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“All etiquette rules, written or unwritten, are about helping other people feel comfortable,” she said. In this situation, they run the gamut from how much you crowd the person in front of you to how loud you talk on your cellphone.
She suggests that you start by asking if you’ve found the end of the line, especially if the order of the line isn’t clear, to make sure that you’re not inadvertently cutting off other people. And if there is a dispute, always yield to the other person, she said.
Pentel likes to introduce herself to the people she’s sharing the line with, especially if it’s going to be a lengthy wait. “Talk, be friendly,” she said. “A genuine interest in the other people creates a calmer situation.”
If you’re going to be joined by someone — you’re meeting another couple or your spouse is looking for a parking spot — alert your fellow waiters. “Let them know right away,” she said. “But don’t start inviting other people. If you spot a friend, don’t say, ‘Hey, we’re going to the same movie. Come join me.’ ”
As for cellphone conversations, they should be kept private and brief. “And they should never be gossipy,” she said.
One of the best ways to make waiting in line less stressful is to find something to help pass the time. Smartphones and tablets are ideal for this, but they’re a double-edged sword, Bruess warned. Yes, they give us things to do while we wait, but they’re also partly responsible for the fact that we hate to wait.
“If I can tweet, check Facebook, order groceries and send a work memo while waiting in line for that big-screen TV at a once-in-a-lifetime price, I’m likely to be less anxious doing so because my time is being put to good use while I wait — or so I perceive it to be,” she said. “But why wait in line when I can order it on Amazon.com and it will arrive tonight at my doorstep?”
There is one constant about waiting: Whichever line we pick, it’s going to be the slowest one.
“It’s totally irrational,” Tauer admitted. “We can’t all be in the slowest line, but we’re sure that we are.”
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392