Sunday, October 4, 2009

“In Queue” Etiquette a la Madeline

"In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines
They smile at the good, and frown at the bad
and sometimes they are Very sad
In 12 straight Lines they break their bread
Brush their teeth and go to bed.
They leave the house at half past nine, in two straight lines.
The smallest one is MADELINE!”...
Ludwig Bemelmans

I have a pet peeve that has been driving me nuts and into a “Rick Mercer” rant for years. My rant is all about queuing etiquette. “Queue “means to form a line, and to wait for services.

When I was young my mother read me the “Madeline” book series; when I was able, I read them myself; I read them to my daughter; when she was able, she read them herself. Not surprisingly, the key lessons for me all had to do with structure and formation especially when “something is not quite right “such as forming proper line-ups.

I learned early on through Miss Clavel and my kindergarten teacher how and why line-ups/queues are formed. The rules are as follows:

1. Get in line
2. No jumping, butting, budging, skipping, ditching, breaking, shorting, or pushing in at any position other than the end of the line.
3. Sometimes you can "back cut" – if you have permission to enter behind the person who was asked. This is only considered fair if each person behind the one being "cut" allows it.
4. You can “cut in line” if someone is saving your place in line and you are both conducting one transaction.
5. You can leave the queue to use the bathroom and then return to your original place without having to ask permission.
6. You must respectfully allow pregnant women, adults accompanying small children, and the physically disabled to be serviced prior to everyone else.

These are fair rules that have served me well since my early “Madeline” days. However, something changed in the 90’s. I have not been able to ascertain if these changes are reflective of the dot com era or the Ritalin Generation. I can only state that I don’t like the change.

When I started my working life at McDonalds, I worked the “window”, which was teller. This was long before the drive-thru days. Patrons came into the restaurant, got in line and placed their orders. When I was going through Nursing I worked at Eaton’s...same thing, customers got in line at a cash register and waited to be served. This linear queue sequence is dependent on the structure of 2 or more cashiers. This linear queue sequence provides equal opportunity to all as well as fairness to the customers due to a slow cashier and/or customer clog. Then...the dot com and/or Ritalin Generation went parallel which lead to the cattle herding lines and merges waiting for the call out of “can I help the next customer”. This is the sequence that drives me nuts. I only accept the linear queue sequence as it supports semblance of societal order.

Recently I followed suit and lined up behind a patron who was in linear queue formation at the LCBO, when a clueless gentleman walked by and somehow managed to time his arrival at the exact moment the cashier at asked “May I help whose next.” Of course, he’s somehow next by the magic of the Gods at power (parallel line up). Normally I would say something and make sure that I was indeed next, but I figured that’s ok I’ll be nice today. He was abiding by the parallel line up theory. Patiently I waited for another cashier to say the magic words; unfortunately two university students walked by and somehow swooped in at the sound of those magic words by an unsuspecting cashier. This is when I decided civil justice must prevail. From my sentry I announced that indeed they were not next, and that I was. I continued to explain the linear queue sequence theory and mentioned that by listening in school they would have known such earth shattering mathematical concepts. Of course as expected they looked at me like I was from some other planet. Needless to say, I got my Little Penguin before the stupid university students got their beer.

Unless you see a “please form line here” sign or a cattle herder barricade, just pick a line and get it in. No jumping, butting, budging, skipping, ditching, breaking, shorting, or pushing in at any position other than the end of the line.

So Madeline, let’s form the world in two straight lines. One line with an appendix and one line without. Somehow that would be quite right. Muuah girl…and Maddie if we fail...We’ll call Rick Mercer to rant for us.


Kimberley Trafford said...


You go girl!!! I would love to have seen the looks on the faces of the university students....not to mention the cashier when you challenged who she took as 'next'.

Marg said...

Should be fun the next time we're in line at Timmies LOL!