I was in fourth grade. We had a class play titled something like, “The Cat who Cried over Spilled Milk.” The scene: a house with lots of animals including a cat, an owl, a turtle (played by me), and a few others. The owners were away and the cat spilled milk, and cried. I don’t remember much beyond that. I had one line. I had all the lines around me memorized. The boy (who I had a fourth grade crush on) played the owl, and he said my line. I was devastated. That was my line. He missed his queue, and instead of playing as a team, I restated my line because it was mine.
Queues (cues) are an interesting thing in our society. We take cues, stand in queues, and query queues. We use queues to create order, manage order, and extract order. We use queues to help make sense of this chaotic world. We use cues to prompt our role in this chaotic world.
As an adult, who often relies on other people, I have realized that I would rather those with whom I frequent take their own queues. Take a group of moms, post event. Let’s say a group got together for a potluck, during the summer. After the meal is consumed, I have noticed that the women, often mostly mothers, hang back and ensure things are tidied, straightened, and put away. These women understand the queues and they execute the tasks without fussing. These women assess and do. They might do it with jokes. They might do it with calm. It might be spirited. However the method, the kitchen gets cleaned. The dishes are put away. The food is separated into containers to take home or stored for later use. The tables and counters are wiped down. The floor is swept. Any messy spills are removed. And, within seemingly moments the kitchen is transformed form a place that held ruckus, eventful conversation, to a place of order where another spirited meal can be created.
When it’s mothers, the queues are often practiced, daily, cleaning up after children and spouses. Perhaps this repetition, this practice, this understanding makes the queue easier to understand. Suddenly, in this familiar situation, it’s not a lone woman cleaning up her own kitchen nagging her husband to help. She’s with a band of more women and a team is formed. The tasks are understood, and leaders of execution pick up what must be done. One woman takes dish washing duty while another rinses and dries. Another still might put away. Another will sweep, while someone wipes down the counters after the food is put away by yet another. A team enforcing the adage, many hands make light work.
It was during one of these moments that I flashed back to that 4th grade night where I grumpily restated my line. I could have said his. I knew his line. I knew what the owl had to say. The performance, if anyone had noticed, would have flowed better, looked better, and everyone would have been maybe in a better mood. What I know about myself now is that I often care less about the credit (although I do like being credited for a job well done) and more about getting the thing done together. It doesn’t matter who takes dish duty or sweeping; it matters that it gets done.
Now, I would like to take and offer a cue from my experience. When someone says your line, don’t fuss, and help them with theirs. Together, we are better together. Together, we can get things done.