Science Confirms: That Other Line Really Is Moving Faster

Great news! Science has finally cured cancer! Just joking, but it has confirmed something you’ve always suspected and often muttered profanities about under your breath. That goddamn other line is moving faster than the one you’re stuck in.

Bill Hammack, from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Illinois – Urbana released the above video just in time to further infuriate you during your holiday shopping and gift returning adventures. In it, he uses the work of Agner Erlang, a Danish engineer who helped the Copenhagen Telephone Company develop optimum service levels with the fewest number of operators possible, to prove that your barely audible swearing and pleas to “get this line moving” are not in vain. That other line really is moving faster than yours. How’s that for a holiday kick in the face?

Apparently, the ideal set up is to have one long line that is served by several cashiers. That way, if something goes haywire at one register, which it most certainly will, nobody gets stuck in a line that has ground to a halt. But because we as shoppers are oblivious to the magic of science, our brains perceive this as the exact opposite. We see one long line and yearn for it to be split up in order to speed things along.

And that’s how you end up stuck behind the check writing granny demanding a price check on that horrifying Christmas sweater she hopes to humiliate some unfortunate child with. Happy holidays!