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Line-Up Phobia

There is a new form of mental disorder that seems to be spreading rapidly.

Have you noticed it?

Go to a nearby Tim Horton's or MacDonald's, or similar venue and you have a good chance of seeing this disorder in practice.

The other day, when I went to pay for a couple of items at a local Dollarama, I observed another example of this phenomenon. A lady was standing at the checkout having her goods tallied. I was third in line. The second person in the line was standing about 16 feet away from the first person. If not for the fact that we were standing in a narrow aisle stocked with last-minute items, it would have been impossible to determine whether this person was actually in line, or just loitering.

In a saner time, I would have politely asked the woman in front of me if she was in line, and if not, would she kindly excuse me for walking around her. But these are not sane times.

I have to admit, I was annoyed by this behavior. Maybe it's a sign of age. Or maybe it's because I like things to make sense.

Someone standing 16 feet away from the first person in line makes absolutely no sense to me.

Anyway, while standing there observing this situation, I begin to roll the issue over in my mind.

Perhaps this is a new form of etiquette. The only problem I see with this is that, if the third person in the line were to be a practitioner of similar etiquette and, correspondingly provide an additional 16 feet, and the fourth person .... and so on, the fifth or so person observing this rule would be about 80 feet away from the cash register.... somewhere near the back of the store.

The bigger the store, the bigger the line.

Right away, I think you can probably see a potential problem with this new form of line etiquette: confusion.

The greater the gap between line-up members, the more difficult it will be to keep track of the order of service.

Picture this: You are at a supermarket, and you are in the laundry detergent and shampoo aisle nearest the back of the store. With some difficulty, you conclude that this is the end of the line. So you stand there, leaving 16 feet for the shopper in front of you. Of course, someone else could be doing exactly the same thing in the pop and snack-food aisle beside you. He can't see you and you can't see him.

Can you see how this could lead to confusion, or even conflict, if the two shoppers arrive at the check-out at the same time?

A while back I went to the Delta MacDonald's. I noticed there was only one person placing an order at the desk. There was also a group of people standing on the other side of the floor-space in front of the counter. In a saner age, this group would represent those customers who have already placed their orders and are now just waiting for their food.

I walked up and stood behind the first person in line. Out of nowhere, some guy comes up to me and says "excuse me, but I was in line ahead of you." Except that he wasn't, otherwise we would have been occupying the same space. His claim to be ahead of me was thus demonstrably false.

Having already observed repeated instances of this collapse in line-up protocol, I could not help but reply, "Well then, maybe next time you should try actually standing in the line." He gave me a look of stunned non-comprehension.

I have been on this planet for over sixty years now and I have to say, this is a fairly recent phenomenon. I am old enough to have experienced standing in many queues over the decades. Movies. Rock concerts. Grocery stores. Amusement parks. Airports. Taxi ranks.

This pointless space gap is a new thing. I've only been noticing it for about two or three years. It seems to be getting worse.

Some would say I have too much time on my hands if I spend it on line-up dynamics. Maybe that is true.

On the other hand, whenever I notice changes in human behavior, I can't help but think that such changes are not merely random, but are instead indicative of broader trends.

So I decided to Google the phenomenon. The best I could come up with was that some people are afraid to stand too close to other people as a result of "social anxiety disorder."

This explanation does not satisfy me. If the reason for leaving a large gap between person 1 and person 2 is due to person 2's aversion to standing too close to other people, then person 2 should be expected to experience similar discomfort from the person standing third in line, or directly behind them, unless that person also suffers from the same disorder, in which case, that person is standing back near the electronics aisle.

But if person 3 does NOT have the same disorder, then person 3 would end up standing uncomfortably close to person 2, in which case, it would be reasonable to expect person 2 to move forward in pursuit of relief. In my Dollarama example, therefore, the lady in front of me should have moved her buggy ahead by 8 feet, thus splitting the difference between the feared adjacent line-up participants.

But if she did move ahead by 8 feet, I would have followed behind her leaving the customary gap of about two feet between us. And then she would have moved up another 4 feet, and so on, until the check-out line began to resemble the check-out lines we have all grown to know and love.


The bizarre phenomenon of excessive line-up spaces is not explained by "Social Anxiety Disorder."

This topic deserves further exploration. It could be related to the excessive use of smart-phones and other accouterments of the Internet age. As people increasingly live their lives interacting with electronic devices, they become less engaged with the real world that surrounds them.

And in a world where all you need to do is tap an app to satisfy all of your social and consumer needs, the need for active participation in life is correspondingly diminished.

And in a world where active participation is becoming obsolete, the value of one's natural assets - arms, legs, eyes, ears, brain - depreciates.

Which means, maybe the reason why some people leave a 16 foot gap between themselves and the cash register is because they are just plain fucking stupid.


Gee. There doesn't seem to be much social anxiety disorder in Venezuela these days.

Not to worry though,

There is a new app designed to help Canadians make healthy choices.

If successful, this technology can be adapted to all sorts of other government funded apps designed to control how we work, the information we consume, the politics we favor, the movies we watch, the music we listen to, the transportation we choose, and how many squares of toilet paper we use to wipe our asses.

Save the trees.

Wow! These guys were way off in their prediction that it would take until 6565 before you wouldn't need a husband or wife. And they sure never anticipated that it might come to a point where it would become common to inquire as to the gender of the spouse. Other than that, a brilliantly prophetic song.

Worth noting:

The core of McLuhan’s theory, and the key idea to start with in explaining him, is his definition of media as extensions of ourselves. McLuhan writes: “It is the persistent theme of this book that all technologies are extensions of our physical and nervous systems to increase power and speed” (90) and, “Any extension, whether of skin, hand, or foot, affects the whole psychic and social complex. Some of the principle extensions, together with some of their psychic and social consequences, are studied in this book” (4). From the premise that media, or technologies (McLuhan’s approach makes “media” and “technology” more or less synonymous terms), are extensions of some physical, social, psychological, or intellectual function of humans, flows all of McLuhan’s subsequent ideas. Thus, the wheel extends our feet, the phone extends our voice, television extends our eyes and ears, the computer extends our brain, and electronic media, in general, extend our central nervous system. [Source.]

Or corrupts it.

On other fronts:

This Week in Stupid (16/07/2017)
Sargon of Akkad

The Young Turks make me puke.


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