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Monday, January 23, 2006

[Discussion] Line/Queues - my view

Quite some time back, i started this thread, a discussion thread, hoping to get people to 'voice' their opinions on certain topics that are intriguing (atleast intrigue me ;) )

You can find the original topic here . Many of you had very interesting perspectives and thoughts about them. I guess it is time i brought mine to the table as well.

Here is my idea of a line/queue. The need for a line/queue arises because the service that more than one person is trying to procure can not handle more than request at a time. Hence the need for a mechanism to regulate the requests so that one can be handled at a time. Unlike in the world of automation, where even if requests are re-prioritized, there is no "protests" or atleast no "emotion" :-)

Having said that, when you stand in a line, you agree to the guarantee that you will be serviced in the order that you came in - not by any whims and fancies of any random individual or not by any other means. Even if you talk about a different lines, e.g. Balcony seat vs front bench in a theatre, the line to each of these doors still guarantee you the first-come-first-served basis position

When someone "allows" another person in the line/queue, it essentially means "altering" the position of every individual in the queue. I find it interesting that i never included one question in my list, - when the "allowing" person is actually young/handsome would you object ? ;)

Without lengthening the lecture anymore, i think "add" a person to the queue is "manipulation" of natural justice of the position, while "swap" is "manipulation of a lesser order".

Why so ? - think of a case, where you chose line1 as opposed to line2 because the person ahead of you has just 10 items in the check out cart. Now this person swaps with someone else who has 60 items in their cart - even though such a swap by natural justice is legal, your decision based on the "factors" at that time, that made you choose line1 has now been betrayed. Hence it is manipulation of a lesser order.

With all of these in mind, here are my answers without any emotion attached to them :)

1) Are you allowed to 'swap' positions with elderly/disabled - or you simply have to give up
Swap yes. Give up depends on the people in the line behind you, you dont own the right to alter someone else's position in the line.

2) If you are actually behind someone who is (doing the)swapping their position with someone else - will you object ?
No you are still guaranteed your position - but can still be aggrieved if the situation worsens as described above.

3) If someone has just one thing to do - a checkout with single item as opposed to a cart full - will you let them go forward ?
Same as Q-1 - depends on the people in the line behind you and their choice.

4) What if the guy ahead of you, instead of 'swap'ing - allows the senior person to come ahead (now you are two positions behind in the queue) - is there a case for valid objection ?
Yes, very valid objection indeed

5) What if the 'allow one more' happens to be not an elderly person ? - would you protest.
Vociferously indeed ;)

6) What if the 'swap' happens to be not an elderly person ? - would you protest.
Depends on the people/line

7) If you are seated on a bus/train and want to vacate the seat for someone elderly (or otherwise) - can the person who is actually next to the seat object ?
Hmmmm toughie this one - I guess we all agree that for the most part, swap is quite reasonable. So is this a swap ? or is this a 'give up' ?. Before there is any speculation of that sorts - the bottom line in this case is two things, standing next to a seat is implicit line/queue for the seat, but, since swap is always reasonable, the person occupying the seat can always choose to/not-to swap on a case-by-case basis.

There ends my take on line/queue - dont know how much in-line it is with others ? thoughts ?


Flik said...

Sure looks intriguing when one starts pondering on these 'lines' as you did. Notwithstanding your 7 well articulated points, I would still go on a gut feeling - instinct - and if the situation actually warrants to give up would gladly do so.

But seriously, how often do we face such a situation ! On an average I would have gone to Cosco, Sams and JcPenney et al, on about 100 occasions in the last year. And just once I had to give up to an old lady and that too as she requested explicitly not once, but twice :) So getting guaranteed service in the lines for about 99% of the time, should we complain when that trivial 1% shows up its face?!

Arvind said...


1% is the higher-end of the spectrum i would say.

As indicated, sometimes these kinda things intrigue me - this discussion is less about venting and more about postulating - they get me to go think about the 'origin' of lines - for example, when you see someone swapping a seat with another specific person - i would just observe the mass's reaction and would go pondering :-)

Thanks for stopping by !

Anonymous said...

hmm.. food of my thought..

my answer is -- Everything depends on the state of an individual's mind.. There is no pattern followed.. it is probability.. like tossing a coin... The previous result has no effect on the future ones.. but you could observe a general trait and come to a conclusion and yet be disproved.. :)

Vidya said...

sorry.. the previous comment was mine.. I didnt change the settings.. and that was my answer to all your questions

Arvind said...


The idea was to 'theorize' the concept behind 'lines/queues' - but agreed that it is/will not have a bearing on how we decide :-)

Subha said...

oru queue-ku ivlo explanation......!!!!!!!! :)) perhaps, you should read statistical theory and probability..this concept of queue is discussed in huuuuuuuuuuge detail in simulation theory...normal distribution, poisson distribution, normalization, optimization of service, service request time etc...seems like ages ago when i was sitting in this class and falling half-asleep! :))

Praveen said...

hey arvind...i tagged u...chkout my blog to know wat is TAGGING all abt...

Ganesh said...

dude how are you still busy for a lunch

Arvind said...


Jet lag'oooo ? early morning blog-walk ;) :P

Oru-Q kku ivlo explanation - well, guess what, i was mentally prepared for the first reply which said, go-read-it :-) but as it turned out your comment was the first one ;)

To answer you, i dont remember :-D

Thanks and sorry bud - Tags - crossed that stage long time back :-)

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