Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Chinese are Masters at Cutting in Line

The Chinese are masters at cutting in line.  I don't know how they do it, and I'm still trying to learn how to deal with it.  My American sensibilities always take over, and I automatically react to body language and body space.  I'm trying to learn how to use my body language to my advantage so that I won't continually have people cut in line in front of me.  I had to go back to the hospital today to pick up some tests results for my friend.  She works during lab hours, and as we learned the hard way, the lab closes exactly at 5:00.  So I rode the bus an hour each way to go pick up the tests for her.  This gave me plenty of "don't cut my line" experience.

I think I'm getting better about knowing how to keep my place in line when getting on a bus.  I think it helps if I have my grocery cart because it acts as a barrier when people try to rush in front of me.  I think part of my problem is that the Chinese are usually very slender and can just scoot in to the tiny little gap I leave as part of my own personal space.  When we lived in Beijing 20 years ago, things were much worse.  Back then, there was no sense at all of how to queue in a line.  It was always a mad free for all when going to McDonald's, or even the post office.   But now there is a little more order when waiting in line.  But "when push comes to shove" (I now have a better understanding of where that saying comes from) and we are at the point of actually boarding a bus, people start cutting in line.  The same happened when waiting to see the doctor today.

The doctor had told me to come directly to her before picking up the test results.  When I got to her office, the door was wide open, and there was a man being seen about a rash on his leg.  He was sitting in a chair next to her desk, and next to him was another chair.  In that chair was a man waiting to be seen.  In the West, people would be shocked at the lack of privacy in Chinese hospitals.  I felt really uncomfortable going in the room during his consultation, so I stood at the door.  As more people came to see the doctor, I tried to use my body language to send the message that they should get in line behind me.  It worked for a little while.  Eventually, I  could see that the second man was almost done with his exam, so I walked over and stood next to him, right by the doctor.  He got up to leave, so I told her why I was there.  She told me to go to the lab and pick up the test results (she had originally told me she would need to do this for me).  So I went out, and after being sent on a couple of wild goose chases was finally able to find the place to pick up the test results.  Westerners would also find it interesting that they handed me the results without asking to see any I.D.  Anyway, back I went to have the doctor examine the test results.

When I got back to the room, there was one person inside, but there were several people milling about outside the door.  This time I decided that I needed to be more assertive, so I went directly in and sat in the chair next to the patient who was talking to the doctor.  They were speaking in the Wuhan dialect which is difficult for me to understand, so I appeased my guilty conscience by telling myself that they still had privacy since I couldn't understand them.  I felt like I was in a pretty good position in line, but the Chinese behind  me showed me that they knew some tricks I didn't know.

A man walked up and laid his medical papers on the desk in front of me, thereby putting himself ahead of me in the queue.  Then another man walked up and laid his papers directly behind that man's papers.  When the patient was finished talking to the doctor, that first man jumped in and sat in his chair.  When he finished, the other man started to jump in as well, but I handed the test results over him to the doctor and she took me  next.  MWHAHAAHAA!   See, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

I have to add that I don't want to learn how to cut in line.  I just want to learn how to keep other people from doing it!  I don't want to verbally cause a situation, I just want to learn the nonverbal way of handling it.  I think I'm getting it, slowly but surely.  Then when I go home to the U.S., I'll have to unlearn it all.


Rummuser said...

I get into scrapes with line cutters who are quite common here too. I usually win because the others come immediately to support as they too are affected. I try not to be aggressive but definitely assertive.

Looney said...

Sounds like you could use a taser. Our last trips to Taiwan had us avoiding destinations that were popular for mainland Chinese tour groups. Their money is very welcome, but another cultural revolution (of a different sort) would be welcomed.

Lois Draper said...

Again, this made me laugh. Oh, China!!!