Americans overwhelmingly say there is one place more than any other they hate to wait in line. Amazingly, it's not the Department of Motor Vehicles.
It's the grocery store checkout line.
That's the word from an Associated Press-Ipsos poll of 1,003 randomly selected adults that concluded we are an impatient nation. The most we will agreeably wait in any line for any reason is 15 minutes, and the most we will stand to wait on hold on the phone is five minutes. And that's on a good day.
We don't mellow with age or location. Older people are just as antsy as the young, and the slower pace of the country doesn't make it any easier to be patient. "If you ask the typical person, do you feel more time-poor or money-poor, the answer almost always is time-poor," Paco Underhill, an authority on what draws and drives away shoppers, told AP reporter Calvin Woodward. "We walk in the door with the clock ticking with various degrees of loudness in our heads. And if I get to the checkout and if I have the perception it's not working efficiently, often that clock gets even louder."
Interestingly, we can be tricked. It's not how long we must wait that counts, but how we wait. For example, people are much more patient at the deli counter if they are holding a numbered ticket in their hand instead of having to deal with a free-for-all melee just to get a pound of turkey and cheese thinly sliced.
Store managers should pay attention. Fully half of those surveyed by AP-Ipsos said they would not return to a business if they have to wait too long, and 20 percent admitted they have acted rudely to a store employee when they weren't served efficiently. Time-pressed shoppers have frayed nerves on a short-circuit and almost anything can set them off.
Maybe we should all take a chill pill and follow the advice of John Vivian, who is wise for his 72 years. He told AP, "Life is too short to be upset." Just think about that.