Simple answer: Spicy eggplant and chicken at the Gourmet Dumpling House in Boston’s Chinatown. I mean, I’ve waited for babies to arrive and ships to come in and kids to phone home from New Zealand, but I’ll put GDH’s food right up there with experiences worth the wait.
I couldn’t have answered that question a few weeks ago, but we just returned from a weekend in Beantown, and for us foodies, that restaurant was a defining moment. The soup dumplings were epic, and the Szechuan beef was sublime. You wait on line for at least a half hour outside on the street. You dodge bikers and street people and peek into the surrounding storefronts, steamy and greasy from the barbecued ducks hanging in the window. They call your name and you enter a space jam-packed with people at communal tables, and within minutes the food comes flying out. Noise? You wouldn’t believe it!
All of which got me thinking about what is worth waiting for on line. And notice I said “on” line. Apparently people who have nothing better to do argue over whether one waits on line or in line. It seems that Brits and New Yorkers say on and all other Americans say in. No matter; you know it when you’re doing it.
I’m impatient, so I can’t recall too many times I waited on line for something I wanted. A couple of restaurants, I guess; going through airport security; waiting to register for classes at Queens College decades ago; waiting for the first-ever polio vaccine at my elementary school; waiting on line for ice cream anytime.
I notice that there are long lines in cities these days to buy the sneaker-of-the-moment. People are paid to wait, sometimes for hours, to purchase as many pairs as possible, for resale to buyers too busy to wait. In Boston there was a line around the block for a cupcake company that was having a grand opening. I interviewed a young man on the line who said he had driven from New York for this event, and was hoping to score a free T-shirt as well as some cupcakes. Turns out he’s 30 years old and badly in need of a life.
The five longest wait lines in recent history were people on line for the Play Station 3m when Sony released the new console in 2006; the iPhone 5S, in 2013, when buyers lined up for weeks at the Manhattan flagship store; and various lineups for every “Star Wars” debut, including a 12-day wait in L.A. for “The Force Awakens.”
Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas, is wildly famous not only for its remarkable brisket and outstanding pulled pork, but for its long waits. It only serves lunch. Franklin banned “line sitters” some years ago. So everyone, including the rich and famous, has to wait, often from dawn, to get in for a meal. The only exception in recent years was President Barack Obama, who was allowed to cut the line. Otherwise, the owner says, the wait is the anticipatory part of the experience.
I remember my Aunt Zelda waiting on line at Macy’s for Cabbage Patch dolls in the 1980s. My mother waited for a pet rock at some New York department store. She and I waited on a long line to see Santa when I was 7.
In terms of generic waiting, I’ve watched the mailbox for weeks, waiting for my college acceptance, and my first passport, and a full CD series of every season of “The Wire,” which was a black market purchase (I didn’t know it) and came from somewhere in China. The good news was that most of the episodes were in English.
There are bad waits. Who hasn’t waited forever in a doctor’s office? We’ve also waited, not on line but with some anxiety, for surgeries and lab reports and other life-changing findings.
According to a study conducted by Timex, people are willing to wait 32 minutes in a doctor’s office before they freak out, but only two minutes for parents to quiet a screaming baby on an airplane. It wasn’t clear what “freak out” meant.
On a hot summer day in July, it’s more fun to think about the lines that tempt you to wait because the payoff is big: You get the slow-cooked ribs, or the ticket to Beyonce, or the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350V2 Static Black Reflective sneakers (for $1,420), or the TSA stamp of approval.
What have you waited for on a line and was it worth it? Please share.
Copyright 2019 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.