What It Is Wednesday: Cutting in Line


“What’s wrong with people,” I wondered as I was trying on shoes in a store over in Destin, “that they get so dug into their positions and can’t seem to see what’s obvious to everyone else?”

I was thinking this in terms of politics, both on the national scale and in my own workplace. It seems some folks are so focused on what they perceive to be true that they’re not willing to look around or look outside themselves, and they’re often quite vocal about it. I had just overheard a conversation between two women in the shoe department on an esoteric topic, and I kept my opinion to myself because, well, no one’s changing anyone else’s opinion once a mind has been made up.

I found the perfect shoes for the occasion and headed to the cash register, where I found two stations out of four open and about a dozen people ahead of me. Having forgotten that it was tax-free weekend and not wanting to stand in line–I’m fidgety when I have to be still–I made another round through the store to check the sales racks and wandered back to the check-out area about 20 minutes later.

Good, only third in line, I thought. Two registers were still open, and the store seemed short-handed. A woman I’d chatted with earlier in the store pulled her card in next to me as we waited behind a wall of sale signs to move into one of the two aisles when they opened. Int another minute or two, all the spaces in the check-out area filled with other women with carts or armloads, all waiting in line. I was #2 in line now out of 15 people.

I tried to be patient. This was my next to last stop after a very busy day and I was tired, and tireder still of standing in line. The cashiers were either very slow or their orders were complex because it seemed to be taking forever. Women behind me wondered why the didn’t open another lane–just as a third cashier was called over the intercom to open another station.

I watched the third cashier slowly make her way to the area and I thought that if the first two cashiers were quick enough, then I’d be the first customer in line to be called over, but no, not that fast. Hurting a bit from the effects of too many chemicals yesterday, I shuffled from foot to foot, really ready to either walk away or sit down. Several of the women behind me nodded and murmured that I was next and things would get moving now.

Just then, a woman of about 75 pushed her cart into the check-out area and made a beeline for the cashier who was now busily opening her station. The rest of us in line watched, ready to protest that she was cutting in line or to be angry with the cashier if she wasn’t paying attention to the rest of us. Instead, the cashier announced “Next in line,” and pointed at the woman in front of me, who hurriedly–while dropping stuff–rushed over to the third cashier.

The late-to-the-game woman, whom I’ll call #16, didn’t say anything to the cashier or the fumbling woman, but she made sure they–and the rest of us–heard her displeasure.

“Did you see that?” she addressed the rest of us. “I was next in line and she called somebody from waaaaay over there in ahead of me!”

One of the women behind me–#10, I think–gently tried to explain that we were all ahead of her.

“Not in MY lane, you weren’t!”

“We’re all in line for the first available cashier,” another woman explained, again being very gentle with her.

#16 took her place at the back of the line, still grumbling that she was next and had been done wrong.

When I finally checked out ten minutes later, she was still grumbling, except no one was answering her or trying to explain anything to her any more. When I looked back as I left the store, she had cut in line behind me, ahead of everyone else. The last impression I got as I walked out was a collective sigh from everyone else.

This woman never saw even for a moment that she had cut in line and saw it only as a wrong done to her by the fumbling customer and the third cashier. She somehow thought that she could push her cart to the front of the store, in front of fifteen other customers, check out, and leave ahead of them. In her mind, that aisle that had just been opened to accommodate the fifteen people already in line was her fast-pass out the store. There was nothing anyone could say to her to convince her that no, no one had done her wrong.

“That’s how,” I thought as I carried my purchases to my car. “That’s how people dig in and refuse to see any other point of view or to allow anyone else in front of them. They see a gap in the line ahead and think it’s theirs, and anyone who gets ahead of them is cutting in their line, has been given a space not deserved. A perfectly nice lady, otherwise, but obvious to others.”

Key Takeaway: Some people feel mistreated according to privileges they think they deserve and lost without regard for ethics or rights other people are being deprived of.


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