On My Mind: Things Worth Standing (In Line) For
I rode by Price’s Chicken Coop the day before it closed. A lot of fine storytellers have already given Price’s a proper tribute. It was one of the last links to old Charlotte. And the chicken? Well, to paraphrase the great Calvin Trillin, if you don’t think your hometown joint is the best place in the world, you’re a sissy. I ain’t no sissy. Price’s is the best there ever was.
But what I found myself thinking about, that day when I drove by, was not the chicken but the line. People were waiting five and six hours to get their last box of Price’s.
And I thought: I love Price’s. But I’m not standing in that line.
I can think of just one time I stood in line that long for anything. It was 1984 and Prince was about to go on his Purple Rain tour. Back in those days, children, there was no internet. You got tickets one of two ways. You called the 800-number a thousand times until maybe you got through. Or you got in line at the ticket outlet and waited.
A group of us decided this was too big a deal to trust the phone. We got in line the night before at a record store called Turtle’s in Athens, Georgia. If I remember right, we waited 12 hours. It was a long, exhausting, not completely sober night. But we got our tickets.
As I’ve aged, waiting in line has moved to the list of things I used to think were fun. Technology has streamlined our lives in so many ways that standing in line now just feels like a chore. In fact, one way to tell that people don’t want other people doing something is that they make them stand in line for it.
You’ve seen this in a lot of elections lately, where poor and minority voters wait hours to cast their ballots because there aren’t enough polling places where they live. That’s not a coincidence. It’s people in power hoping those voters will give up. But by and large, they don’t. There’s something heroic about that.
The other lines, for most of us, are more symbolic. The people at Price’s weren’t waiting hours just for a drumstick and a dinner roll. They were waiting for a feeling, a sense of common ground, in a place that brought Charlotteans of all kinds together.
I kind of wish I’d gotten in that line, long as it was. The most delicious moment in this city was when they handed you the chicken at Price’s. The second most delicious moment was when you were waiting for the chicken.
Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs Mondays on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at email@example.com.