current events

Waiting In Line: Being Subject to “Queue Management”- For A Bacon Sundae

 Its labor day Weekend. Woohoo! wait, Im actually not that excited by that. Are there labor day sales, anymore? If there, do I even want to bother shopping in environments of madness?

Back in the mid-1990s we used to wait on line for what seemed like hours, to get into a smoky super-packed room so that we could complain about the horrible music; along with having to wash our hair out immediately after. Yes, we used to wait ONLINE. Non New Yorkers used to make fun of us for saying on line as opposed to in line. Who’s laughing now, eh? (although, technically it really should be in line, but whatever). Back then, apparently, there were certain things we felt were worth waiting endless hours for (Nightclubs, Morrissey tickets, amusement park rides, etc.). Nowadays, I can’t imagine what’s really worth waiting endless hours for?

 The mathematical theory of waiting lines has received a great deal of attention from researchers who are often concerned with what is referred to as “queue management”. You know, trying to figure out how you can be more complacent, docile in ridiculously unnecessary long lines (i.e. New York City coffee shops; Burlington Coat factory; McDonalds, over-hyped restaurants).  Let me give you an example, of how “queue management” occurs in real life. Have you been to a restaurant and you see a crowd of people at the door, you finally make it to the hoist who promises you 30 minute wait? Guess what, they are overestimating that wait time.  This when, when after agreeing to wait this 30 minute length of time you will be happy when you are seated earlier and probably will tip better.  What about those food samples (pieces of bread that were probably headed to the garbage anyway) that are left on counters of coffee shops?  If you are munching away, you just may not realize how long it has taken them to make a simple coffee or sandwich and you feel you “scored” something extra. It’s all about playing with perception and expectations. Waiting in line is all about being manipulated and agreeing to said manipulation.

 But what about the phenomenon of always “picking the wrong line” I swear to god, it’s inevitable.  No matter what line you choose, the other one is going to be faster. And, I’m not talking about perception, it’s very much true. Today, for instance, while grocery shopping we got in a line where one lady was getting ready to pay and there was a couple before us that had already placed their items on the conveyor belt. This had to go fast, right? Wrong! The lady standing first in the “queue” did not want to agree to the total bill because there was one item that was supposed to be $1.50 less. For that amount, we waited an extra ten minutes. Seriously, all of us in line would have gladly chipped in to cover that extra bit. After the manager came by to resolve the situation, the lady was trying to key in her credit card information on the pad, but could not due to extremely long nails. She then resorted to trying to use her knuckles. Oh vey! No wonder, supermarkets now have those blood pressure screening machines.

 I have not been at a McDonalds in years. However, recently I have been several times due to having a fussy son while traveling internationally. Thusly, we went in search of happy meals. I had heard through twitter and such that now they contained healthier options. Well, they have apple slices in them but I’m not too sure about what those nuggets and fries are fried in. Anyway, that’s a whole other discussion.  It appears that McDonald’s service is the same everywhere and anywhere you go: horrible and confusing lines. We would often wait in one line, to then be told that line was closed (as if we should have known that despite the countless people in said line). Then we would wait ten minutes while the person got us the small drink- just the drink. It was slower than dripping molasses and more inducing of teeth-grinding than fingernails scraping a wall. On top of all that, at a particular instance, the customer in front of us kept demanding Combo meal number 2 and 4 but those meals just did not exist. There was no such configuration of the combo meals. Maybe they exist in the United States or some other parallel dimension, but in Curacao, those didn’t seem to exist.  She kept insisting that as a customer she was right. Really? Wow, that’s cuckoo. Of course, there were the individuals who came in way after everyone else who felt entitled to jump ahead to the front of the line acting as if they didn’t know there was a line to begin with.  If you really are that dumb to not realize there is a line, maybe you shouldn’t be let out of the house. Period. Perhaps, there should be a Line holder’s card: where you have been vetted to stand in or process lines.

 I was recently at the International AIDS Conference held in Washington DC and there were actual long lines to get into some presentation sessions and of course a long line to see Hilary Clinton at the opening plenary. Once I got inside the rooms to listen to the ho-hum academic presentations and to Hilary’s speech (which was good) I realized I could have stayed at the hotel room, with a cocktail in hand (yes, even for the 9am plenary) and not have had to deal with the cranky (and at times, entitled)  masses in line.

You want to talk about queue management, how about the following strategies and tactics:

  • As queue manager, a pleasant person at the register that appears to sympathize with your delay and plight would be most welcomed. It’s amazing how a sympathetic smile and “I care” attitude can ease a situation.
  • As queue manager, don’t fee me breadcrumbs; give me cocktails.
  • As queue manager, don’t forget what your system for handling the line is and don’t be random.
  • As a customer, come prepared with what you need.
  • As a customer, don’t invent items on the menu or otherwise.
  • As a customer, don’t think you are better than everyone else and skip ahead and then act all justified in that. It’s not cool. Really.
  • Either way, cocktail shakers and flasks can come in handy

Lastly, if you can, just order your items online (and yes by online, I mean the internet)!   Although, I do admit I have been to Burger King lately and waited patiently in line for their bacon sundae. I just had to try to that. It was an experience. May you figure out your “bacon sundae” threshold.


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