Line-jumpers. We’ve all seen them. They make us all angry. So if we all see them and they make us all angry, why are we still allowing it?
I work in customer service, and yes, I wait on a line of customers every day. Sometimes that line gets pretty long. And everyone in it, at one time or another, wishes it would just hurry up and be his or her turn already. Most of them simply and politely wait their turn. But there’s always that one who thinks his business is more important than everybody else’s, or his business doesn’t qualify for wait time. So, in one form or another, he jumps line.
Do line jumpers knock somebody down and take their place? No, of course not. Do they run from the back of the line and jump in the front? Not quite. What they do is more passive aggressive than that. They stand off to the side trying to get my attention without being obviously rude. Oh, they’re being rude just the same, but they’re doing it in a way that will allow them plausible deniability.
When they are unsuccessful in gaining eye contact with me, they butt in verbally, interrupting the transaction in front of me.
“Excuse me, I just have a question.”
“I’m sorry, I’ll be with you in a minute,” I say, still focused on my assistance to the customer in front of me.
“But I just have a question.”
“If you’ll get in line, I’ll be with you as soon as I can.” I don’t look up. Once eye contact is made, the line jumper wins.
More forcefully, “But I just have a question; I’m not in that line.”
This is when I have a choice to make. I am obligated by the terms of my employment to show grace, hospitality, kindness, and professionalism. I also have an audience of about seven other people, who are in that line so vehemently rejected by the intruder, and they’re hanging on my every word. I also have the customer in front of me who has been rudely remanded to spot number two in a line from which she had just successfully reached number one.
Too much, and I’ve given the line jumper everything he wanted. Too little, and he doesn’t get that we know he’s being rude. In fact, he already thinks his behavior is okay.
Depending on the level of rudeness exhibited by the line jumper, I may just continue to try to ignore him, and most times this works well. Only once have I been gruff with a line-jumper, and on that occasion I had no choice. He was drunk. I told him in no uncertain terms, “Either get in line and wait your turn or get out!” He opted to get out. And that was fine with the rest of us.
Yesterday I stopped at the store for my own purchasing needs. My youngest daughter wanted me to pick up something that would remove the wart on her left thumb and, after browsing for a few moments before I realized that I had no clue what I should get, I got in line at the pharmacy to ask my question.
One elderly couple stood at the counter talking to the clerk who was attempting to check them out. I waited patiently for what seemed like forever, as it always does whenever I’m in line. Some guy walks up, by-passes the line without even glancing at it, and stands in front of a vacant counter trying to get the attention of someone in the back. He was trying to make eye contact with each of them, bounced a little, and then was finally noticed by a clerk with an armload of stock for the shelves. He was good at line jumping and managed to get noticed even though he hadn’t made a sound. His passive aggression paid off.
“Sir, you’ll have to wait in line.”
“But I’m not in that line; I just have a question.”
At that point I wanted to scream, “DON’T LET HIM GET BY WITH THAT!” This dude had just line-jumped with a question not unlike the one I had been waiting patiently to ask. And I was still waiting. I hoped with every fiber in my being that the clerk would shut him down. Instead, she apologized. Can you believe that? She actually apologized to the line jumper!
“Oh, I’m sorry – what’s your question?”
He was then granted permission to skip line and ask his question. Not only that, he received his assistance first, regardless of the line behind him. He then walked away toward a neighboring shelf, picked through some of the items, decided on a small cardboard box, and then brought it back to the front of the line, and again got the attention of someone behind the counter. I, however, was still waiting for the elderly couple to dispense with their business.
Mr. Line Jumper showed his box to the pharmacy dude, received a thumbs up in answer to the unspoken, and went on his merry way. I stood there. The elderly couple was still in front of me. Two more people had fallen in line behind me. Finally, the same pharmacy tech noticed I’d been there a while and asked if I was picking something up.
“No, sir; I just have a question. But I’ll be glad to wait my turn to ask it.”
His face fell, and it was obvious that he felt like a heel, which honestly was not my intention. Nor was it my intention to be a smart Aleck, for which I profusely apologized at the time. But now that he knows what a line-jumper looks like, maybe he will become part of the solution and not let line-jumpers get away with jumping line in the future. Even if it is only to ask a question.
Or how about the guy in the back of a very long line who’s only just gotten there and then who rushes over to be number one in the lane that just opened, bypassing all those who had been waiting some length of time before his arrival?
I guess line jumpers have been my pet peeve lately. It’s not hard to recognize them even though they come in all disguises.
Which brings me to this question: How is it possible that someone who refuses to wait his or her turn in line has the audacity to believe he or she has been wronged if someone calls them on it? The example in my mind happened the other day at work. I only had one person in my line, and I was waiting on her when someone walked into the lobby, stood there for just a few seconds, and then with exasperation asked, “Can I just leave this with you?” There was no ‘excuse me’ for the customer with whom I was already conducting business. There was no regard for the line-jump at all.
Without looking her way I said, “You can if you want; I’m waiting on someone – I’ll get to it in a minute.”
In a huff she put her parcel on the counter and stomped toward the exit door. On the way, I heard her mumble, “Attitude!” in a kind of sing-song voice.
Who, me? I had an attitude? There was definitely attitude in the room, Lady, but it wasn’t hanging skin-tight all over me.