What is the name of this story about waiting? "Godot" isn't in the title.
November 20, 2008 2:24 PM   Subscribe

ID That Story: novel (novella? short story?) in which a man is standing in line. Pretty much the entire story is his experience while waiting in line. It's a future/dystopia story. The man is waiting in line to make a complaint. He falls in love with the girl in front of him, though she's not allowed to turn and look at him. It's a parable about overpopulation. It was probably written in the 60s or 70s. That's all I remember.
posted by grumblebee to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
In "Standing in line with Mr Jimmy", the backdrop is a future impoverished America, the hero a no-hoper street-kid. Chip is unemployed, lives on State handouts, 'maintenance', and is pacified during his waking hours by a computerised earpiece - the Mr Jimmy of the title - which talks to him, advises, plays music... (As in many of the stories collected here, the plot is slight: Chip applies for a continuation of his maintenance, is denied, joins a line of citizens queueing for something - we never find out what - and in line meets the woman who cut his maintenance and conscripted him to a road gang in Mexico.) The story works, despite the lack of tension and convoluted plot detail, on a human level. And again the technology is secondary to Kelly's main concern: the delineation of the human condition under the stress of a changed future.

James Patrick Kelly.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:37 PM on November 20, 2008

Response by poster: No, the story I'm thinking of is much more low tech. There weren't any computer earpieces. I don't think computers are ever mentioned in it. It's not sci-fi in the usual sense (no technological or scientific extrapolations). It's set in a near-future (or alternate today) world that is overpopulated. So if you stand in line for anything, you have to stand all day.
posted by grumblebee at 3:19 PM on November 20, 2008

So more a 1984 style future, than a Bladerunner style future?
posted by robotot at 3:21 PM on November 20, 2008

Best answer: OH MY GOD I KNOW IT!

Sorry, it's the first time I've ever known one of these.

The book is My Petition For More Space, by John Hersey.

I bought this for a dollar at a used book store and read it about a year ago. It's imperfect and dated but kind of great.
posted by escabeche at 3:34 PM on November 20, 2008

Sounds like something Ursula K. LeGuin might have written.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 3:34 PM on November 20, 2008

Response by poster: YES, escabeche! Thanks. And now I remember that I read "Hiroshima" and wondered what else Hersey had written.

Thanks. Thanks. Thanks.
posted by grumblebee at 3:49 PM on November 20, 2008

Looks like you already have the answer, but you might also be interested to read Viktor Pelevin's "Zheltaya Strela" (The Yellow Arrow). It's a parable for mankind's current trajectory. In the book, the whole of one's life is spent on a Soviet-era train hurtling ever forward with no stops. Great little story. The link above is for a hardback, but there's a soft-cover translation available out there, too.
posted by msbrauer at 4:11 PM on November 20, 2008

Well, this is a little eerie:

Take a look at the cover of the book then then do some searching.

**only good for November 21 2008**
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 5:16 AM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

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