There is a game we all play whenever we approach a checkout line at the grocery store called “Find the Fastest Line.” Step one—assess the number of people in each line. Next, quickly gauge the number of items each shopper has in his or her basket. An often neglected but important final step is to observe how much produce is in the mix, as we all know that adds at least another minute. If we’re lucky, we spot a new cash register being prepped, and, with precise timing, we abort the chosen line and proceed to first place in a newly opened one. But sometimes, while patiently waiting in our chosen line, someone who wasn’t even IN line walks up and claims the coveted first position at the newly opened register. They jumped the queue!
Sometimes innocent, other times brazen, but always irritating, having someone break in line ahead of us is something we have all experienced. So, what do you do when someone blatantly ignores the unwritten etiquettes of waiting their turn?
My first piece of advice—don’t get angry. No question, the behavior is rude. But there are times when it matters less than others. For instance, if someone greets a friend while standing in line to enter a ball game and all parties have prepaid tickets with assigned seats, it’s not worth making a scene by protesting. You will come across looking mean-spirited, not only to the friends, but to the whole crowd gathered behind you.
As you consider your confrontational remarks, be polite. Give the benefit of the doubt.
Now, more egregious is what happened to me recently. I entered a favorite lunch spot, assessed the line situation and chose the line that had two women together as opposed to the line with three people standing individually. While patting myself on the back for my wise choice, in walked a group of three friends who were meeting the two ladies for lunch. With a wave from their buddy placing an order at the head of the line, the newcomers all promptly proceeded ahead of me in line. I was dumbfounded.
Trust me. I was not happy. But they were excited to be enjoying a meal together. I knew that if I expressed my anger, it would do nothing more than make me look petty, trifling, and a bit cold-hearted. So, I took a breath and let it be.
Silence is not mandated when someone jumps the in line at the airport, post office, or at a packed store, especially during the holidays. My suggestion is to make an ally with someone in line with you. Look around and ask, “Did you see that guy break in line in front of us?” With support, you can then approach the individual who dared to break protocol.
Even then, as you consider your confrontational remarks, be polite. Give the benefit of the doubt. It is highly possible that the person did not even know where the line started. A simple, “Hey, did you know the line starts back there?” will be much better received and perceived than an attack.
I’m here if you need me. Until then, y’all behave.
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