When it comes to waiting in line, the best ground rules are those taught in kindergarten: no cuts, no loud talking and no shoving.

When it comes to waiting in line, the best ground rules are those taught in kindergarten: no cuts, no loud talking and no shoving.

Even the most devoted cybershopper or mail-order catalog enthusiast is going to encounter at least one long, seemingly unmoving line this holiday season. Although few find them fun, there are ways to make the experience more bearable for yourself and for your line neighbors.

No cuts. That includes what Anna Post calls the “bait-and-switch,” when someone with only a few items joins a line, only to be joined by a partner with a full shopping cart.

“If you forgot your oranges, then of course your spouse can run and get them,” said Post, author and spokesperson for The Emily Post Institute and great-great-granddaughter of the etiquette maven. “But if you have a pie tin and then your spouse walks up with a lot of items, that’s not fair. The people behind you probably would have chosen another line if they’d seen you coming.”

Brooke Gabbert, spokesperson for Six Flags Great America, said the theme park takes “line jumpers” very seriously. The offense is a quick way to get tossed from the grounds.

“People get really, really mad about jumping in line,” she said. “Tensions are already high, so we try to avoid those potentially explosive situations.”

Gabbert said the park is considering a system in which line jumpers could be reported to the park via a text message, but crowd justice usually does the trick.

“They’re not shy about it. They’ll point people out (who cut),” she said.

Get off the phone. Yes, this means you.

“Don’t yap,” Post said. “People are stuck next to you. You’re all in this together, and they don’t have a choice in the matter. They need to be in line, too. It grates on everyone’s nerves very quickly.”

Quick calls to family members are OK, Post said, but avoid the long chats.

“They don’t need to know about your sister’s divorce,” she said.

If you are on the phone, hang up when you get to the cash register, Post said.

“The checkout person is a person. Be respectful of that and get off the phone,” she said.

Quit complaining. Talking about how much you hate waiting isn’t going to make it any better.

“There’s nothing more annoying than standing there and having a conversation about how long the line is,” Gabbert said. She said Six Flags discourages people from using cell phones while in line.

“We’re all going to run into long lines. We’re all not going to like it, and we all have to sit through them,” Post said. “Complaining, rolling your eyes, making it known how ridiculous you think this is — I’m sorry, but do you think you’re any better than anyone else?”

Be neighborly. That includes saving a spot in line for a few minutes and not doing things like smoking or hollering while waiting for a store to open up.

Post recommends agreeing to hold someone’s spot if you’re waiting in a line, especially one that’s outside, for a few minutes. But don’t feel obliged to protect it with deadly force.

“You’re within your rights to say ‘If the line moves, I’m moving, and I can’t promise I can save it,’” she said. “We’ve all found ourselves in a spot where we’ve been in line and we have to use the restroom.”

Six Flags prohibits the practice, however, and considers it line jumping.

“Anytime you leave the line, you can’t return in front of other people,” Gabbert said. “If you went to get a soda pop and came back, technically you’d be violating the policy. It’s probably tolerable if it’s one person running to the bathroom, but if you’re one person in line and six people walk up and join you, that’s not going to work.”

Don’t confront rudeness. You never know what could happen, Post said.

“Chances are people may talk back, and you’ll get into an argument that’s far worse than waiting in line,” she said. “Pick your battles.”

If someone violates line etiquette, you’ll get a better response with a smile and a soft tone, she said.

“The tone of voice will carry the day here,” she said. “If you are nice and sympathetic to the person, chances are they’ll say they’re sorry. If you say ‘Do you mind?’ with that strident inflection, they may say ‘No, not at all’ and cut in front of you.”

Even worse, you could find yourself on the receiving end of a fist.

“You don’t know what you’re going to get. If they’re already riled up, you could set them off,” she said.

If you’re tempted to throw the first punch, don’t. It’s a likely trip to jail, and at the very least a trip to the curb.

“We don’t tolerate any sort of fighting. It would be totally self-defeating,” Gabbert said.

Sean F. Driscoll at (815) 987-1346 or sdriscoll@rrstar.com.