Social Hour: The Line

Ever stood in line at the bank, a concert or a government office? Then you know the folks in the line have at least something in common.

Are you one of those folks who buries their head in a newspaper, checks messages on your cell phone, or one who strikes up a conversation with those around you?

The Line for Propane


Cruisers have plenty of opportunity to meet and greet standing in line.

One of the first struggles cruisers have to get over is island time. If someone says they’ll be there at 11:00, be prepared to wait. It could be 11:30 or even noon. Despite the knowledge that life is a bit slower and “No Worries” is a state of being, cruisers can’t get over the need to come early. We still want to be the first in line. Don’t ask me why, I guess in our former lives it was drilled into us to always show up ahead of schedule.

The advantage of learning island time the hard way, is — you guessed it — we get to meet new friends.

The Line Get's Longer


Life on a boat is about finding the supplies we need, before we run out. Recently, the propane guy couldn’t get propane either. Due to the holidays, the supply ships weren’t running the normal schedules and supplies were at a premium. So here we are in the land of the cruisers and we all cook with propane gas, or at least most of us do.

Clarence usually shows up every Wednesday at 11. So if you know you’re running low, you just head back to George Town by Wednesday and stand in line. Okay, so the first week of January, Clarence announces, no propane, now all the cruisers with limited resources start conserving or bartering with other cruisers for precious gas.

So everyday, the powers that be call Clarence to see if this is the day. A week goes by and Wednesday rolls around again. Cruisers are now making morning coffee on their grills. We can be pretty inventive sometimes. Finally, Friday is D-Day.

The line get’s longer and longer, the talk get’s louder and louder. We all joke about need for propane and what we’re willing to do. We meet new people we’ve only heard on the radio, find out who’s moving in the same general direction we’re going and who’s staying put. It’s a social event. 11:00 comes and goes and finally around 11:30 Clarence’s boys show up. They’re efficient and the line is consumed within 45 minutes. Locals in need of propane get to cut in line, but we’re only talking four or five people.

And Finally, Results!


Three hours of our day gone for a simple fill of a 20 pound tank, but we’ve met new friends and enjoyed a spontaneous party.

When faced with a line, what is your go to action? Are you a talker, or do you bury yourself in your own thoughts? Do you complain about the wait, or do you find a positive spin to the situation?

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About Nancy J Nicholson

Nancy J. Nicholson is a wife, mother, writer, and full-time sailor, writing of her adventures and creating contemporary mysteries along the shores of the eastern United States and Caribbean. She fills her time with new friends, exploration, food, knitting and reading.
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14 Responses to Social Hour: The Line

  1. That sounds like a propane PARTY! Love it!
    I think it depends on the situation for me. If I’m in line for a government service or getting groceries, I’m usually head buried in my phone catching up on email or blogs.
    If I am in line at a party for food or drinks, or at a bar in line, or down south in line for something, I am chatty and friendly! LOL!!

  2. I prefer to stand in line and not talk or even read my cell phone. I wander off into my head…but there’s ALWAYS some chatty person next to me, and pretty soon there’s quite a few of us chatting away and I’ve made new friends. =)

  3. Carol Roe says:

    I bet you already know my answer. LOL. I am a TALKER. :) And I usually find another talker. ;) Guess I am never grumpy about lines. I have been at the register and know the things that can cause a backup line. NOT the checker or tellers fault 99% of the time. If someone seems rushed or has fussy kids or only a handful of items to my cart full, I let them go 1st. Not that I am on Island time, but why add more stress to a day. Hugs….

  4. I’ve had some truly great times standing in line and heard some fabulous stories! If you have to be there, you might as well make it a good time.

  5. Tameri says:

    Okay, true confessions time… if I’m in line I’ll either 1) stay quiet and eavesdrop (you’d be amazed at character development you can find just by being quiet) or 2) I’ll strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone around me (again, character development) or 3) I pretend to be checking email to avoid conversations with potentially toxic/soul sucking people.

    Being a friendly person, I often find myself the unintended ‘counselor’ to many, um, strange folks.

    Your propane line looks like the chance to have a total party! What a lot of fun and you all have something in common, so your chances of getting #3 on my list is small. Man, I envy you your life. It’s always an adventure!

  6. Tameri, I find every life situation is a springboard for character development. Whether we engage or not, there’s a large amount of good coming from interacting.

  7. Okay, time to be the contrary one…I hate chatting with people in line :) That improves slightly if it’s at a venue with a common interest (which I supposed includes waiting for propane where you can all talk boat life) but I would always rather be left to my own business. I’ve usually got a plot thread to noodle over, or space that needs staring into. Urgent things!

    When I do chat, I often find it backfires on me, and I get trapped in conversation with someone who ignores the social assumptions that come with line-chatting…ie: we are just passing time, unless we both start acting like we should be friends.

  8. When we were in the propane line waiting a couple of years ago I went off to do some grocery shopping across the street with my friend, leaving our husbands yaking away with the others. When we returned we were amused to find that it was hard to pick our partners out from all the other strangely familiar cruising guys, all wore hats, shorts, a stained tee-shirt and all in possession of a steel/zink bottle. We started laughing imagining that we might be able to choose a new captain, who was equally smelly, very used but maybe a bit of a change nevertheless. As we got closer we located the ones we belonged to, but it was a lasting joke between all four of us for a very long time.

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