Line Management

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On a recent flight I was dismayed to see a long line behind the metal detector. As I approached the end of the line, I was even more dismayed to see a perfectly good metal detector lane completely unused. Even more frustrating were the ten TSA employees (actually ten, I counted) standing around just chatting amongst them- selves. It’s not as if they were contributing to security, because they were all wrapped up in their own personal conversations, and not even looking at the passengers.

One way grocery stores compete for business is a “next in line” policy. Whenever there are too many people waiting in any line, someone in the store grabs the keys to a cash register, and opens another line, to insure that the customers never have to wait very long to do business. Newer McDonalds restaurants actually have dual-lane drive-thrus, because they’ve learned that hungry customers will only wait a couple minutes before they run across the street to Burger King, or change their mind entirely and grab a taco. The oil-change place I frequent has an old school gas station air hose bell, and when it rings, everybody in the service station (including the owner) drops whatever they are doing and rush into the oil change bay with the military precision of a marching band. It’s on the pricey side, but I’ve never spent more than ten minutes get- ting an oil change. The value of my time more than compensates for the extra ten bucks.

The longer I waited in line, the more inane and grating their conversations became. I could care less about how nice the baby shower buffet was catered, or how much Costco is charging for 15-ounce cans of Niblets. I wanted to tell those jerks exactly what they could do with their buffet and their Niblets, but the prospect of a missed fight and strip search kept my demeanor polite.

I thought about how GM and Chrysler employees were going to be idle all summer long, and how these TSA uni- forms were not doing much more work and getting paid, and it really irked me. Why was there nobody to tell them to open a second lane? And if for some reason that perfectly good metal detector isn’t functional, why aren’t those unnecessary employees being told to go home? And ultimately, what will happen when these same dedicated souls, are in charge of rationing health care?

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