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It was a hot early afternoon at the McDonald's across from Wrigley Field. The place was packed with fans--lots of families or at least dads with their kids and maybe the neighbor's kids--grabbing a burger-and-fries lunch before heading over to the game. Two different signs mounted side by side on the wall near one cash register put the restaurant's capacity at either 50 or 112 customers, but the place was clearly holding more than even the sum of those two numbers.

The area in front of the half dozen cash registers was chaotic, more of a free-form shuffle toward service than a line. Two older women stood near the back of the flowing, ebbing crowd. One was heavy, had white, maybe slightly pink hair, and was wearing a bright turquoise T-shirt. The other was only marginally thinner and was decked out in a matching shorts-and-blouse outfit featuring wild birds caught in mid-flight.

"Is this the line?" the one in turquoise asked her friend.

"I don't know," said the woman with the birds on her shirt. "Is this the line?"

It was hard to tell where she was pointing.

"I don't know," said the one in turquoise. "Is this the line?" Her antecedent was also vague; they'd obviously used this shorthand before, hung out together in other lines at other fast-food outlets.

"I think this is the line," said the bird lady.

"Well, I don't know," said her friend. "I just don't know. They all look the same."

"Maybe there aren't any lines."

"Then what?"

"I don't know," said the bird lady. She paused a beat. "Is this the line?"

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