Service of Lines

February 21st, 2011

Categories: Audacity, Lines, Manners


We attended a great classical music concert upstate in a stunning concert hall on a college grounds in Dutchess County. We subscribe and go quite often year ’round.

Something must have been in the air last Saturday night as what happened was a first and it occurred three times. While I stood in line at the ladies’ room my husband lined up to get something to drink at the snack counter and we shared a similar experience in our respective lines. A foursome pushed in front of Homer and placed their orders. He said it was as though he wasn’t there. My line was so long that it formed an L shape down two halls. At the bend a woman marched right in front of the person ahead of me and became deaf when we told her where the line ended.

Later, as we drove out of the parking area, a car cut me off in what is usually a smooth departure directed by students strategically placed at crossroads. You can’t miss them: They carry oversized flashlights.

subwaycrowdWe’re used to this behavior in big cities around the world. In New York, for example, you’re poised to fight for a cab, a space in a crowded subway car, your place at grocery store checkouts or some attention in retail establishments.

busstopMind you, we can do lines in the city. I notice neat ones on sidewalks at bus stops and in front of coffee carts as well as polling places. I often see double rows of young children kept in check by vigilant teachers and parents ushering the little ones across busy streets.

At the concert, we were misled by civilized music and the elegant hall in a bucolic setting. The arrogance of cutting in seemed out of place.

Are there line-breakers these days all over the country, not just in big cities? Why do you think this is happening? Are there some cultures that respect lines more than others? When you see a line, do you honor it or break in? Are some lines meant to be ignored?


16 Responses to “Service of Lines”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    I loathe lines, and unless I am with someone who is sorely unhappy at missing a given event, avoid them altogether. There is always something better to do than standing there doing nothing. Looks like I am, if not unique, a member of a tiny minority, but we are not the ones to be found trampling innocent people to death at sales, entertainment or sports events. Equally important, we are not to be found among the dead!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    I am not as allergic to lines as you are, Lucrezia, though in certain instances I welcome them because I feel that whatever is supposed to happen will in a fair way, first come, first served.

    Had we been thinking faster, both Homer and I might have missed our respective lines because we’d have been at the head of each and I wouldn’t have remembered the cutoff in the parking lot—the last straw.

    I have a happy memory of waiting in line for a movie on a 4 degree winter night with a very good sport. We would take turns going inside a coffee shop, buying a hot chocolate or coffee now and again. It was the only time I’ve done such a nutty thing. I also recall the ruckus we all made when a haughty creep marched out of a taxi as the line moved into the theatre, pushing her grandson ahead of her and trying to push into the line. I wonder if she lived.

  3. David Reich Said:

    I hate lines too, but it doesn’t mean I’ll cut in front of others to get there faster.

    People who cut into lines are the same people who walk through a door you’ve held open for them, without saying thank you or even giving a slight nod of thanks. They are wrapped up only in themselves and don’t see the world around them. People like that are everywhere– not only in the big cities. We seem to see it more in the city because there are more lines in cities where there are more people.

    I hate to generalize, but I will here. Selfish line-cutters come in all sizes, ages and colors. But I think that group is a bit more populated by women in their 20s and into their 30s who think the world revolves around them. I call them Polly’s, I suppose because I knew someone by that name who fit that mold perfectly.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I agree with your point about all sizes, ages and colors but the other night–and in my experience–it’s older, arrogant mostly women, perhaps the mothers and grandmothers of your 20-30-year old Pollys, who do the most pushing and shoving.

    I am sorry to hear that they are everywhere…where can we avoid them? The frustrating part about our examples is that nobody was going anywhere other than back in the concert hall, as we confronted the rude people during intermission. So what was their rush?

  5. Simon Carr Said:


    I am sorry to hear of your experience. I too abhor the untidiness of people who don’t queue, and the unfairness of people cutting in front of me. However, the idea of people waiting their turn in line is very much of a cultural phenomena restricted to a small percentage of the world’s population. Having lived in several Mediterranean countries, I assure you that not all people willingly stand patiently in line.

    I wonder if your fellow concert goers who cut in line were not, at least in a few cases, like people in our society who become affluent because they are, repeat are, willing to be aggressive, to ignore the rules, to take risks, and to skirt the Law to make a buck?


  6. Lucrezia Said:

    My most recent “Polly” was the one with an arm in a sling who wordlessly pushed me aside as I was waiting for a customer service person. The Queen of Mean (me) made her move back and was rewarded by stiletto glares during the entire transaction. I did not like what I did, but I like intimidation tactics less. This Polly might think twice before trying that again, and if so, I have done a public service. The more Pollys treated in this fashion, the less agression and unpleasantness will occur on lines. PS This one was an older person who should have known better.

  7. ASK Said:

    You have yet to stand in line for a commuter bus: If someone tries to cut into a long line of people waiting for one, he or she is generally taking his or her life into his or her own hands. Port Authority cops may be called upon, which is why it doesn’t seem to happen too often.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I bet that if Polly with arm in sling had smiled at you, said “excuse me, I would normally never ask for this favor, but I am on pain killers”…or “my daughter is double parked and has to get back to work and is doing me a favor”….or gave you some other reason valid reason that you might let her go ahead of you, you would have considered her request.

    But she was obnoxious. So she lost on all counts. And that was right.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    YEA commuters! That’s what we need: People who put line breakers in their place. Order! I like order. Three people can’t get into the door of a bus at once, for goodness sakes.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What just happened to me is less of a line issue and more of a Polly issue related to the type of aggressive-at-all-costs “winners” you describe.

    I was leaving Trader Joe’s wine store on 14th Street and in front of me was a stunningly dressed 30-something pushing her wine out of the store in one of TJ’s little red grocery carts. You are not supposed to take them out—the staff cheerfully carries your cartons or packages to your car, if you wish.

    She stopped short, right in front of the door, scooped out her purchases and walked away towards her car, leaving the red cart on the street for someone [never her] to bring it back inside. She didn’t look back. I guess she thought she was that important.

    Her husband/boyfriend stood by the car and she handed him the bags. Two people walking behind me almost crashed into me as I stopped quickly so as not to crash into the cart. The princess must do things like this all over town. Polly II gives New Yorkers a bad reputation.

  11. Maureen Klein Said:

    In Desperate Housewives last night, the character Terry (I think) was stopped by a policeman for not making a full stop and she innocently explained she was going for her dialysis treatment and if she did not get there on time she would be sitting for six hours in the station next to the flushing toilets (or whatever).

    Good cop let her go with a warning and she suddenly realized hmmmm, something good might could come out of her distressing condition, if she played her cards right. Later she tried a similar plea on the supermarket line and it worked again.

    Third time though was the charm…not. Not wanting to wait on a two-hour line for the latest hip restaurant, her friend egged her on to use her health condition once again to get a “go directly to” pass. Turns out some guy overheard her telling the hostess and he said “hey lady I’m a diabetic and have a heart condition,” then someone else stated their illness and down the line it went.

    Sheepishly Terry and her friend left since they lost this round. At least that was the gist of one sub-plot of the preposterous show… but after reading your post, maybe not so unusual.

    As a traveler, I do remember once in Italy waiting on a long gelato line and some lady just walked up and cut in front of me… actually several did it. I was speechless—and I didn’t know the correct Italian words to use. My son who was living there at the time, said “oh yes, that was the custom” in that area.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’m laughing because you described a version of what happened to Lucrezia, and a scene that Simon is no doubt familiar with from his stints in Mediterranean countries.

    Yet we are not in a Mediterranean country and lines, here, are for standing in, not breaking into. And somehow, in all the other instances I and others describe, the characters in question are American–no excuses for them!

    I’m glad my post covers a topic on a show as popular as Desperate Housewives! Thanks for telling us!

  13. KF Said:

    Ironically, my sister was in line (or “on line” in New Yorkese) at a Dollar General. There was a man in front of her and a few people behind her. A woman just walked up in front of the man and checked her purchases out. He was nonplussed. So, it happens everywhere, even in Naples, FL.!

  14. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’m not happy that this behavior seems to have spread everywhere but thank you for sending us news from a lovely warm place that is supposed to help make people relax and not barge in front of others.

    Wonder what would happen if someone hired a person to tap the shoulder of these cutters-in and ask them whether they noticed that there was a line and if they did, why they thought they didn’t have to stand in it.

  15. Hank Goldman Said:

    Jeanne —

    Those who don’t mind lines are Saints in my book!

    I am awful when in a line…I was booed once in a concert line for not wanting a wheelchair person to “break into the line”.

    HOWEVER— I have found that in many situations the “breakers” aren’t aware of the line’s status and when informed they usually say, “Oh, sorry… didn’t realize!”!
    This is the result of observations during a LIFETIME of line-waiting!

    So as annoying as they are, let’s be polite and remind the offenders of the queue!

    reluctantly submitted,


  16. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I try to sound cheerful and helpful when indicating where the line ends, though I bet there’s an edge to my voice even so. Maybe that’s why I can’t recall one time that the line breaker said, “Ooops! I am SO SORRY!” and moved to the back.

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