The other day I was thinking Chipolte. Already, I was in the restaurant’s parking lot. Along the street was a group of seven pointed in the same direction.
At this point I had a decision. Did I want to push ahead or hold back? Holding back would involve being stuck behind this group, but pushing ahead would make me look foolish. I didn’t want to be the guy who runs to cut someone off. Plus, no one should ever have to run towards anything resembling fast food.
I didn’t push ahead nor did I hold back. Instead, I kept my pace and split the difference. By the time I settled into the long line, I was in the middle of the group.
Right away the two teenage girls in front of me kept darting their eyes towards me. They were nervous for they were separated from their group, a whole three feet from their group.
“Um, do you want to go ahead of us?”
I nodded and moved ahead.
“You don’t have a group of eight to feed like me, do you?”
I looked back and suddenly the group became a family. No wonder the two teenage girls didn’t want to be separated from the person paying the bill.
I played the moment beautifully for I didn’t look silly trying to outrun a couple of teenage girls and I didn’t get stuck behind a family that would suck the air out of the room trying to decide which salsa to pick after laboring over the choice of meat. When it comes to lines, who knows what could happen.
What’s with lines and people’s internal desire to get ahead of the next person? Actually, I think most people don’t feel a need to get ahead but they do become more than upset if they think someone is cutting in front of them. For example, take the other night.
I was on the interstate completely stuck in traffic. An accident had shut down all three lanes so I decided to drive on the shoulder. The reason I did this was not to get ahead of anyone. My exit was next.
I thought I was alleviating congestion, but for those I was passing, I may as well been running over a pack of penguins. I could feel their scathing hatred in each honking tirade. It became more and more difficult not to think I committed some unforgiveable act. And as a member of a civil society, I indeed had. Lines don’t work if people do not accept their sole function. That’s why I couldn’t understand why this guy kept crowding me.
We’ve all been there, standing in the some insufferable line that starts to sag and turn sloppy. Most of us remain committed to the line, but there are always a few that look to take advantage by crowding next to, not ahead but right to where a legitimate question can be asked: Whose next?
That’s where I was, waiting to go through airport security as the guy behind me kept crowding, inching closer and closer.
Being from the Midwest, I am not use to this type of behavior for I like to give people next to me their space. And it was this type of spacing I gave the airport screener in front of me, which was all the room the guy behind me needed.
Before I knew it he stepped in front of me.
The guy may have been a complete jerk, but I handled the sleight without reacting. There was no need to cause an incident. First, I was in a place where causing an incident usually gets you arrested. Second, I was in no hurry for I still had plenty of time to get to my gate. And third, we still had to go through another line, actually lines. We still had to run our baggage through one of four lines that fed into two screening machines. The jerk would pick one line and I another, and it was guaranteed I would get through security first, especially after I slipped into his carry-on bag one half-eaten, tinfoil wrapped burrito.