What is it about Polish people and lines?
I just returned from a fascinating and enjoyable trip to Warsaw.
The only negative to the trip (besides the fact it is a 9 hour flight to get there) was how incredibly rude the Poles were about lines. I have never seen such obvious disrespect for other people when it came to cutting in lines, even when it meant that the person who cut would have to stand in front of you in line for the next 15 minutes. In the United States, people will cut in lines in cars, but usually not when on foot, because of the discomfort of having people you just mistreated standing next to you. A car provides insulation from the social stigma. In Poland, no such distinction appears to be made. (When I told Dubner about this, he told me to stop complaining and save it for when I next went to Israel, where he says there is simply no such thing as a line.)
Just to test my hypothesis, at the airport as I boarded the plane — it was an utter free for all with everyone invited to enter the plane at once — I made a mental note of the most egregious line cutters. Then, when we got to Customs in the United States, I watched to see which of the worst cutters went to the U.S. citizens line and which went to the visitors line. Not one of the worst offenders was an American citizen, supporting my conjecture.
What surprised me most about the line cutting was that having lived under communism for so long, I would have thought that the Poles would have perfected standing in line. I would have predicted even greater courtesy than you find elsewhere. Perhaps, I just got the theory backwards. With so many years of shortages, the rewards for becoming an expert line cutter were much greater in Poland than in the U.S. So they did perfect standing in lines — perfection means being able to cut in front of people and feel no guilt.