It’s among life’s more annoying aggravations. Some people skip events because of it and most of us have found ourselves unwittingly snared it its grip. Yet it’s estimated that most Americans will spend between two and three years of our lives doing it.
“It” is waiting in line, often called queuing. Although a necessary component of civilized society, queuing can be a frustrating experience.
Fellow blogger Terry Thornton got me thinking about this with his post over at Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi. What I’ve come to realize is that I used to spend a lot more time waiting in lines than I do these days. That’s partially due to the convenience of the Internet, where I can now shop, buy tickets and pay bills, but I suspect that there’s some learned behavior at work, too.
When I was in college, it seemed like I spent a lot of time in lines. Registering for classes was a time-consuming ordeal, as was the simple process of picking up license plates each year. Buying tickets to sporting events and concerts also ate up a lot of time. Much of my basic training time in the U.S. Air Force was spent waiting for one thing or another.
I learned that it paid to plan ahead, like make reservations at restaurants or buying tickets in advance. In some cases, though, when faced with either waiting in a line or not going, I often didn’t go.
The whole process of queuing has undergone some changes over the years. For instance, many places now democratically use a single line, rather than forcing customers to guess which one of multiple lines is moving faster. But there’s still the injustice in some outlets of peeling off the person who’s waited the least amount of time when a new checkout opens. And many discount stores have many more unopened checkout lanes than are in use at any given time.
Think back on your queuing experiences. I’m sure many meaningful relationships were ignited by a long wait somewhere. With all that time spent in line, something interesting must have happened in your lifetime.
The MSNBC web site has some tips on how to avoid some lines and, as this interview on NPR shows, scientists are tackling the problem. As you might expect, the folks over at Disney have their own take on the situation as it affects visitors to the House of the Mouse.
Larry Lehmer, founder and president of When Words Matter, is a personal historian who helps people preserve their family histories. To learn more, visit his web site or send him an e-mail.
Flickr photo courtesy of Paul Russell99.