John Cheever: prophet of the everyday

John Cheever turns out to be brilliantly prophetic on the changing nature of the queue in daily life:

‘The time of which I’m writing was a time in our history when the line or queue had been seriously challenged by automation, particularly in banks. Customers were urged by newspaper advertisements, television and mailings to make their deposits and withdrawals by inserting cards into responsive machines, but there were still enough men and women who had mislaid their cards or who were so lonely that they liked to smile at a teller to form a friendly line at a bank window. They were of that generation who imagined there to be a line at the gates of heaven.’

And he is lovely on the lonesome etiquette of the winking car indicator:

‘He felt so lonely that when the car ahead of him signaled for an exit he felt as if he had been touched tenderly on the shoulder by some stranger in some place like a crowded airport, and he wanted to put on his parking lights or signal back in some way as strangers who are traveling sometimes touch one another although they will never, ever meet again. In a lonely fantasy of nomadism he imagined a world where men and women communicated with one another mostly by signal lights and where he proposed marriage to some stranger because she turned on her parking lights an hour before dusk, dislosing a supple and romantic nature.’

From John Cheever, Oh What a Paradise it Seems (Penguin 1984), pp. 10-11, 76

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