The Great Metropolis Face-off, Burning Man vs. the Big Apple (and others), round 9: waiting in line

As a recent NYTimes article describes how norms about public space and waiting in line can change:
“There is a feline quality to standing in Indian lines. Certain parts of the man behind you — you don’t know which — brush against you in a kind of public square spooning, the better to repel cutters. (Women do less touching.) Still, this is no deterrent to cutters. They hover near the line’s middle, holding papers, looking lost in a practiced way, then slip in somewhere close to the front. When confronted, their refrain is predictable: “Oh, I didn’t see the line.”

But in a churning India, the line has new resilience. Businesses are becoming vigilant about enforcing queues, and a growing middle class, more well-off and less survivalist, is often less eager to cut.”

A recent trip abroad reminded me that, relatively speaking, waiting in lines in the U.S. tend to unfold as relatively civil affairs. Most people maintain a respectful distance from others and line up in order. (This is, of course, excluding the occasional tragic shopping stampede or bad subway car manners in the Big Apple.) At Burning Man, waiting in line offers social or artistic opportunities, with the inspired endeavoring to make otherwise humdrum waits memorable. What if your local airport applied such concepts? How might your experiences with going through security be different?

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