The Waiting Game

From airports to amusement parks, long lines are inevitable ... unless you're rich

Tim Boyle / Bloomberg News / Landov

Travelers stand in line at Chicago O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, IL. on August 23, 2007.

Depending on whom you believe, the average American will, over a lifetime, wait in lines for two years (says National Public Radio) or five years (according to customer-loyalty expert Nick Wreden, whose post-office branch you might want to avoid).

The crucial word is average, as wealthy Americans routinely avoid lines altogether. Once the most democratic of institutions, lines are rapidly becoming the exclusive province of suckers. Poor suckers, mostly.

Airports resemble France before the Revolution: first-class passengers enjoy "élite" security lines and priority boarding, and disembark before the unwashed in coach--held at bay by a flight attendant--are allowed to foul the...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!