Line Cutting: Is It Getting Worse?

s the line of dozens of passengers snakes its way around the stanchions whose bands delineate the direction in which the herd of people should go at an international airport recently, a man and a woman take advantage of an opening and simply blend themselves in without any resistance or complaint from the people of whom they cut in front.

While braving frigid temperatures in a covered deck near Union Station in Washington, D.C. awaiting the arrival of a bus, a person in his early 20s approaches the line and simply stands near the front of the line. “We have been waiting here for quite some time,” one person in line said. “I ain’t gonna cut in front of you,” he grudgingly assured him.

Why he simply did not go to the back of the line and await his turn, I do not know. I can speculate; but that would be a fruitless exercise.

These are two of a number of recent examples of what appears to me to be an increase in the brazen activity of line cutting by impatient people; and it is unfair to those people who have waited their turn to have to wait longer due to the inconsiderate actions of others.

No one dislikes waiting in a line more than I; and I will do whatever I can to legitimately not have to wait in a line. I went to the dentist yesterday morning for a routine cleaning and check up of my teeth; and I have it down to a science where I am fortunate that I never have to wait for my appointment. Most of the time — if I do have to wait in a line — the line is usually either short or does not have much of a wait time; but in the rare event that I am actually waiting in a long line, I do not cut in front of people. It is as simple as that.

Wondering if this was a recent phenomenon or if perhaps I only started noticing it more recently, I searched on FlyerTalk to see if there were any discussions pertaining to line cutting. Four of the seven discussions — none of them discussed within at least the past two years — pertained to Southwest Airlines, on which I have never traveled as a passenger:


Delta Air Lines had purportedly tested a turnstile of sorts at the airports in Atlanta and Las Vegas which allowed passengers to scan their boarding passes at the gate and potentially bypass all interaction with airline employees, according to this article written by Wendy Lee of the StarTribune in Minneapolis back in 2012, which was mentioned in one of the aforementioned FlyerTalk discussions.

Three years later, I still have not seen any sign of these turnstiles used by Delta Air Lines. I suppose the testing either failed, was inconclusive, or the actual date of implementation indefinite.

Speaking of Delta Air Lines, FlyerTalk member JDErickson posted the following experience in a fifth of those seven discussions found by me on FlyerTalk: “My wife and I are next in line to enter the SkyPriority security line at DTW. There is a line of about 10 behind us. Line dragon is scrutinizing boarding passes closely. As I step up DYKWIA walks up from another direction directly in front of me and gives his pass to line dragon.

“My next move should be?????”

What should his next move have been?

Sometimes the act of cutting into a line is not so blatantly egregious. There are those people who “sidle” into a line, as recalled by FlyerTalk member PTravel in this discussion — the sixth of seven — pertaining to passengers of United Airlines who cut the elite boarding line in front of others.

People are rarely successful to cut directly in front of me if I happen to be in a line. Sure, I have been known to acquiesce to someone who is in a legitimate hurry — such as for an emergency — or who asks me politely if they can get ahead of me. If I happen to have a shopping cart full of items in a grocery store or supermarket and there is a person with one or two items, I have been known to gesture to that person to go ahead of me…

…but cut in front of me like I do not exist — especially after I have been waiting and lost time which I can never recover? Uh, uh. No way. I will say something; and it will usually initially be in the form of a polite question, as you never know if the act of line cutting was committed by people who honestly did not have a clue — especially when the line is poorly managed. The answer to that polite question then determines how blunt I may become in what I say next if I say anything at all to the line cutter; whether or not I will ask someone else in line whether or not he or she witnessed what happened; or — better yet — if the involvement of an official managing the area where the line is located becomes necessary.

It is important to remain polite and calm despite the aggravation of the practice of line cutting by people — lest you do not mind potentially being sentenced to 15 years in prison in this extreme case

…and there are times where people simply accept the fact that a minor injustice was committed against them where they let it go, as a confrontation of any kind is not worth the time, effort and additional aggravation.

Why do I feel so strongly about line cutting? Time is a precious commodity which none of us can ever retrieve once it is lost; and I personally try not to waste my time on experiences which I do not enjoy — such as waiting in line, for example. Who is the person in front of me to autonomously determine arbitrarily that his or her time is more valuable than mine — especially when cutting in line in front of me usually means that I will have to spend more time to wait even longer in that line?

If I had it my way, I would do away with lines altogether — whether at the airport, a bank, or at a grocery store…

…and speaking of banks, I never understood why a bank would invest money in building a number of teller windows inside of the bank. I cannot remember the last time I have been inside of a bank where greater than three of the 20 windows were manned by tellers.

Come to think of it, that sounds similar to security checkpoints at airports where there is a line but only three of the 20 scanners are manned; but the difference is that I have seen airports during busy times where all of the scanners were simultaneously being used. I have experienced similar situations at the customs areas of airports around the world.

It can really be frustrating to be waiting in a long line when there are so many unmanned stations not being used — no matter where or when this may occur. I personally start to think about the time I am wasting and what I would rather be doing. That is the main reason why I try not to wait in lines whenever possible; but sometimes that simply cannot be avoided — and I would not be surprised if others who experience similar frustrations use them to justify cutting into a line…

…but I have to say that when I patiently waited in line for approximately four hours at the Ficksburg Bridge border crossing to enter Lesotho from South Africa, to the credit of everyone else, no one cut the line — so any justification of cutting a line due to frustration is no excuse, in my opinion.

I understand the economics which are involved in the attempt to reduce or eliminate lines: it cost money to hire additional employees or expand infrastructure in order to accommodate throngs of people during busy times; but in my idealistic and unrealistic world, the luxury of not having to wait in line should not be just that: a luxury. No one should have to wait in line for anything; and not having to wait in line should not be a luxury for those who are more privileged.

In my opinion, it is a detriment to everyone when someone’s time is wasted waiting in a line. How many hours, days, weeks, months, years are lost with people waiting in line all over the world? How much more productive could we be as a society if people did not have to wait in line? How much more could we all accomplish which would ultimately be beneficial to all of us?

The jury is out with me on whether or not the aforementioned turnstiles would work; but technology is definitely the key, in my opinion. I prefer using self-service kiosks to conduct my business — whether I am in a supermarket or at an airport — as there is almost never a line to use them; and I typically conduct my business significantly faster than dealing with an actual person.

That is not to say that I eschew dealing with actual people: whenever there is a problem or a special situation which requires attention, there is nothing like personally dealing with a representative of a company who puts in the time and effort to ensure that a customer is satisfied — and even better, when expectations are exceeded…

…but then again, that takes time; and that is when those dreaded lines form.

We already can use the Internet to purchase our airline tickets and check in for our flights and hotel rooms before leaving the comfort of our homes. The answer to further reduce or eliminate lines may indeed be to implement more technology — such as at gates at the airport when passengers board. As a person who was a “gate agent for a morning” several times, I can scan my own boarding pass with aplomb; and I am certain that many other passengers would be able to do the same effortlessly — assuming the machine which scans the boarding passes is operating properly…

…and if lines can be further reduced or eliminated, then it stands to reason that line cutting by impatient or inconsiderate people would also be further reduced or eliminated.

Now if we can only figure out how to effectively reduce or eliminate the act of being inconsiderate by people towards others…

…but in the meantime, what do you do if someone cuts the line in front of you? How do you handle it; and what do you believe is the best way to handle it?

A thunderstorm decided to rain on my misery as I waited for almost four hours at the border trying to cross into Lesotho — but thankfully, no one cut in line. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

2 thoughts on “Line Cutting: Is It Getting Worse?”

  1. Rings says:

    As an aged Englishman I remember it being instilled in me the rules of the “queue”. They were quite simple. You get into the line and you remain in that line in that place unless you choose to leave it. If you do it would be only for a “natural break” or to eat. I queued back in 1977 for 8 days outdide of the Royal Albert Hall for a chance of a ticket for the renowned Last night of the Promenade concerts. It became a community and not a one soul tried to jump ahead. The other famed queues were for the post Christmas sales and again nobody ever tried to get ahead. It wasn’t done. The famed bus queue was always orderly and again you got on the bus as you were in line. Nobody tried to push ahead. Of course those were the good old days when people respected people. I believe a lot of that system was brought on and carried over from the ration lines during and post war times.
    Sadly, respect for others is not something that continues in this era. Some of us old schoolers though still believe in things being done the right way. I stand up for my queuing rights. Whether you choose to sidle in or brashly just leap, in you will hear quite strongly from me. I am not a small person and my voice is deep and can be loud. I will embarress you if you do not acquiesce and take your proper place. You will certainly know, as will everyone around the area, just what a disrespectful act you have made.
    Learn manners and respect. Perhaps it something from a bygone era but there are still many of us who still believe in such things.

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