I don’t know, I have no idea. These security guys, always patting me down, every time, except right now, they’re terrible, just really terrible at their job.” But probably not, they probably have it all figured out. They definitely know exactly what they’re up to. And if you want to get inside, you’ve got to go through them, on their terms, their rules, their turf. Next.

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