Sunday, October 4, 2009

Queuing theory

posted Wed, 08 Sep 2004

I have yet to hear either presidential candidate address what is one of the most pressing issues of the day. Sure, they’ll talk about Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism and the economy and Vietnam. They’ll even talk about Social Security – oh, it’s the third rail! We can’t talk about that! But they do.

But will they touch the really big issue? Will they dare address something that would really polarize the electorate and raise a hue and a cry for reform?

’ll write about capital punishment tomorrow.

No. They won’t. Because they are big sissies. Kerry is a much bigger sissy than W. W is tough. But not tough enough for this. I am tired of this. I want this matter settled for once and for all.

I dare you, W and Kerry. No, I double-dare you. Tell me how you are going to solve the problem of those jerks who get into the express line at the grocery store with more than ten items.

Yes, I see you nodding your head as you read. This has happened to you, too, hasn’t it? Now we are getting into a personal issue that affects all of us at least every week or so.

I know none of you dear readers would ever go into the express line with more than the allowed number of items. (Incidentally, a bag of apples is only one item, but if you don’t put them in a bag, they are as many items as apples. Just wanted to clear that up. Thank you.) So let’s talk about the people who do commit this heinous act that violates one of the most basic norms of our culture, which is that of waiting your turn.

Are they stupid? Do they not know how to count? If that is the problem, then perhaps we could post hints on how to determine if you should rightfully be in the express line. “Do you have more items than you have fingers?” a sign could ask. Maybe the grocery stores could hire some second-graders to help people count.

If the queue rule-breakers are not stupid, then they must be plain rude.

And what is the appropriate punishment for that, I ask? I was behind a lady the other day who had – I counted – 17 items in her basket. She shouldn’t even have been in the moderate express line (15 items or fewer), much less the express^2 line (10 items or fewer).

She didn’t get her wallet out until all her items were bagged. I had already paid for and bagged my ONE item before she was done putting her change in her purse. (At least she didn’t compound her crime by waiting until the last minute to start writing a check.) I had to walk around her to get out.

What should have been done in that situation? If the grocery stores are not going to manage the lines, then is it up to us to enforce the rules? I am open to suggestion, although I am partial to a modification of the cell-phone-while-driving rule that gives everyone three zaps per day to be used at his discretion to blow up offending drivers.

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