Nobody likes line cutters. Well, at least no one who is adhering to the actual rules of the line.
I am a fan of order, so I think a nicely formed line is something to be admired and find it abhorrent when people cut in line. However, I am not sure how to handle it when I become the line cutter.
It happened recently at a Sam’s Club. When my family signed up for our membership, they had a promotion going on where, upon signing up, you would get a free rotisserie chicken. That wasn’t the sole reason we signed up, but hey, nice bonus because, hey, free chicken.
We didn’t have to get the chicken the day we signed up. A few weeks later, I found myself in the Sam’s vicinity. I remembered that we had a chicken waiting on us, and that my wife and I had not made plans for dinner that night. Free chicken to the rescue!
When I entered the store, I headed toward the customer service line. I was not sure how the chicken procurement process worked and decided I would just go there. There was a short line, but I had time to kill. As I stood in line, I noticed that the line leaving the store was growing longer. For those of you not familiar, when you leave a Sam’s, you have to show your receipt to the clerk at the door to make sure you’re not stealing a 412-pack of toilet paper.
As I stood in my line, I watched the line leaving the store grow. And then I heard her: “EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME!” A woman was barreling through the store, pushing her cart past all of the folks in line. The folks in the exit line took turns staring at her, and then back at each other, wondering who was going to be the line vigilante. No one, it turns out.
She got to the front of the line and handed the clerk her receipt, completely ignoring all the decent folks who were respecting the line. The clerk looked at her, and looked at the line. No good choices here. While the vengeance part of my conscience wanted her to summarily reject her push to the front of the line, the clerk probably took the best path — she checked the receipt and sent the woman on her way. Not sure where the big win was going to be had the clerk decided to exact justice on the line cutter.
As I sat watching the line collectively hate the woman who had cut, my turn was up at the customer service desk. I explained to the clerk that I was here for my chicken and needed to see what the protocol was. The clerk told me to go and grab my chicken and come right back to her. “Don’t get back in line,” she said. “Just come back to me.”
I went to the other side of the store and got my chicken, which was about a six mile walk. When I came back to the customer service area, I saw the line, as well as the line going out the door. And I was about to go cut in line, as I was directed to do.
I walked to the clerk I had spoken with earlier and set my chicken down on the counter. I looked around and felt the eyes on me. They saw me as the Excuse Me lady.
“Everyone thinks I’m cutting in line,” I said, trying to make small talk to someone who probably had no interest in small talk.
That’s when she stepped up to the plate and tried to make my line cutting OK. She turned to the lines, all of whom I certainly felt like were staring holes in me. “It’s OK, everybody. I told him to come back here.”
I gave a little wave to say, “I’m not a line cutter!” to the folks, and grabbed my chicken and headed out the door, making sure not to make eye contact with any of the folks who were no doubt staring a hole in me.
I hope some of the folks in line understood that I was not cutting, per se, as the other woman had clearly done. I was just following directions, and thus helping to keep order, right? Because order is good. As good as free chicken.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Charleston. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.