What is it about unexpected long lines that turns intelligent adults into a pack of unruly toddlers who are late for naptime? Plenty of us willingly stand in twisting lines with sweaty strangers for over an hour so they can have the thrill of riding a roller coaster that lasts three minutes. These very same people will pitch a fit about spending the same hour in line at the airport prior to their week long vacation. Both lines have their annoyances and both are inconvenient, but because lines at the airport, bank, or office building aren’t a given the way amusement park lines are, we immediately get overly irritated at the sight of them and allow the irritation to alter our behavior and mood drastically.
Humans are impatient creatures by nature. When we go to a football game, we expect to be able to locate the one line that will fly through and get us to our seats the fastest. When our speedy line comes to an unexpected halt, we begin to shift our weight from leg to leg, straining our neck to see what the hold up is. We sigh and cross our arms, becoming angry at the unseen person or people who are holding up the process. We contemplate switching lines and moving to our right as we silently curse at the people making it through the process quicker than we are. We whisper complaints to our companions and roll our eyes, checking our watch or phone clock every thirty seconds to see how much time has been wasted.
The more annoyed we get at the delay, the worse our behavior becomes. We stop caring about who we bump into, but develop a serious attitude towards anyone who dare bump into us. We sigh loudly when someone annoys us, hoping they will hear it and hoping they will take a hint. Our language becomes somewhat juvenile and we stop caring who hears our foul words. Our vision narrows until the only focus is on ourselves; WE are important and WE have places to go. Someone must be blamed so we begin hurling blame upon everyone else in line, the people checking bags or servicing customers, the handicapped who get to skip the long line, and anyone else who comes across our minds.
As a person who is very easily made uncomfortable by close contact with strangers, long and slow-moving lines can be torturous for me. Stick me in front of behind the woman cracking and popping her gum and it’s likely I’ll step out of line altogether to get away from the noise pollution. Nearly every morning when there is a wait at work, I criticize the security guard checking IDs because of his lack or urgency and constant stopping of the line after every 6 or 8 people in a wasted attempt to clear out room by the metal detectors. This morning, trying to get to my desk at the tail end of a fire drill where the entire building is evacuated, I was annoyed by the coughing woman behind me, the squirrely guy in front of me, and at every single person who line-jumped and didn’t have to wait in the cold as long as I.
It’s pointless, yet we seem to be unable to help it. We edge up at traffic lights, getting closer and closer to the bumper of the car ahead of us, despite the fact that it does nothing to speed things along. We glare at bank tellers and post office employees who are at their station but not helping customers, posting Facebook updates about useless employees as we wait, which makes no one go faster or open up a new register to assist. The only thing we end up accomplishing is driving ourselves to the thin between sanity and mental anguish, some of us even taking that extra step and making a scene. Which also doesn’t help anything at all.
Other than avoidance or Xanax, there is no way to escape the dreaded slow-moving, disgustingly long line. It will pop up when you’re running late, it appears when you’re trying to handle your screaming child, and it will make an appearance wherever and whenever it chooses. It will force you into a confined space with a squeaky voiced woman blabbing away on her phone, a chubby guy chomping on sour cream and onion chips, and an elderly couple who takes an eternity to move a foot. It will test your patience and will seemingly be encouraging you to engage in bad behavior in order to cope.
The best we can do is resist the urge to revert back to a juvenile state and simply feign patience and calmness until we make it to the head of the line and are free once again. Accept that we are powerless to speed up what is going on in front of us and instead make an effort to be speedy ourselves when our time at the front comes. Understand that every other person is as annoyed as we are and try to make ourselves an invisible part of the line rather than a blemish on it that no one wants to be near. If everyone emptied their pockets well before metal detectors, respected personal space of others, and stopped acting as if they are alone in the inconvenience, the line WOULD move faster and would most definitely be more tolerable.
The difference you’ll see if even a quarter of the people in line engage in this behavior will be minimal and will probably go unnoticed by most, but it’s a start. It’s one step along the long road to getting society back to a more polite and pleasurable state. It won’t change the world, but it will make a few moments in life easier for whoever is standing along in that line behind you, grateful that they’re not by someone picking their nose, screaming obscenities, or acting hopelessly unaware of the people surrounding them. It’s a tiny way of leading by example that has the potential to create a snowball effect. For me, that makes it worthwhile.
Posted on November 30, 2012, in Crazy People, Work and tagged annoy, bad manners, impatient, line jumping, long line, loud, manners, polite, profanity, security, security line, tsa. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.