I was in New York City a week ago. Before I went into work, I was waiting in line to order a coffee at Starbucks. Finally arriving at the front of the line I walk up to the register, but a man with a Middle Eastern accent jumps in front of everyone and shoves a hundred dollar bill in the cashier's face. He demands three espressos. Without going into detail about the confused and frustrated look on my face, while I walked to work I compared Middle Eastern and American culture. I was curious about their cultural approaches when it comes to reserving a table at a restaurant and ordering what you want at a market (in this case, a coffee shop).
Edward Hall in his book the Hidden Dimension observes we don't notice our own cultural norms until we come up against another culture with a different set of tacit rules. Having come up against a Middle Eastern interaction, I asked myself, what does the line represent in American culture? I think the answer to this question goes back to 1776 - standing in line means that everyone is created equal. It's a utilitarian solution to ensure everyone's needs and wants are of equal value.
The Middle Eastern man trying to order his espressos must have felt just as frustrated as me, trying to figure out why he couldn't order his espresso. My Iranian father occasionally expressed these frustrations at restaurants when he wasn't served immediately. Growing up, I had a difficult time understanding why he wouldn't make a reservation ahead of time. Instead, he would make a scene after hearing there's a two hour wait time when he arrived at the restaurant. Now that I'm 3000 miles away from where I grew up, Los Angeles, I feel like I have a new understanding for this part of Middle Eastern and American culture.
What do other people think, what does the line represent?