I often observe this sign as I’m standing in one long, snaking line in a cramped CVS. Even though the sign on each register specifically tells people to form separate lines behind each register, the “group think” has encouraged people to form a single line. Apparently, we’ve become a nation of people that want to hedge our bets….so scared that we might choose the wrong line that we won’t jump out there and make a commitment to one.
We are a nation of commitment phobes (much more about that in a later post).
The single line phenomenon is very interesting to me because, it doesn’t seem to exude “American” characteristics. Traditionally, Americans are not conformists…we take our chances, strike out on our own, make something out of nothing, reinvent ourselves etc. However, when it comes to lines at CVS, we all want to have the same fate.
The idea that we could choose a line in which the person in front of us has selected an item that needs a price check – while the people in the line next to us are breezing through, truly burns us up.
Why are we capitalist with so many things – but when it comes to lines we favor a level playing field?
Perhaps it’s because lines are real time barometers of someone getting ahead of us, while we’re stuck in the line with the penny counters of the world. It’s easy to go through your everyday life thinking about the rat-race, and how far ahead or behind you are in life BUT the thought of being confronted with a situation in which someone (or a group of people) is literally getting ahead of you is just to much to take.
DS Download: I often get agitated at the group think that causes single lines to occur…and I think to myself “no one says that you have to wait in this line – just walk up to a register, that’s clearly marked please form a single line behind each register and if anyone dares to say anything just point to the sign.” I tell myself to rage against what single lines force me to become – a conformist. But then I hesitate, and think, “hmm…perhaps I should stay where I am…and avoid the possibility of getting in line behind the register that has suddenly run out of paper to print receipts.”
If you’re one of the five people that regularly reads this blog and you’re encountered with a single line that you don’t want to stand in – step up, buck the trend, stick your neck out there and start a second line. However, once you realize that you’ve unwittingly selected the employee in training line AND that the single line is moving faster than the second line that you started…don’t get frazzled. Be glad that you stuck your neck out there and did your own thing.
If you do that, congratulate yourself by creating a “I can’t go for that” (Hall and Oates) station on Pandora.com – add some George Michael, “Everything She Wants” for variety.