Friday, April 16, 2010

First cut is the deepest

posted Sat, 14 Oct 2006

The instinct for line fairness must be developed in Americans (and Brits). It can’t be genetic – I’ve been to other countries where lines are not respected at all – countries that have sent immigrants to America. But in the US, there is the idea that we each take our turn and that cutting in line is Not Done. I don’t know where this idea comes from but it’s a good one. I like it. It’s part of the essential egalitarian feeling of this country. No one’s time is more important than someone else’s. Everyone waits his turn.

So it was with great alarm yesterday that I saw the Northwest ticket agent lead two passengers to the space right in front of me at the X-ray machine. Me, who had been waiting in a line 50 feet long (where were all these people going?) for what seemed like hours until I had finally reached my rightful place of taking off my shoes and throwing my purse and backpack into the bin so I could clear the machine and get to the ladies’ room. Me, who never, ever cuts. Why were they cutting in front of me?

I pouted with full body language. I put my hands on my hips. I let my jaw fall in disbelief. I rolled my eyes. I gestured to the people behind me. I even glared at the backs of the necks of the line cutters.

All to no avail.

When the Northwest ticket agent finally turned around and let me catch her eye, I asked, “Why do they get to cut in line?”

“Because Northwest messed up their flight,” she retorted.

I wanted to say, “So now you’re going to mess up mine?”

But I didn’t. She had power. I did not.

Later that day, though, when SH and I were driving to his mom and dad’s, we got stuck in some bad traffic. He moved from the far left lane to the far right lane. The right lane was a right turn only lane. We zoomed to the front and were forced to turn – which SH knew – he was going to take the alternative route – but saw that the traffic cleared up right where we turned.

“I could just merge back onto the highway,” he said.

“I’ll shoot you myself,” I told him.

“But I didn’t move over intending to go to the front of the line,” he explained. “I was going to go the other way.”

“I don’t care.”

“What if there were a space four cars long and I wouldn’t be making anyone move?”

“I don’t care.”

“I wouldn’t be hurting anyone.”

“I will never respect you again.”

That worked.

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