SparkNotes Blog

Auntie SparkNotes: I Cut You In Line So Bad

Our technique for line-cutters: hiss “no frontsies, no backsies” while brandishing our miniature Swiss Army scissors. Works like a charm! —Sparkitors

Dear Auntie Sparknotes,
Hi. I have a problem with people cutting in the lunch line. Specifically teachers cutting in line, but really, anyone who cuts in line bugs the heck out of me. Actually, I guess the problem has evolved past line-cutting, because I figured the answer to that was to politely ask people not to. That is, until the Psychotic Psychology Teacher started cutting in line. I said I understood she was a teacher but asked her, immensely politely because she is known for her temper tantrums, to please not cut in line. To which she responded with a glare of death, grabbed her food, and stomped off without another word. I was later called in to the Dean of Students’ office (who is so nice) where she was waiting, and she yelled at me for ‘disrespecting a teacher’ and ‘causing her to not be able to discipline students’. When she left the Dean of Students said he agreed with me, but could do nothing about it, because it wasn’t a written rule that people couldn’t cut in line. He suggested going to the SBG.

So that’s what I did – I went to the SBG and asked them both to make it a rule, but the Principal had to sign on it, and she agreed with Psychotic Psychology Teacher, saying that teachers needed to cut to save time so that they could do important things. The Principal has now made it a rule that teachers are allowed to cut in line and says that she will not even make it a rule that STUDENTS shouldn’t cut in line because it is a ridiculous issue and she doesn’t have enough staff to enforce it. To top it off, friends have told me the Psychology Teacher apparently is spreading rumors of my disrespect USING MY NAME to all her classes in long drawn-out rants. I don’t know what to do. I’m just a student and don’t have any power. It makes me so mad and indignant and I want to go punch someone. I would really just like for students at least to not be allowed to cut, and I am pretty sure teachers shouldn’t be allowed to either. Right?

And no!
And… well, it’s just more complicated than that, so let’s skip the true-or-false segment of this conversation and move on to critical thinking.

First, the obvious: it’s frustrating to have people cut in the lunch line. We all know what a drag it is to be standing there, desperate for a grilled cheese, only to watch a bunch of clods shoulder their way into the queue ahead of you. That’s not fair, and it’s why—even out in the real world—line-cutters get spoken to when they try to budge in ahead of the rest of people who are politely waiting their turn. And I also agree that your psych teacher’s behavior is ridiculous. An adult, no matter how upset she was by your behavior, should muster the energy to act like a grownup and let it go. The fact that she hasn’t is remarkably immature, and the fact that she’s talking about you to other students is seriously inappropriate.

However, you’re right: as a student, you don’t have the power to make this teacher act like an adult. And more to the point, as irritating as her reaction is, I can’t help pointing out that you knew the woman has a reputation for outsize temper tantrums. Which means that you did what you did knowing that it was the equivalent of waving a red flag in front of a bull.

And it also doesn’t help that asking her not to cut in line was… well, wrong.

Yes, it’s true—when it comes to lunch-line etiquette, teachers are exempt from the normal rules of engagement. Think of it this way: when it comes time to queue up for airport security, you have to wait in line, but pilots and flight attendants and the guy who works the counter at Pita Pit are allowed to breeze right through. And teachers are to the student body what pilots are to airport travelers; they’re paid to provide a service, they’re integral to the function of the school, and waiting in line is a waste of time that they could otherwise spend using to help you get to Cleveland without dying. Or, y’know, to learn how to calculate the hypotenuse of a triangle.

So while it’s not appropriate for a teacher to respond to your polite request with a personal vendetta, it’s also not really appropriate for you to make that request in the first place. Teachers aren’t your peers; they’re there to do a job. Letting them skip the lunch line gives them more time to plan your lessons, grade your papers, and generally devote themselves to making sure you learn. And yes, in exchange for all of this, they get the privilege of walking the hallways without a pass, parking in a special employee lot, and eating cafeteria food without having to wait for it. (What a prize, huh?)

That said, if it means that much to you, you’re certainly welcome to politely direct student line-cutters to the rear of the queue. But in the interest of preserving your sanity—and unless you want a reputation for being “that crazy girl who’s always yelling at people”—I strongly, strongly urge you to let it go. At least some of the time. In the scheme of things, it’s just not that big of a deal. And while the Withering Disapproval of Society is a powerful force for keeping line-cutters, road ragers, and other social delinquents in line, making yourself the steward of said disapproval is a great way of ensuring that you go through life feeling constantly aggrieved.

Which, now that I think about it, might explain a lot about why your psychology teacher is the way she is.

How do you handle your local line-cutters? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at You can also check her out on Facebook.