If there is anything I know how to do, it is to line up. It’s in my blood. Having lived in England for 15 years is long enough to learn the rules of etiquette, when it comes to in “Engisheese,” queuing up. Polite and proper were the lines in stores, to the theater and anywhere a large group of Brits congregated. At least, it was like this when I was growing up. So, this Christmas, my sense of the right and wrong ways of queuing were put to the test.
Picture a large Macon bookstore the week before Christmas. Several registers filtered the line of quiet shoppers with arms full of Christmas books and Nooks. I stepped in behind the line of about four people, when I felt the look. You know, it’s that second sense, when someone is staring. You can feel it. Glancing up to find where this second sense was emanating from, I saw the face of an irritated man, looking over to our line. He was also in a “line.” I knew the rules of queuing were broken. All registers full; and one line supposed to lead up to those registers. Only there were two. I’ve noted in larger communities, strangers usually don’t engage other strangers in any type of small talk. Those in both lines noticed the breach from one merge line to two. Which was the right one? The next register open would cause an uncomfortable situation. Figuring that I was the only small-town adult in line, not afraid to say “Hey” to a perfect stranger, I took charge of the queuing etiquette breach. The other line was much longer and probably the first “official line.” Holding the offended man in the opposing line in my sight, I called across the small space, a veritable no-man’s land, between the two lines. Breaking the silence and looking straight at the grumpy guss, I called: “Excuse me! Is that the end of the line?” “Yes it is!” He asserted. I left the second line and headed to the back of this line. And wouldn’t you know it, like little ducks, everyone who had started and slowly added to the second line, followed me. It seems that everyone else wanted to follow queuing etiquette, but just didn’t want to make a move. Here we had an adult game of follow the leader.
Then there are the 10 items or less, 12 items or less aisles. Pick a number. I’ll admit, I count my items, and I have, if gone over by a few tiny items – maybe a candy bar or two, been guilty of breaking this rule. But then, I’ve hypocritically glared inside the basket of those who flagrantly break these rules and have a ton more than the allotted number. Part of me wants the cashier to tell the obvious rule-breaker, who in my mind is as bad as a line breaker, to take their buggy and be gone! But then, if I go over one or two, I have this fantasy of the cashier actually counting my items … seven, eight, nine, ten, and one Hershey bar and Twix make 12! I’d be caught, a flagrant queuing rule breaker. So, usually I’m a stickler for having the right amount. I guess I don’t want to be labeled a flagrant queuing rule breaker.
So then, you are in line with a buggy full of items, and someone has a mere handful behind you. If I see the person, I’ll let them go ahead. Once, this politeness ended up with me letting two other shoppers in front. I guess the 10 items or less aisle was closed.
Ever seen the show Extreme Couponing? I’ve seen a few minutes, but my husband had an experience with a woman who could have appeared on the show. If you think that you’ve hit the quickest aisle beware when the person in front takes out a wad of coupons. You’ll be there a while. Take my advice, back up, back out, and go through the “long line,” it’ll be quicker.
Queuing up does give you the opportunity to read the magazines. But watch what is on the front cover, because invariably, in a small town, someone you know, or even barely, or a complete stranger, will come up to say, “Hey.” And, unlike a bigger city, there’ll be some chit chat, “Readin’ something good?”