Monday, September 21, 2009

What Line?

Forming lines is not natural. In school, children do not naturally gravitate to forming lines, and we spend lots of time teaching and reteaching the art of lining up. I have put tape on the floor, we put down signs in the hallway that say "STOP HERE", and teachers repeat ad nauseum, "It doesn't matter who's first..."

From having spent some time in England, I believe Brits do the queue the best. They know the rules of lining up very well, and if you don't, everyone will let you know that "the line's back there." The Japanese, too, line up well, but they're usually too shy to confront someone who's broken the rules. According to this website , before visiting Sweden, you should know that cutting in line is taboo because Swedes "like lines."

Probably most of us prefer lining up to mob culture because we're used to lines and we see the value in order. It makes sense, no? If you came to the bank earlier, you should be served before the person who just got there? Clearly, not everyone thinks so.

There have been many times that we have been standing in line for something -- and usually for awhile -- and someone will walk up and cut in front of everyone. Sometimes people will say something to the effect of, "Sir, there's a line" or let the cashier/attendant know that that customer just cut the line, but cutters usually get their way. One time, Nick said something to a line-cutter after waiting in line at the bank for more than 30 minutes. The cutter got in Nick's face and threatened to beat him up. Ok, adelante, señor...

There are some cultural adjustments that take longer than others to get accustomed to, and this is one. I admit, I get overly worked up by line-cutters. My insides get hot and riled up. I start to feel blood rushing to my head. Patience, patience, patience, I have to tell myself. It's the most important virtue I've been learning here in Mexico.


  1. I've actually found people here to be pretty respectful of lines. In Madrid, it was horrible -- no one EVER followed a line. In fact, often, there wouldn't even be a line -- just a mass of people waiting, trying to squeeze in and be first. In Italy, same thing. I remember my girlfriend and I were waiting for a water taxi once, and a couple breezed by and got right in front of us. What can you do? Patience is definitely a virtue. I've learned to be a lot more patient here, too. Especially at the stupid Telcel store.

  2. Oh this drives me crazy here too! For the most part, people are fairly respectful of lines here in Veracruz, except at the bank. It seems that certain people cannot wait their turn for their money and cut. I don't like line cutters, I get angry at the lack of respect in general for others who are waiting, but I also tell myself "Patience!". Also, I believe that those kinds of things come back to you in life, so let them think they are getting away with something. That keeps me sane.

  3. Yes, for the most part, people here "like lines", but I'm utterly surprised by the people that have the bravado to skips long lines. Like you said, Leah, it happens a lot at the bank. Or, another freakin annoying example of impatience at the bank: you're sitting down with the banking representative and several people walk up to ask their questions, and they get helped. never mind that you're in the middle of a very important financial transaction...dios mio...