Why We Hate It
I've written before about why just being in a car tends to turn people into angry assholes. But why the hell does this over-the-limit creep happen in the first place? It's because many states have an official or unofficial "above the speed limit" tolerance, below which cops usually won't bother pulling you over, let alone ticketing you. The tolerance is there to account for measurement errors or speedometer miscalibration, but of course the upper limit of this tolerance often turns into the default speed limit for everyone on the road. If you've spent the last few years interpreting a 70 mph limit to mean 74, the driver in front of you chugging along at 70 seems to be driving unreasonably slowly just to annoy you.
"At least I have an unobstructed view of their humorous stick-figure windshield sticker."
Slow People in Supermarket Lines
Say you're in the supermarket, ready to check out your chosen purchases: a cat leash, a home waxing kit, and a pair of reinforced Kevlar gloves. You pick what looks like the shortest line. After all, the man in front has had all his purchases scanned already, and it looks like he's about to finish up!
Soon, you little bastard.
Then that man reaches into his pocket and pulls out a wad of coupons. Half of them expired in 2009, so he argues about it with the store clerk. The clerk calls her manager. All the people who started waiting at the same time as you in different lines have already left the store and gone home to their families. The other lanes are empty. The store is closing. But you've already unpacked your waxing strips onto the conveyor belt, so you must stand there as the person in front argues about paying for his bananas in Canadian pennies.
Here's the thing. Half of the time when we're seething in rage over the slow person in front of us in a supermarket line, we're not even in any particular hurry. And in any other situation, we'd have sympathy for a person who is so hard up that they need to use coupons to buy food. If you met Coupon Guy outside of a supermarket and he told you that a guy was glaring at him just because he wanted to save money so that he could feed his family better, you'd think, "God, that guy sounds like an asshole." This new perspective would last exactly until the next time you were in line behind a couponer, when you'd start cursing under your breath and making obscene hand gestures.
Why We Hate It
There's a reason slow supermarket lines are a special kind of hell. It's because of the human obsession with fairness, otherwise known as "the need to see others getting screwed over just as much as we are." Humans don't like waiting in line, but we hate it when someone who started waiting after us gets to go first. And that's exactly what happens when our supermarket line is held up by Mr. Guy Who Pays for Everything With Checks and Didn't Bring His Driver License.
"Yes, I know I have all the vegetables. You're going to have to go ahead and start the orgy without me anyway."
This unavoidable fairness-rage is why some businesses, especially banks, have now switched to a queuing system called a single serpentine line, in which everyone waits in one long queue that opens up to multiple tellers or cashiers at the end. Sure, Coupons McGee at the front of the line might still technically be slowing you down, but at least it isn't so damn personal.
C. Coville has a Twitter here and a Tumblr here, and you should visit them if you're a good person.