Standing in line

A delay in our travel has meant a delay in setting up my website. I’ll get things sorted out soon In the meantime, I hope most people have been able to find my journal entries.

Most of the times our plans go smoothly. Sometimes they do not. Yesterday didn’t go according to plans when our flight from Denver to Rapid City was cancelled. It is a long story and I’m too mad at United Airlines to tell it fairly right now, so the basic outlines are that we are in a motel in Denver with a rental car outside and we have a 400 mile car trip to get home. Needless to say our arrival at home will be delayed and the day will be long. There is work that must be done.

It is simply the case that things don’t always go according to plan and sometimes it takes a Plan B, C, D, or E or even more to figure out what to do. The trick is not losing your cool and learning to adapt as you go. The important thing is that we are safe. We have not experienced any injuries. We are only delayed and we will catch up with our work when we get home. And we’ll go on adventures in the future. This experience is not going to sour us on traveling, visiting our family or other adventures.

I was once told that we Americans aren’t very good at standing in line. Actually the person with whom I was speaking was British, so he said we aren’t good at standing in queue. Since I did a bit of that yesterday, I’m wondering whether or not he is right. The reality is that we don’t have to stand in line very often. Most of the time we are able to get what we need without much of that. There are queue areas in some fast food restaurants, but we don’t tend to go to those places very often. The place where we are used to standing in line is the airport. Most airports have stanchions with tapes to indicate the pattern in which people are supposed to line up as they wait for attention at service counters and at the security checkpoints.

Yesterday we had checked in to our airline online, so there was no line for us at the ticket counter. We did, however, wait in line for about 10 minutes at the security check point. Seattle-Tacoma airport was clearly set up for much longer lines at that point. A huge amount of area in the terminal is consumed with stanchions and tapes to indicate where the lines are to form. We stood in line about the same amount of time while we waited to board the airline. It always surprises me how aggressive some people are when it is time to board the airline. We all have reserved seats. The plane isn’t going to leave without us. But people will be fairly rude about standing in line, trying to gain advantage and get onto the plane before other people who are also trying to board. For my part, I’ve learned to simply let those who are pushy go ahead. I don’t think they get much of a prize. They have to wait while the rest of us board.

While I was waiting in line, it was also interesting to see how many people seem to have trouble with the airlines’ rather simple guidelines about the size of luggage. I too don’t think that the surcharge for checking bags is a reasonable fee, but I’ve learned the rules and am willing to comply in order to reach my destination. I’ve gotten used to limiting myself to a bag that will fit under the seat in front of me because the overhead bins are so crammed with luggage that it is awkward to use them.

Upon arriving in Denver and finding that our flight to Rapid City had been cancelled, we got to wait in line for just over an hour and a half at the customer service counter. It was long enough for me to call the airline’s customer service phone number and receive very bad and very expensive advice from the ticket agent who answered my call. Part of the advice was to stay in line to get a voucher for a room and meals and talk with the agent about possible restitution for the cancelled ticket. Of course when we finally got to speak to an agent the first thing that happened was that we were given a card with a number to call to request compensation for the disruption of our flight, but that is a story for another day.

Standing in line for over an hour meant that we struck up conversations with some of the other people standing in line. We know about the nursing student from Ontario, Canada, who missed her connection to Los Angeles where she was to board a flight to New Zealand. We know a bit of the story of the grandmother trying to get to Alaska to visit her 2 year old grandson and be with her daughter for the birth of a new granddaughter.

We learned that some people really don’t want to talk when they are tired and hassled and have been standing in line for a long time. Others become quite chatty. It was also easy to observe that there are rules people observe when standing in line. Someone who tries to get ahead and cut in front of others is not appreciated. Those who stand in the premier line when they belong in the regular line are turned away from service and forced to stand in the other line.

There was another line in the lobby of the hotel as we waited with others who would have been on our flight to check in. The line there was the size of the number of people who would fit in the shuttle van to the hotel. It was in that line where I invited a mother who was caring for a baby in her arms and two toddlers to go in front of me. She was tired and needed a break. It was there that I noticed that no one else would yield their place in line to her, though it would cause only a very short delay.

I think my British friend is right. We Americans don’t know how to stand in queue. I sure wish others had let the tired mother go ahead of them.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!