THE BLOG

Queue Etiquette: Don't Be Out of Line -- Stay in Line

Nov 03, 2013 | Updated Jan 23, 2014

A queue is nothing more than a waiting line. Key word: waiting. Then why is it so hard for some people to wait their turn?

The word queue is French in origin, and it is also one of the most commonly misspelled words in English, right up there with etiquette and dessert (or is it desert?). It's a word more used by the Brits than by Americans, who say "in line" (or "on line," for New Yorkers). Some cultures are much more amenable to forming orderly lines than others (the ones who don't will not be mentioned here). But cutting into the queue or the line is frowned on everywhere.

So why is it that some people can't resist cutting in line? Is it possible that they have more of a sense of entitlement than others, and that what they have to do is more important than those who are waiting their turn. People who are waiting in line correctly almost always notice when anyone cuts in line (especially in this country, where it is truly frowned on), though they may be too polite to say anything. They may not be too polite to take a photo or a video of the miscreants, though, so if you are one of them, be aware that you might end up on YouTube or Facebook as a scofflaw.

Here are some tips that make standing in line easier for everyone:

Queue early. If you hate standing in line, practice being early to events, especially those that you know will be crowded, such as Disneyland, a museum exhibition, or a movie premiere. And get to the airport a little before your airline advises.

Wait your turn. Don't even think about cutting in line. You will leave a group of disgruntled, not to say angry, people behind you, and bad karma ahead of you. An exception here is if you know you will miss something very important, such as a airline connection, by waiting in line. In case of this kind of emergency, explain to people ahead of you in line what your problem is, and ask them if you can go ahead of them. Even better, contact an airline assistant and ask them to take you to the head of the line. They will do so if you will miss your connection otherwise.

Offer your place in line to someone who needs it more. If you're standing in a grocery line with a full basket of purchases and the person behind you has just a few, offer to trade places! This is a simple act of kindness that costs nothing but a few minutes of your time. And whenever possible, offer to let older people, pregnant women, disabled people, and women with babies or young children go ahead of you.

Children. If you suspect you will have to wait in line with your children, tell them ahead of time that will probably have to do so and that they will need to practice patience. It's never too early to teach children how to behave in public. But also bring something to keep them occupied, such as a books, your smartphone, a tablets, or a sketch pad.

Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (www.lisagrotts.com), certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on www.Twitter.com/LisaGrotts and www.Facebook.com/LisaGrotts.