My grandma was waiting in line at a fast food counter at a New York airport, and before her were some teenagers. Then some uniformed officer ignored her and the teenagers, jumped the line and walked right up to the counter. My grandma's not sure if he were a Customs and Border Protection Officer. As the teenagers didn't say anything, my grandma spoke up, and this dialogue happened:

Grandma: Excuse me, sorry. I think we were here first?
Officer: I have a job to do, and I need to get back to it. But I'll be quick.
She: I don't mean to be rude. But going ahead of others doesn't feel fair.
Officer: Well I have enhanced constitutional powers. And you shouldn't obstruct officers of the law.

The officer then finished ordering, and left. My grandma stood there, fuming, but she said nothing else to avoid further hassle. But what could she have done better? What could she have said that would convince this officer to line up?

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    I don't think this question is on topic here, as it has nothing to do with travel. Perhaps you could try it on Interpersonal SE? interpersonal.stackexchange.com – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jun 13 '18 at 21:14
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    This could have happened anywhere; the fact that it happened at an airport is incidental to it. Your grandma already did what any person might have done, but when it comes down to it, cutting in line is not against any law or regulation, travel-related or otherwise, just against the customs of polite society. Since they were identifiable in a uniform, the best she could have done is report the offenders to their employer. – choster Jun 13 '18 at 21:41
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it has nothing to do with travel. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jun 13 '18 at 22:20
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    The officer's response was inappropriate, but I don't think expedited service for on-duty (but on-break) personnel is unreasonable. – Andrew Lazarus Jun 13 '18 at 23:30
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo: They already did. – Wrzlprmft Jun 23 '18 at 13:18

Airline contractor here. We've been told that if you're operational staff, you'll be given preference on the staff shuttles, and indeed at the security check.

I've often seen lines just for operational staff, but failing that, security would be used to staff jumping the line. It's just what happens - nobody wants flights delayed.

However for non-critical events (getting burgers at lunch) there's no preference given to us (although we can sometimes get discounts with our badges), although certainly a restaurant could choose to serve officers / staff in advance.

"Enhanced constitutional powers" though? I think not.

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    Indeed. Sounds more like a case of asshole with a badge. – user67108 Jun 14 '18 at 1:11

I think your grandmother may not be seeing the whole picture.

Right off the bat, the officer may have phoned the order in and is simply picking up. Perhaps this is a thing your grandmother is not familiar with.

Or good chance what happened is that the officer was squeezed for time, either because of mismanagement at his duty station or an unusual security incident took precedence over his lunch break. And that may be partly his conscious choice to place public service first. That is his chosen profession, after all.

So now, he's on a shortened lunch break or worse, trying to squeeze a late lunch into a 15 minute smoke break. From his POV, no knowing citizen would spite him 30 seconds in line if they knew of his completely lost lunch hour, and would feel bad for the shambles of a lunch break he is actually getting. But of course he doesn't have time to explain all that.

Conversely, your grandmother has a narrative of her own: that of authority figures abusing their power. The facts at hand fit like a glove into that narrative; she imagines the 5 minutes he should've spent in line will now be spent goofing off or whatever authority figures do when they're not humiliating citizens needlessly. She may not be correct. She may not care. This version of the truth lets her reinforce her preconceived notions, and there's a sense of security in that. And there's not a word the officer could've said to her that would've changed her narrative, and he knows that from his experience working around people.

Keep in mind, too, that the restaurant is choosing to serve him out of line. Can't blame that on authority; the officer doesn't have much power to harass the restaurant staff; they're supposed to be there and they probably control the security cameras. Now if someone came into my establishment and took cuts in front of customers without my permission, they wouldn't get served. Conclusion: The restaurant endorses expediting service to airport staff, and for good reasons to which your grandmother is not privy.

This seems to have completely escaped your grandmother's logic; she had every right to say "Harumph, I won't do business with you, complicit restauranteur, I'll go across the aisle to someone else!" At the least she could've asked for the manager and asked "Excuse me, why did you serve him out of line?" and listen patiently and without prejudice for a reasonable answer. She might've gotten one.

Honestly the restauranteur may be well aware of the situation and time demands on airport staff, and made that policy as a concession to their reality. Consider too that staff are regular customers in a way none but the busiest business traveler will ever be. At the end of the day, the restaurant belongs to the owner and he must do what's right for the restaurant. The customer is always right, but two customers at odds can't both be right.

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    Unless there's an actual emergency involved (or, say, the job he had to do was conducting a health inspection of the restaurant), the officer's behavior is flatly unethical. It's not a matter of narratives. Lots of people in airports are busy, and being busy is not an excuse for abusing a government position. If his lunch break has become a shambles because of his job, that's a matter for his union rep. – Zach Lipton Jun 14 '18 at 0:00
  • @ZachLipton If it was my restaurant and I objected to a line-cutter, They Don't Get Served PERIOD. Note that did not happen. The restauranteur endorses the idea. I added content to go deeper into that. The verbiage of the cop's answer is meaningless especially filtered through grandma's recall; she was throwing shade, she got shade back. I think you are being very callous toward the job of a security officer. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jun 14 '18 at 0:28
  • To note again, it's very possible the concessions invite uniformed officers directly to the counter. In such cases, the employee should simple state this as a fact. This is really no different than airport employees walking directly to the mag in the TSA area. – Johns-305 Jun 14 '18 at 0:32
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    @Harper If it's your restaurant, you can make whatever policies you want, consistent with the law, and it's up to you, not your customers, to explain them. You are right that I'm being callous toward someone who abused their position and purportedly cited legal authority to do so. Claiming that she obstructed him is, in the US, directly accusing her of a crime and cause for arrest. Many police agencies have ethics policies that would even prevent accepting a free cup of coffee, but you believe it's acceptable for the police to effectively threaten to arrest someone for not letting them cut? – Zach Lipton Jun 14 '18 at 0:57
  • @ZachLipton The cop should not have said what grandmother says he said. I'll give you that. But the provenance of that statement is simply too shaky for the outrage you are determined to express, downvote and all. Like the grandma, you hear what you wanna, because you'd rather bask in moral outrage. I also see any cop's genuine statement as having zero worth since they lie to the public routinely, and frankly the public are liars too, nevermind this game of telephone. Ergo I hear no accusation of crime, just trash talk of no consequence. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jun 14 '18 at 1:16

There is nothing that she could have said that would necessarily have convinced this officer to line up. The officer has a gun, power of arrest, and spends all day at the airport and/or court. (Look out for retaliatory arrest.)

She could have asked this officer for name, badge number, and employing agency. Then she could write a strongly worded letter of complaint to the employing agency. They will probably circle file it.

We are having trouble getting police officers to stop killing innocent black people and your grandmother really thinks she can get them to stop cutting in line?

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