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There's something about the rules of standing in line that I swear everyone seems to know except me.

Well, as an empirical matter I can say that in a roomful of lines (e.g. a college cafeteria at lunchtime, or international passport control), the lines that move the fastest are almost always along the wall. I don't know why this happens, but I generally get ahead by taking a few seconds to locate the walls of the room and observe what is happening there.

Another good rule is to avoid any lines that contain families with small children.

In motor vehicle divisions and airport check-in lines, it pays to study very carefully the signs on each line. I never want to repeat the experience of waiting for 40 minutes in the wrong line in the Lima (Peru) airport at 4am.

In some foreign countries, there are no lines -- just scrums. You have to be able to recognize this when it occurs, and change your behavior accordingly. Trying to be polite in a scrum will get you nowhere fast.

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