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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rudeness no longer clear-cut to some

By Lee Cataluna

With all the shopping and services available online, you wouldn't think you'd have to spend so much time IN line anymore. But you can't get a taco grande without walking up to a counter and despite automated tellers, stamp machines and flat-rate boxes, there are times you have to stand in line at the bank or post office. Sure, you can get your taco and cash in drive-thrus, but that still involves lines, which means it still involves a bit of social navigation. And social navigation has imploded in the era of multi-connected social media. We know how to send messages to 673 "friends" at once but we've forgotten how to wait single-file.

So there you are waiting for your turn at the counter. Out of nowhere, a guy slides in front of you as if you haven't been standing there patiently for 10 minutes. You clear your throat, and he makes like he doesn't hear you. If you work up the nerve to tap his shoulder, he gives you the nerviest line in the history of human kind: "Oh, were you in line?"

No, budbert, I was just standing here admiring the floor tile. I was just standing here memorizing the menu. I was just standing here holding the place for you. I was just standing here enjoying the air conditioning vent because right at this very spot, you get the best blast in the whole store.

And the evil cutter just looks at you like you were the one being rude.

OK, maybe they thought you were waiting for your order. But the internationally accepted position of waiting for your order is off to the side, back against the wall, clutching the receipt and looking at your watch.

Or maybe they thought you were "still deciding." Standing in a busy place "deciding" for five minutes throws everything off. The polite people hang back waiting for you. The rude people push right pass the polite ones. The whole system falls apart.

The other part of the equation that has failed is the clerks at the counter can't be trusted to make things right. No, "I'm sorry, sir. This lady is next in line." Maybe they'll make eye contact and give you the "Geez, how rude is THAT?!" look. More likely, they'll give that glassy-eyed stare of indifference and leave it to the customers to battle it out.

So until that taco grande can be ordered online and delivered to your home through some Willie WonkaVision TV porthole, be careful out there. The rules have changed and the lines have blurred.