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Waiting in a queue is a test of patience

Monday 12 June 2023 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Editorials, Opinion


Waiting in a queue is a test of patience

If a queue is when you wait in line behind another then the very word is a ‘Q’ with a whole bunch of letters behind it that are basically either irrelevant or silent, writes Ruta Mave.

If I was an ‘e’ I think I would feel quite frustrated with the fact that I was standing in this word line for no real reason at all because the letter I am supposed to be supporting ‘u’ is fine without me. And so it is for many people who will stand in line apparently for five years of their lives.

Waiting in line is a science important for retailers, banks, theme parks and custom authorities to know and understand their customers to avoid any anguish or built-up tension that can disrupt into chaos.

Behavioural scientists say those who get anxious do so based on key factors; whether there is a limited or unlimited time given to the line, how many operators are servicing the line and how many customers or people are arriving to the line all at once. The most frustration felt in line is usually in the grocery store or bank where there are several portals equipped to serve the long line of customers but most of them are closed or empty with only one or two are operating. For the life of a waiting customer who has taken their lunch break to do some important banking they can not believe why the bank who knows many of their customers who do face to face banking are going to come in their lunch break, always give their own staff a lunch break at the same time. What is with that psychology? It is either complete stupidity or a sadistic pleasure of watching intelligent people turn into caged animals as they pace from side to side looking around throwing their arms up in the air while trying to calculate if they should stay or should they go?

Entering a grocery store line is done with calculated mitigating factors if you are in a hurry. You calculate the amount of grocery items in the carts ahead of you, you count the number of people in the line and you watch the operator to see how competent they are fast or slow, new or experienced. Then you make your choice only to see the line next to you move more often than yours and now you wonder if you should move if there is a gap – it is now or never. You watched the other lines to see which people entered when you did and where are they now. If you are with another even a child you may try to spread the odds by making them stand in the line you are trying to decide between and make them wait there, the uncomfortable and unethical part is when you decide to jump out of your line with your trolley and try and enter the line your child is in with no trolley. This is not kosha because the people behind them have calculated that this would be a fast line as they assume the child only has a single purchase, now you face the ire and glares of shoppers who are not happy. If you chance a highly stressed shopper behind you, chaos may ensue or if they remain quiet you may find they keep moving forward onto your Achilles heel at every slight advancement to keep you literally on your toes that they pushing you forward because they are not happy.

The worst times are when you calculate the person in front only has a few items and you are going to breeze through until they hit a price point where either the bar code is missing or the person questions the price because the shelf pricing is wrong and insist it was cheaper. Or the old lady who has brought all her pennies from her kitchen jar and is insisting on counting out the exact change. Oh, lordy that is a test of patience that is.

Actually all of the waiting in line is a test of patience. It is also a test of taking in your surroundings because you can’t rush by or catching up with people you haven’t seen for awhile help pass the time.

Disneyland and airport customs use the end is near psychology to trick people into complacency by using the snaking zig zag line system that takes you right up to the entrance area only to be turned back around and away again. The more turns the more the line can keep moving while giving you hope for a good 1 to two hours.

People will wait for hours for what they consider important – a concert, new iPhone or David Beckham to view the Queen lying in state.