EXT: A retail store
A gathering of adults, toting petite and innocent, chubby children, stand passively in the chill morning air. Many come with their belongings strapped across their shoulders and a few dollars pressed between sun-drenched fingers. It is 8:00 am and the 3,000-deep line is thick with humanity, extending across six city blocks. Some of the huddled forms now stand with shoulders pressed together. Others spent the early morning’s hours upon tattered blankets stretched across sidewalks, in hopes of catching a few shut-eyed moments. With the line mounting for three uncomfortable days, hunger pangs and intestinal distress have reached dam-breaking levels. Frankly, people are tired of waiting.
About halfway back from the line’s front, a sort of horizontal capillary forms, where a crowd of people who are not in line, slowly merge into the line, pushing and shoving, with no regard for those who’ve spent the past three nights deteriorating. A few arm’s lengths behind them, disorder occurs, with those who’ve been waiting in line for hours, banging weathered fists and screaming “injustice” to the intruders now forcing them backwards – to wait longer, to suffer beneath the heating sun, to prevent them from gaining access to better wares for their lives. Several fights break out and at least one child takes a heel to the chin. By 8:30, the capillary has grown into its own artery of humanity, with hundreds of folks now jostling their way into the line, staving off the fight from behind from people who’ve waited for days.
To quell the chaos, two security guards emerge from the store’s rear. Moving to cauterize the artery, they grasp and hoist several bodies from the line, and then drag them back to their cars. Before they can return for more, however, the bodies have merged back into the bloodstream to rejoin their assault on the main line. In the distance, one can see thousands of shoppers exiting their cars trying to navigate the scene – wondering whether to head toward the back or to join the blood vessel that is forcing its way to the front.
With a tempest impending, the store’s owner appears at the window and asks the line to step back so he can speak to the recalcitrant crowd. They do. As the throng settles to await a decision on the unfairness, his words drift across the cement plain.
“Our store can only accommodate a certain number of customers, and since we do not have the time or manpower to determine who of you have waited in this line for three days, and who of you have forced their way into line unfairly, priority will be given to whoever is in line now.”
There is a roar of approval from the artery. Those in the back of the line, however, are outraged, for they see the wares of their lives disappearing into the unprincipled hands of those who did not follow the rules.
Meanwhile, a cloud of customers forms in the parking lot. They have heard the storeowner’s words and made their decision. To follow the rules is to miss out on opportunity. They move toward the artery. In a few moments, the doors will open.