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 – add some George Michael, “Everything She Wants” for variety.



  1. LMFAO! This is soo true. And it always happens at CVS. I will stand in the single line and complain, complain, complain. Thanks for the inspiration. Next time, I will dare to be different, and form the second line.

  2. On the other hand, I unexpectedly discovered a great appreciation for the orderly, single-file line when I went to Montreal and witnessed – to my utter amazement – people automatically forming a quiet queue to board the transit buses. As one who must ride one of the busiest Metro bus routes to work everyday (the S line down 16th), I sometimes just wish that these competitive Americans who jostle old ladies and elbow women with bags out of the way would for ONCE adopt some of that docile civility I witnessed that day in Canada and just form a LINE!

  3. I wish I could maneuver through store lines like I move through traffic lanes on the highway. Its always a guess as to which lane will move quicker for me to get to my destination.

  4. HA! I normally skip everyone and go to self check-out!!! “Welcome to CVS…please scan your valued customer card…beep…scan you fir…beep…place item in…beep…beep…place item in ba…beep…do you have any coupons…please swipe your debit card and enter your pin…please dont forget your receipt and thank you for shopping at cvs… DONE!”

  5. Don’t even start with the SELF CHECKOUT LANES!!!!! The group anxiously awaits the next available self checkout kiosk…….

    I usually always get behind the technologically unsavy morons who go to this line with lots of vegetables that need codes and alcohol that has to be checked by the one associate trying to help 8 different stations…..We need a I AM COMPETENT IN SELF CHECK OUT CLUB!

  6. I’ve long known that people like to wait in line. I discovered this while I worked at the Midtown Tunnel circa 1999 and every day without fail my line would stretch back into traffic and people would continue to join while other lanes only had 2 or 3 cars. It was unbelievable but I came to realize that people really do, despite what they may say, enjoy lining up. Maybe it stems from kindergarten….who knows, but it’s true.

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