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Monday, August 22, 2022

Queuing for Cones: We All Queue for Ice Cream

On an August afternoon in Hadley, Massachusetts, temperatures soared above eighty degrees in the shade.  (Who would be crazy enough to stand in the shade?)  Not the sturdy souls queued up for twelve or so minutes in the scorching sun for cones and sundaes at Maple Valley Creamery's  ice cream stand. Why endure such torture? Is it the decline of the neighborhood ice cream man? Or the ironic, dubious tradeoff of hellish heat for conic comfort?  "The wait sucks, but it's worth it to get it straight from the cow," remarked one wincing customer. 

Social scientists and engineers have sought to improve efficiency in lines.  But there isn't much to be done at stands like Maple Farm's, which sport only one server. (Perhaps acrobatics by trained bovines might distract customers from their predicament.) That places the challenge squarely on the consumer. Malia Wollan, in the New York Times, recommends several research-based tactics: distract yourself with a book or music; look at the unfortunates behind you and feel superior; and, conversely, consider your shared predicament with others an opportunity to embrace "community." 

Then again, miscreants pursue a seamier solution: They cut.  Here's a memorable tactic in a clip from Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm.




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