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Chat & Cut

Last month on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David dissected the sly social exercise, the Chat & Cut. Clearly a Machiavellian maneuver in line dynamics, David describes the Chat & Cut as, “feigning familiarity with someone [you] vaguely know for the sole purpose of cutting in line” (Curb, 8/7/11). Whether you are seeking entrance into an Indian Buffet or a Leonard Cohen concert, the Chat & Cut means you can end up in the front of the line while potentially forging a new friendship.

In full disclosure, I come from a frantic family with an allergy to gluten and waiting. From my 5-week premature birth to my parents’ entrance onto various domestic  and international flights, we find innovative ways to bypass lines. As this queue queasiness springs from my short statured maternal lineage, we usually opt for the low road to the front rather than the more perilous Chat & Cut. Even when we fail in our pursuit, it always delivers fodder for sociological and therapeutic analysis.

On Sunday, I had the privilege of witnessing an amateur Chat & Cut performed in broad daylight during Chicago’s What’s Happening!! Outdoor Dance Party & Pig Roast featuring The Windy City Soul Club. The C&C unfolded after my own line-cutting efforts were stymied by the critical gaze of my companions and the soulful sounds emanating from the DJ booth.

A woman wobbled up to me as I was about to receive my smorgasbord and gaped inquisitively at the display.

“I don’t understand–is this where you order your food and drink?”

I replied in the affirmative.

“So you order food here but you also can get drinks? That’s very interesting.”

As I started moving forward and the woman casually tucked into the line behind me, I realized what was happening. Like Larry David, I accused her of a C&C but then encouraged her to stay in line.

I think it is important to recognize these micro social maneuvers. We are quick to discuss those macro manipulations when a president spars with a speaker over speech timing or a company uses a beta label to boost interest and “appeal to digerati”. Yet these high profile maneuvers are often slight adaptations of schoolyard counterparts. A playground quarrel can lead to classroom snub just as a cafeteria may offer Turbo vegetables to appeal to finicky children.

So who knows? Maybe Larry David provides the tools we need to analyze meaty global politics; at minimum, he helps expose a Chat & Cut at a pig roast.



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