Janet Sheridan: Taking cuts
Tired of high school students and coaching, Wally transferred to Lincoln Elementary School to teach PE and soon wondered why. After his first day, I asked how he was doing. “Not so good,” he admitted, “When I told the first-graders to line up in squads of six, they just looked at me. Then a little girl raised her hand; I called on her; and she asked if I liked her new dress.
“So I said they should forget squads and form a single line facing me. Most continued to look confused; a few wandered around like they wanted to obey; and three cried. I had to teach them to line up.
“When the second-graders came in, I told them to form a single line facing me and felt relieved when they did. Then all hell broke loose. Wanting to be near the head of the line, a few pushed and elbowed, forcing their way in, while those already there defended their positions, yelling, ‘Teacher, Teacher, he’s taking cuts! Shirley is too! That’s not fair! Stop them!’ One boy said he was going to tell their real teacher I let them take cuts in PE. And me? I longed for the high school.”
I sympathized with Wally but agreed with his students. When someone pushes in front of me, I, too, want to shove and tattle; and I’m not alone. I recently read a study that found 54 percent of the time when someone cuts in, adults already in line will object; when two people take cuts, the likelihood of complaint rises to 91 percent.
I differ from those in the study, however, because I choose to seethe in silence rather than complaining. When drivers defy merge-now signs and zip by in the empty lane — relying on some softheaded person to let them in when they can no longer zip — I hate them; but I don’t honk, yell curses or make rude gestures. My husband does it for me.
I like multiple drive-up windows at banks because people don’t risk their cars by trying to take cuts. When all the lanes are full, however, I find it difficult to choose which to join; the shortest line doesn’t always move the fastest. Some folks, arriving at a window, seem to be surprised to find themselves at a bank. Then everybody behind them waits while they dig in purses, pockets and glove compartments, discover their pen is out of ink, fuss with the tube, discipline their dog and bounce their deposit off the pavement.
I have a method for dealing with multiple, crowded security lines at major airports: I avoid lines with lots of giddy teenagers wearing matching T-shirts, parents carrying one baby and pushing another in a stroller, families with several children burdened by excitement, stuffed animals and backpacks, and folks as old and hard-of-hearing as I.
I was ecstatic when airline check-in counters and busy offices began designating a single line with the person at the head of it going to the next available window. But I tense up when my turn is next. People get upset and vocal when someone stands a-gawk rather than rushing to the gesticulating agent; and I know I’m that person.
Being considerate of others in any line by not cutting ahead of them is so engrained in me that I avoid using the walk buttons provided at stoplights for pedestrian use. I think it’s unfair to activate it when drivers who have been waiting for a green light finally have one. It’s their turn, not mine. And I don’t want to hear, “Hey, police officer, that lady’s taking cuts! That’s not fair!! Stop her!!!”
Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at auntbeulah.com on the first and 15th of every month.
On a cool autumn afternoon in 1914 Hayden, a human being was seen occupying space previously reserved for only birds, clouds and celestial bodies. It was a monumental occasion — one that shook the very fiber of reality for the people of Northwest Colorado.