Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Draggin' the line

Another Tim Horton's opened recently (so what else is new?). This means I now have three locations in close proximity to my office.

Today, I got off the subway a stop earlier than usual to try out the new one.*

And, glory of glories, this Tim's wasn't as crowded as my other regular haunts. I figured that's because it's off the beaten PATH and people hadn't discovered it yet.

It also didn't have the de rigeur long and winding line-up. There were three cash registers open and you were free to choose whichever one you wanted. Free to choose! That's become a bit of an anathema in well-behaved Toronto, which likes to adhere to the 'first come first served' rule whenever more than two people are waiting.

I did a quick scan and noticed the line farthest from the door only had a single person in it. So I walked over, though there were varying numbers of people in the other lines. I felt as if I was doing something illicit; that I would be spoken to harshly for my impudence and sent to the back of the cue.

But my turn came and went without an incident. I was served and gone before many of the others who'd arrived before I did.

So why didn't any of those folks move to the smaller line? I think it's because we're programmed to resist change. It doesn't matter matter how small it is, as long as it's the least bit different, it's best to keep out of the way; steer clear of the unknown, thank you very much.

The trouble with that attitude is we become so used to the status quo that we can't (see) smell the coffee for the beans.**


*That's not the only reason: I, too, think it's a good idea to make small changes to your regular path. You never know who you might encounter or what fresh perspectives you might gain.

**I'm not sure if that makes sense, but it sounds good and I think you know what I'm getting at.

7 comments:

Judy Gombita said...

Due to my past experience in special events planning, often I'm the person who figures out that the buffet table with the really long line-up was actually designed to be a two-way stream. Generally I encourage the folks in front and behind me to join me in starting the second queue.

If I'm a staff member, I just direct folks to alternative lines (i.e., hold back from joining either line-up for the short term, letting our registrants/guests have first crack). But if I'm a guest or conference attendee, in my books it's fair game; I figured it out, why didn't others? Ergo, I don't think you should suffer any guilt from determining and using the shorter customer lineup at the new Tims. (And "change is better than a rest," eh?)

Might I suggest a slight revision to your catch phrase, "(sometimes) we can't *smell* the coffee for the beans."

Cheers,
Judy Gombita

Martin Waxman said...

Thanks Judy. Great suggestion (noted above).

Kristen Zemlak said...

I found myself in a similar situation last week. Stopping to grab a bite from McDonald’s (shamefully), I was taken aback when a woman casually walked in front of me to get to an open till. I realized I was unconsciously adhering to the “first come first served” rule, and standing in the middle of three different lanes. I quickly adapted. Perhaps just another tactic to maximize efficiency, I couldn’t help but think of it as an example of the Americanization of Canadian norms – in this case cultural etiquette.

Natasha C. said...

We are very programmed in this society. It is easy to follow the queue rather than try to jump ahead. It's funny how society has evolved into this robotic phase but it is easy to fall into this trance. May be this is a Canadian thing? Perhaps we are too polite? Whatever the case, I do not foresee anyone walking away from the established norms any time soon.

Sarah said...

I wonder what would have been your perception of the new Timmie's if you'd chosen the line where you got stuck behind the lady arguing about how much money she has left on her gift card?
In a case like that, 'first come first served' would have worked in your favour.
Sometimes the status quo is about learning to operate (and co-operate) as efficiently and kindly as possible within large groups of people.

staffeen said...

Line ups in all scenarios are funny little things.

TTC lineups I find are the the ones which test cultural norms and indirectly/subtlely define a society. I was on a bus recently, where a woman jumped the queue to get on the bus, and 2 passengers revolted. Arguments ensued. The busdriver stopped driving. ALL passengers ended up lined up on the side of the road, in the rain...

This is what a lack of etiquette can result in!

Martin Waxman said...

Thanks to all of you for enlivening this post.