Painted Lines

I was once in a very small airport in Indiana, the kind that gets about two flights a day. I was on one of those flights, so I arrived and looked for the check-in for my airline. I noticed that while the airport was virtually deserted that day, it was at least designed to accommodate a much larger crowd, should such a need ever arise. One of the design features was that in front of each check-in desk was a long winding line painted on the floor, winding back over itself until eventually it reached a small free-standing sign that said ‘Enter Here.’

You can imagine the purpose of such a thing, when there’s a large crowd. It would direct the queue of people into some order, allowing them to file towards the desk in a structured fashion. From the looks of the place it didn’t seem like it was frequently used.

When I came in, one other person entered the cavernous lobby with me, headed for a different airline. And I watched with dawning horror as she first went to the ‘Enter Here’ sign, and then walked the entire path of the line. Carrying a suitcase! It must have been something like eight times the distance than just walking in a straight line to the desk.

I looked towards the desk for my airline, and there was a similar line painted on the floor. But, since I was the only other person in the lobby and also not completely insane, I just walked up to the desk. It took about ten seconds. I think by the time I was done checking in the other lady had finally made it to her desk.

There are lots and lots of painted lines in the world. There are surprisingly few walls. Sometimes we think there are a lot of walls, but that’s just because we’re mistaking the painted lines for impenetrable barriers. They’re not.

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