"Daddy, please don’t fight today!”, requests my 9 year-old daughter when our family visits amusement parks such as Everland or Lotte World. Despite my daughter’s plead, I always tend to quarrel with strangers - letting my daughter down. I quarrel with people who cut in lines while park attendants overlook such acts.
As we all know, there are long queues for popular and thrilling rides, sometimes exceeding an hour. When I witness a married middle-aged woman (so-called “Ajumma”) standing in front of me, I start to have a heartburn since I know exactly what is going to happen. She will pick up her cell phone and call her husband and children - just before her turn to ride. Her family will join her in the line and enjoy the ride without waiting, while my family has waited for more than an hour. The Ajumma, having achieved her objective, will display a content smile, perhaps feeling that she has contributed to the well-being of her family. So, while queueing, I build up a fighting spirit and when the situation occurs, I tell them not to cut in. However, the familiar response I get is a loud clamor of the Ajumma saying that they are not line-cutters because she has been queueing for her family. I request the park attendant to settle the situation, who gives me a stare as if I were a strange customer. Hopelessly, I become an odd person disappointing my poor daughter, again.
Why does such a situation arise? I think there are two problems that need to be dealt with: the ambiguity of the regulation and inconsistent enforcement of the regulation. As a sociologist, I think these are the key problems in our society, observable in our daily social life. Let’s turn to the queue-jumping situation again. First of all, there is no clear definition of line-cutting in our amusement parks. The Ajumma argues that her act is not line-cutting since she has been queueing for her family. However, if we accept this line of argument, then we also have to admit the following situation. If one student in the school queues for a thrilling ride and other several hundreds students can rush in later without queueing. Will the Ajumma agree to this situation? I doubt it.
The more serious problem is that the park attendant is unable to mediate due to ambiguous regulations. From my experience of theme parks in the United States, there was a board specifying park regulations. In regard to line-cutting, I remember an impressive notice saying as follows. “Line-cutters will be ejected from the park immediately. The definition of line-cutting: while waiting in the line, you need to go to the restroom in a hurry. So, with consent of the people behind you in the line, you go to the restroom and hurry back to your place in the line. That is also line-cutting.” With this definition, it is very easy to tell which people are line-cutters. Any person who passes another in the line is a line-cutter.
The second problem is inconsistent enforcement of the regulations. Let me refer again from my own experience. My daughter and I were queueing to ride a roller-coaster, but found a notice that children under 140cm cannot ride. I knew that my daughter was shorter than 140cm, so we gave up the ride even though we had queued for more than 30 minutes. After we gave up, I heard a loud voice of a man demanding the park attendant that he and his son should ride because they had waited over 30 minutes. The boy was even shorter than my daughter.
The park attendant refused at first, but under obstinate demand from the loudly speaking man, the attendant gave in and allowed the small boy to ride the roller-coaster. Can you imagine what I felt there? I said to myself, “You fool, Wonho! Why did you follow the regulation? Didn’t you know those who observe the regulations are fools in Korea? Didn’t you know those who speak loudly emerge victorious in our society?” Modern society is based on the principles of bureaucracy, among which the most important one is consistent and impersonal enforcement regulations. That is, regulations, once established through a legitimate process, should be applied consistently to all situations, and to everybody without exception. With regard to this, let me mention an unforgettable experience in the United States. It was at a water park where I was standing in line to ride a “running water” ride where one just lays afloat on a safety buoy and drifts.
I was surprised to find a very big man cutting in line. One of the persons called the park attendant, a young girl, and asked her to have the big man taken out of the line. She asked him to get out of line, but he refused saying that his family had been queueing. The attendant persistently asked him to get out of line, but failed. The big man took his safety buoy and floated with the running water. I said to myself, “Uhmm! There is a line-cutter in America as well. The girl, however, did her best.” But, when I floated halfway through the running water ride, I was stunned to see the following situation. The big man was caught by park security officer with a gun, while the girl-attendant was standing near by. At that time, I realized that regulations in America are strictly and consistently enforced even in theme parks. (Beware, line-cutters! You might be shot in America.)
Some may say that I am too sensitive about trivial matters such as line-cutting. As a sociologist, however, I think line-cutting phenomena are crucial matters reproducing the main problems in our society: ambiguous regulation and inconsistent enforcement of these regulations. When we cut lines, our children learn that it is OK even if you don’t obey the regulations. They also realize that regulations are loosely and inconsistently enforced. The same perception will be automatically transferred to the next generation and our society will never solve the problem.
This is why I become a quarrelsome daddy again and again.