Out of turn.

This is not a complaint but an apology. My transgressions are unintentional but I take full responsibility. In an area where hurried citizens rely on order to ensure their time is not wasted, I am guilty of slowing things down because I am always out of turn. When standing at the front of a line, with no one ahead of me, I mistakenly step forward when “Next!” is called. I forget that the proper response is “ME!” called loudly by someone behind me or off to my side or somehow out of my range of vision until they push past me and proceed to be served.

I’m a born-and-bred New Yorker so there is no excuse for my behavior. I did live some years in cities other than “the City,” where the pace of life was not so urgent, and it’s apparent the bad habits I acquired are causing me to disrupt the metropolitan rhythm.

I also take this opportunity to express gratitude to my fellow urban dwellers. It is not possible to acknowledge every person who has taken the time to teach me by example so I will just highlight my most recent enlightening interactions. Earlier this week, at Duane Reade, the sign at my side indicated that one line fed the four cash registers and there was no one ahead of me when “Next!” was called. A woman walked past responding “Me!” and plunked her toothpaste onto the counter. I approached, ready to protest, when the woman instructed me, “I only had one item!” So thank you, dear lady, for sparing me the embarrassment of exposing myself clueless: I was unaware that I was out of turn and that my transaction of three items would have taken too long.

I needed guidance even at the ShopRite deli counter, believing the proper order to be as clear as the number “40” on my slip of paper. When the illuminated “Now serving” sign flashed “40” and the number was called from behind the displayed cold cuts and salads-by-the-pound, I was sure it was my turn. But an older gentleman stepped right up, waving his slip like a winning lottery ticket and declaring, “I’m 41!” Luckily another customer set things straight by barking, “They called 40!” at the gentleman and prodding me with, “Well? GO!” My thanks to both of them is delayed, but no less heartfelt.

I hope I have not been out of turn but I felt it important to acknowledge my faults and the thoughtfulness of those around me. I have truly learned my lesson: the proper way for me to respond to the call of “Next!” when I am at the head of the line is to step aside, turn to the person striding past me and assure them, “Go right ahead – it must be your turn.”

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