Carly Reilly | Millennial Musings: On lines

A common criticism you hear about millennials in the workplace is some version of "they want to cut the line." That is to say, too many 23-year-old Silicon Valley CEOs and 19-year-old Hollywood movie stars have created a culture in which millennials resent the menial, entry-level positions that most suit our age and status. Or, at least, that's the stereotype.

But personally, I have spent an inordinate amount of time in lines this year. Most of these have been in bus stations, admittedly, with which I have become intimately familiar due to the number of trips I have taken to visit my friends - almost all of whom are out of state. The thing about bus stations is that they are mostly full of people who wish they could afford train stations, and that creates a somewhat toxic atmosphere.

Last Wednesday, for instance, I accidentally got in the wrong line at Port Authority in NYC while waiting for my bus back to Vermont. A station attendant took pity on me and suggested I just "slide over" into the correct line, a couple feet to my left.

I appreciated his offer, as it meant not having to schlep to the now out-of-sight end of the line while hauling my two very overstuffed bags (I have separation anxiety around shoes and creative non-fiction). It also meant cutting at least 50 people. This was not a difficult choice for me. It did, however, draw the ire of the woman now standing just behind me.

"Wow," she said. "He shouldn't have told you to do that. And, you know, it really says something about your moral compass that you're even willing to cut a line of 50 people."

I muttered an apology and told her she was welcome to go ahead of me. She, in turn, said she was going to report the "incident" and stalked off in search of whoever hears complaints about bus station line cutters. (Ironically, she left her OPEN purse behind. So, though she had vocal concerns about my moral compass, she felt comfortable leaving me with full access to many of her personal belongings, including her cell phone, gleaming on top. I briefly contemplated swiping it to teach her a lesson in relativity.)

Minutes later, another bus station attendant approached me with the woman in tow. He gently asked me to move to the back.

The irony is that just the day before I had recounted a Brian Regan joke to my friends in which the comedian describes being cut in line at Disney World. Regan fantasizes about grabbing the wallet from the line cutter's back pocket and flinging it across the park. When the man turns to confront him (hypothetically), Regan would quip, "oh, I'm sorry, I assumed you wanted total chaos!"

I love this joke. Because, I understand the need for lines. In fact, I'm usually most comfortable in environments with well-defined rules and expectations. I look forward to standardized tests, for God's sake.

But I'm in the middle of a job hunt right now and, man, the back of the line can feel bleak. I've spent the past 6 months in Vermont with creative control over my own half-hour TV show, my own 5-minute, weekly, web series, and, most importantly, my own schedule. Consequently, there are times when the thought of going back to being an entry-level employee in New York City - in which you feel obligated to put in a 10 hour day for what is often 3 hours worth of work - can feel disheartening.

But don't misunderstand me: I get it. I'm 23 years old; of course I need to work hard at the bottom of the professional totem pole, and I will, often happily. I'm just saying: if someone invited me to cut the professional line, I'd take it.


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