Due to an overly-busy life, I forgot to apply for a social security card for my youngest daughter, the baby. She’s 1.5 years and so I thought I probably should just grin and bear it and head over to our local social security office.
PS: Go here if you’re interested in other articles on Queueing Theory.
So, I got the youngest 4 kids ready and we went on an adventure to the social security office. I made sure that I had completed the social security card application at home and brought the necessary proof of identification.
When we got to the social security office, it was crowded. Then, right by the front door was a machine where one could get a ticket. Mine is below:
The ticket I got was K223. I asked one of the people waiting what number was just called and she said K211. Not bad. So, I decided to wait.
Psychology of Queueing
Based on my ticket, I knew that I was 11 people away from getting served. So, I made sure that I was aware and alert of the numbers being called. This tactic in queueing satisfies one of the principles in the Psychology of Queueing; namely,
- Uncertain Waits Seem Longer than Certain Waits
For me, while the time was not certain (I didn’t know how long I’d have to wait), I did know that I was 11 people away. But then something interesting happened. Instead of hearing “K212”, “K213”, I heard “9”, “10”. So, what is going on?
It turns out that “K” was for new social security cards and there was a different ticketing and numbering system for other services, such as social security disability and business licenses.
So, while the ticketing system satisfied one principle in the psychology of queueing, it violated another; namely,
- Unfair Waits Feel Longer than Equitable Waits
To some degree, the two different numbering and ticketing schemes added confusion for me. Eventually, I got used to hearing two different ticketing numbers and after 40 minutes, it was finally our time to be served.