Monday, July 02, 2007

On Lines

Alex Beneson explains for Slate the concept of waiting on line. It is an interesting, short piece about why we wait on lines, and what the social and legal ramifications are for breaking "the rules."

The last paragraph of the article reads "Some British police have even begun to encourage crash courses in queuing theory for foreign students studying in England. Meanwhile, the Chinese seem to have problems convincing people that lines are necessary in the first place. In February of this year, Chinese officials became so concerned about disorderly crowds at the 2008 Beijing Olympics that they introduced a monthly "wait-in-line day" in an attempt to educate people on how to queue up calmly and efficiently."

This cracked me up, because it is so true. From my personal experience in Asia, lines are for waiting on, not to determine the order in which services are received. The Chinese were very happy to wait on a line indefinitely, but once the bus came, everyone swarmed towards the door. This happened basically any time that a line was required (with the exception of the movie theater and customs). It is so like the Chinese to institute a "wait-in-line day." Patronizing and silly, yet trying to address a real social issue. At least it isn't a human rights issue... yet.

1 comment:

Vox Populi said...

"At least it isn't a human rights issue... yet."

That's an interesting thought, even if you said it in jest. The ramifications of the degeneration of the line as we know it in most of America and Europe are rather scary. What if queuing did become a human rights issue? Imagine the same scene in China mentioned on Slate happening in a racist American South, or a racist Eastern Europe. Maybe everyone should crack open the crash course in queuing theory book.