There are two psychological things that upset people most when waiting in queues. One is any impression of unfairness in the arrangements. The other is the feeling of wasting time. Queuing experts combine mathematics with psychology to focus on these two aspects. Perhaps this is why, in case of immigration clearance of passengers at international airports, it’s common to employ several servers to quicken clearance. The crucial question however remains; does the lining up of passengers to form a single combined queue or the option to join any of the queues formed separately before each server solve the problem? At some airports, Heathrow and London, for example, the combined queue snake between long lines of rope. At others (e.g. IGIA, Delhi) arrivals hasten to choose from half a dozen queues the one they deem will move the fastest.
In multiple queues people often stay restive; they perceive other queues as moving faster. This may sound like paranoia but there’s some truth in it. If there are six queues, the mathematical probability of your queue moving the fastest is only one in six. That way a combined queue imparts a better feeling of fairness. At multiple airline check-in queues, some couples are seen employing the strategy of standing in two different queues. In India, service organizations attempt to make greater use of ropes or railings for the integrity of queues, whether combined or multiple. The returns seem to be well worth the extra rupee spent.
Of late, a few researchers have expressed their reservations about quicker clearance through a combined queue. According to them, multiple queues allow people to shift to adjacent queues when held up by someone too slow in front (avoid a queue that has a few young bearded fellows in front; their clearance will sure be slower). If people with relatively quick requests are allowed to jockey, it makes multiple queues faster. Multiple queues also exercise a psychological effect on servers. Servers feel guilty if their queue grows in length, and so tend to speed up disposal. Regular customers, such as in banks, have again the option to choose a server with greater expertise, rather than just the first server who becomes available.
The turmoil that a person goes through, while standing in a queue, is unmatched. When you see your life going at a glacial speed and then you also come to know that even after hours of patient waiting, you are still not the first in line; all hell wants to break loose. Life is a cruel thing for everyone in the queue and the willingness to get over with it is what gives people the strength to stand in it for hours while the discomfort one is facing is rising with the minute. Typical multiple queues follow the Murphy’s Law, “Whatever queue you join, no matter how short it looks, will always take the longest for you to get served” and thus, it is safer to stay put in one’s queue rather than go around looking for a quicker way to get to your goal. It is always good to have your wife or mother with you. The pitiful eyes of the bystanders often give their place to you.
With technology around, it is very easy to pass time listening to music on your MP3 player or the cell phone, but you are missing some of the heartiest conversations, so please don’t be a snob. Enjoy your stay in the queue as long as it lasts, because once it is over, every person goes his or her way.
In 1979 Dr. Kuabakoonam Balasubramanium of the University of Quebec, using a handsome grant, did some pioneering research on Indian queues, the laws and the paradoxes thereof. Bala laws, that he devised on the basis of this extensive research, are capsuled here under for us all to remember and brave the turmoil of standing in the queue;
1. The length of the queue is inversely proportion to the time you have to stand in the one.
2. You discover you are in wrong queue only when you reach the counter.
3. You always reach the counter at lunch tome or closing time.
4. When you reach the counter in time the tickets are over.
5. When you do get the tickets they are the wrong ones and therefore;
a) you have to go to the tail end of the queue to get them changed or
b). you have to go to the refund counter where 1 and 2 apply
6. When there are no obstacles, the queue moves quickly and when you buy the right ticket the teller has no change.
7. The teller always has his say.
8. The other queue always moves faster.
9. When you switch to the other queue the original queue gathers momentum.
10. When you are finally the second person in the queue the guy in front of you develops a complicated problem which takes half an hour to sort out.
11. When others jump the queue no one says anything. When you jump the queue hoots and jeers follow.
12. Every one in the queue will want to borrow your pen; when you want a pen no one will have one.
13 You are always caught napping when they open an extra counter.
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