Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The drive to be first!

Indians want to get ahead!

No, I am not talking about space exploration or software development or business process outsourcing or even medical research. I am referring to the inherent drive to be the first in a queue! In India, you will notice that the queues work a bit differently. I am referring to queues in banks, airports, movie theaters etc.

Three characteristics about queues jump out at you here - they are generally very long, they move extremely slowly and people are constantly cutting in, shoving and pushing to get ahead quicker. People seem to take this need to move forward rapidly within a queue at any cost as their birthright and appear confused when others get offended at their behavior.

An example to highlight this phenomenon.

I was at the Bangalore international airport and there was a huge line to get in. Either a breakdown in the security equipment or some inefficient bureaucracy had created a bottleneck. Many folks were waiting patiently in the slow moving queue for nearly half hour just to gain entry into the airport building. Meanwhile, I could see some passengers simply walking past the queue and attempting to enter the building at the front of the line. One such gentleman standing next to me and attempting to enter the line behind me got yelled at by folks further back in the line. However, this did not seem to bother him and he somehow managed to work himself into the queue ahead of many other folks while shaking his head in puzzlement at the anger of his fellow passengers. About 10 minutes later, a similar thing occurred with another passenger. The gentleman who had cut in to the line earlier was furious and indignant that someone would behave in such a manner.

Go figure!

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