This isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed this situation—I think the first time was in junior high school—but it may be the first time I have thought about it beyond the immediate flash of irritation.
I decided to give Trader Joe’s another chance, as they have better pre-prepared meals, frozen or otherwise, than anyone else, and perhaps because a storm was looming, the line to get into the store was tolerable, and appeared to be moving quckly. By the time I got close to the Promised Land, however, the line was growing behind me rapidly.
An apparently elderly woman approached the entrance from the parking lot. The woman who was first in line waved her to the front of the line, and the senior was able to grab a cart immediately. She thanked the younger woman profusely, over and over.
There were more than ten hopeful shoppers behind me in line at that point. including at least one who looked no younger than the lady who got a pass.
What the hell?
1. Does the first person in a long line have the authority to do that? Who made that rule? Shouldn’t she ask the consent of everyone behind her?
2. How does she warrant all the gratitude? The inconvenience she is accepting may be the same amount of time as everyone else, but each successive person in the line will feel it a little more keenly. Shouldn’t she have been thanking all of us?
3. In fact, shouldn’t she have been asking if everyone else in line consented to her jumping ahead?
4. I have always believed that the only person in line who could unilaterally let some one jump ahead of her was that last individual. Indeed, I have been in situations where a line-jumper like the elderly woman would have sparked a near riot, as when there is a question about whether everyone in line will get what they are waiting for.
Is there some social convention I don’t know about in which the person at the front of a line is the Line Czar? Because if there is, I missed the memo.
An archives note: This is the second time I’ve written about line-cutting, which Wikipedia says is also known as line/queue jumping, butting, barging, budging, skipping, breaking, shorting, pushing in, or “cutsies.” The last time was in 2014, when President Obama just cut in front of the people in waiting in a line for barbecue.
I was not pleased.