The Quantum Pontiff

Standing in lines is the bane of my existence. Okay, well maybe not, but spending time around universities certainly increases the percentage of time I spend pressing the queue. The good thing about lines in university towns is that they often move fairly fast. The bad thing is that, well, you’re standing in line. And, with a nice British last name like “Bacon,” you can bet that I’m a stickler for proper line standing. Proper? Oh yeah. Here are the offenders. Which are you?

  • The Gapper: This denizen of the line is apparently extremely afraid of the person in front of them, for a vast chasm exists between this person and the person in front of them. I suspect that this form of line stander was once backed over as a small child and has yet to recover from this traumatic event. A note: If you are behind a gapper, you may think that the gapper can be made to get closer to the person in front of them by standing closer to them and perhaps performing a little polite cough. This never works. An attack on the gapper I have never seen tried is for the person in front of them to step a little backwards. This seems like an experiment just crying to be done. Anyone?
  • The Wobbler: Lines are not supposed to wiggle. The wobbler, however, apparently cannot, absolutely, cannot wait to get to the front of the line and believes that by pacing back and forth, perpendicular to the line, one can speed up the line. I suspect that the wobbler is also the person on the highway who swerves in and out of dense traffic, to arrive at their destination a full ten seconds earlier. Just like the traffic swerving fool, the wobbler can be dangerous: when you leave the front of the line you must beware of wobblers who are just itching to bump into you.
  • The Oblivious: Another important aspect of lines is that they should move forward properly. The oblivious, on the other hand, has no desire to move forward, but instead wishes to spend their time texting on their cell phone or talking to their neighbor. The oblivious are distinguished from the gapper by distraction: gappers are often very focused on the line, but refuse to step up while the oblivious has yet to figure out that they are in the line. Note that this species of line defiler is rather dangerous. A true oblivious can cause a line to fall apart and the great sin of line cutting to occur. This is especially true at the end of very long lines, when everyone is not yet fully adjusted to standing in the line.
  • The Hernia: The hernia believes that while a clear line has been established, they will have none of this establishment baloney and instead will cause the line to bulge out in a new direction. Despite of the fact that the hernia is clearly violating the sanctity of the line, the hernia still feels obliged to the benefits of the line. If you attempt to cauterize the hernia, you will be called a fascist pig and denounced as an establishment tool. Hernias, as you can imagine, are more likely to have piercings.
  • The Obstructionist: Good lines don’t always have to be straight lines. The more important concept for a line is not its straightness, but its orderliness and its ability to properly utilize space. The obstructionist, however is unaware of the later consideration, and stands in a position which winds the line in a direction which clearly blocks the flow of traffic. Note that there are variations on the obstruction: some obstructionist never block traffic themselves, but force the next person in line to block traffic, while others just plop themselves right in the way. Sometimes one can counter the former by turning the obstructionist into a hernia. Doing this brings me great pleasure.
  • The Newb: Admittedly this is not the persons fault, but, when I show up at my local coffee place and the line has decided to wrap in a totally new and not regular way, a part of me dies. The newb has never been to the establishment before and therefor makes the line wrap in a new and unexpected fashion. When lines are short, one can counter the newb by winding the line back to its proper course, but newbs can be the seed for complete and utter disorder.

Comments

  1. #1 --bill
    July 22, 2008

    one i see often here in Minnesota is the Non-Line:
    there’s someone at the register, and a bunch of people milling about in no particular order…apparently we’re all supposed to memorize who was here before us…

  2. #2 Dave Bacon
    July 22, 2008

    Ah, “the Nebula” I had forgotten about that one!

  3. #3 ...tom...
    July 22, 2008

    An attack on the gapper I have never seen tried is for the person in front of them to step a little backwards.

    .

    There is a line behind me..?!?

    My attention is always focused on the dastards in front of me who had the temerity to queue up before I did. The nerve..!!

    …tom…

  4. #4 yttrai
    July 22, 2008

    O dear. I’m a gapper. It’s completely because i’m a midwesterner, living on the East Coast, and the aggression of people out here causes me to seek as much space as possible when in public.

    I’m not certain if i feel remorse or not. I kind of don’t, because crowding someone who clearly desires space doesn’t seem to be the best solution to the problem. IMHMidwesternO :D

  5. #5 Chris Granade
    July 22, 2008

    My favorite (or is that favourite?) is when two people get to the same cashier (say) at the same time but from opposite sides, and form their own lines. Having done this myself, I can say that it is often the result of well-meaning people being confused, but it still is a fun one to see two lines. Closely related is the question rasied by multi-cashier setups: do you form one branching line, or form one line for each cashier? It’s really fun when different people in the same system of queues answer that one differently.

  6. #6 J-Dog
    July 22, 2008

    Ha! The ABSOLUTE WORST is the Last Gasp Cougher!

    They have struggled out with a severe, life-threatening and undoubtedly Hugely Contagious malady, and they are NOT a gapper, though you wish they were. You must 1.) cover your own mouth and nose -since they don’t, and 2.) ask yourself how good your medical coverage is, and 3.) notify your next of kin where you latest copy of your will is, in case you don’t make it out alive.

  7. #7 JohnQPublic
    July 22, 2008

    It sounds like the obstructionist and the newb are really the same and implies the obstructionist is obstructing intentionally (they know better). Unless the newb is creating malformed lines that do not obstruct. We really need to build a stochastic model around this to see the impact each profile has on the total round trip time. I’m not convinced they have any. Perhaps Phil Gramm’s latest tirade is true: we’re a nation of whiners.

  8. #8 themadlolscientist, FCD
    July 22, 2008

    Nothing beats the @$$#073 who doesn’t seem to realize that there is a line. Who evacuated and let them belly right up to the bar, as it were?

    I’ve lived in the disorderly USofA all my life, and I was impressed almost to the point of shock when, on my first visit to Montreal, I saw people actually standing in an orderly line at the bus stop, leaving plenty of room for people to get off the bus first and then allowing the elderly and parents with little kids on so they could get settled before everyone else got on.

  9. #9 Pieter Kok
    July 23, 2008

    Here in England, your categories are subsets of a larger one called “Foreigners”.

  10. #10 JohnQPublic
    July 23, 2008

    How can you tell when a plane is carrying mostly English passengers?

    It still whines after the engines are off!