Stolen Time

Americans spend 37 billion hours a year waiting in line. Sometimes I think I’ve personally waited all of them.


My life is not that challenging if the worst thing I do is stand in line. So why do I hate it so much?

It helps if the time spent waiting is proportional to what I’m waiting for. It has to be “worth it.” Thirty minute wait for a table at my favorite restaurant? No problem. Forty minutes for a roller coaster at a theme park? Sure. But make me wait behind two people at the drug store when all I need is a bottle of shampoo and I’m thinking OMG my life is so terrible lines are the literal worst.

It’s not because I’m an impatient person. I am very patient with my family and friends. Even strangers. I don’t mind when a pal is late for a coffee date or my sister doesn’t text back right away or someone zooms ahead of me in traffic.

Nor is it because we live in such a fast-paced world and we’re all impatient nowadays. Other studies have shown that the elderly are just as unforgiving of a long line as youngsters.

My big problem with lines is the theft.

I feel it most when I’m waiting to pay for something. When I have to wait in line, I’m paying twice: once in money and once in time. And the stores know it, too. They’re perfectly willing to hire a smaller staff, saving themselves a lot of money by costing each customer a sliver of time.

But time is a commodity and the older I get the more valuable my time is to me. Which is one of the reasons I’ve moved most of my shopping online. I use Amazon Prime because heck yes I’ll pay extra for two-day shipping and other perks. Come to think of it, I’ve never waited in line at Costco either—another pay-to-shop establishment.

It sounds ridiculous on the surface. Why pay to buy things? But that’s not what I’m paying for. I’m paying for extra staff to quickly ring up my purchases and get me on my way.

And I’m getting a bargain by no longer paying the hidden cost of stolen time.

About the author: Alex Kourvo is a freelance editor who never makes her clients wait in line. 

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