A peculiarly British fetish? Queueing

It sometimes gets back to us Brits that the rest of the world say we are the nation who loves to queue. Of course, there are other things they say which get back to us too, but I don’t want to talk about Eurovision or the World Cup today. Or ever.

The queueing thing – It’s actually not true. We hate queueing as much as the next man, but the next man in the queue prefers lining up and waiting, as do I, over total anarchy, rudeness and selfishness. Queueing has become something we’re most good at and something that has its own set of very strict rules and gripes

The first rule of queue club is… Do not push in

The Ninja Pisser

Simple huh? Well, actually not so much. There are rare occasions when it is okay to push in. Imagine a day out at a theme park (we do some truly depressing theme parks here in the UK, so imagine one of those, only it’s actually sunny for a change). A family are wandering around, ambling from ride to ‘area where a disgruntled and sweaty eighteen year old wears a bear costume’. One of the children, we’ll call her Felicity howls that she needs to go for a wee, while the other, we’ll call him Bernard, screams that he wants an ice-cream. Mum and Dad look at each other, the effects of having had no sleep for (counts on fingers) six years showing in every concentrated line of their once-carefree faces.

They know that both the children should visit the toilet, because Bernard has a habit of peeing his pants ninja style and then walking around pulling the crotch of his soggy trousers away from his clammy little body. He wails again “Eyescreeeeem”. Mum decides to take the children to the toilet while Dad joins the hour long line for the solitary ice cream stand. When Mum has finally found a toilet and she and both the children have done their business, they go back to join Dad in the queue for the ice cream.

That is acceptable pushing in. A placeholder person, in this instance, is an acceptable solution and most people in the queue actually prefer this over spending ALL the time queueing with the children being upset at waiting so long.

The Bitch is back

nightclub queue

However, a placeholder person is not always acceptable to the masses. Imagine this…

Angelica and her friends are out on a girls night. They have been to various pubs and ‘disco bars’ as all the young people call them and would like to finish the evening in a new nightclub that has just opened near the Gala Bingo. They roll up outside the club and find a queue around the block. A few of the girls want to get something to eat from the classy chicken shop (which closes at 11) and a few others need a wee (we’re poor at holding it in here, it’s the chill). They leave one girl – Amy – as a placeholder in the queue and make haste to get greasy at the chicken shop or empty their bladders and touch up their make up at a nearby pub.

As an aside, Amy is not best pleased by this arrangement. She would have quite liked some chicken too. She feels put upon, like it’s always her that ends up with the shitty jobs in this group. She recalls a time last year when they were going into town and there would be no bus back at the time they wanted to leave and so she had been railroaded into driving. She’d been painfully aware all night of how sober she was and how she had chosen to hang around with a group of complete dicks.

But anyway! The rest of the group return to Amy in high spirits and inveigle their way into the queue with shrieks, giggles and some dirty looks at the girls queueing behind them.

This is not socially acceptable. It happens, sure, but can lead to one of the girls behind them dumping her can of special brew over Angelica’s overly-coiffed head (Amy wasn’t displeased but kept quiet about it).

The Sainsbury’s Shuffle

Not Bernard and Felicity, but some other unsatisfied supermarket customers
Not Bernard and Felicity, but some other disssatisfied supermarket customers

Of course, supermarkets provide the ideal environment for a ruccus about queueing. We have all manner of queuing faux pas in supermarkets – and not all of them are the fault of the customers’.

You’re in a queue from hell at the supermarket. You choose the shortest looking line, only to find that the person in front of you is 110, talks a lot and seems to be feeding the 5000 this week. She’s painfully slow at loading her things onto the conveyor belt and you offer to help, but she seems affronted by the suggestion. In turn, she’s being held up by the Mum from the first example who is out shopping with Felicity and Bernard. Bernard has already ninja-pissed himself in the trolley and Felicity has grabbed a handful of chocolate bars from the display at the checkout, only to have them ripped from her tiny, hopeful hand and stuffed back onto the shelf by her Mother. Felicity is now howling and prostrate on the floor, Bernard is silently dripping from the trolley seat and smiling to himself, and the old lady keeps talking to Mum about the children, rather than stacking her own things.

You glance behind you and see a surly-faced young woman with too much make-up on – Angelica! She smells of beer (perhaps it’s her shampoo?) but looks like she can smell something worse and utters a loud ‘TUH!’ at regular intervals to express how much she wishes to be elsewhere.

Suddenly a cry goes out!  “Wanna come over ‘ere?”.

An extra till is opening just beside this queue. You look around wildly, trying to move backwards to get into the queue, but no, Angelica is too quick for you and she and the rest of the queue – as if they are on the popular primetime TV show ‘Dancing on Ice’ – slide effortlessly across to the new, clear till and its shiny conveyor belt.

You’re left alone. The last survivor of some horrible supermarket based disaster movie, hanging on to the iceberg of hope at the till of despair. You’re filled with a rage so complete, you’d like to take out a machete and kill each and every person in the queue next door before beginning on the old lady and the crazy family. You look at Felicity with new respect as she flails and screams, tiny droplets of Bernard’s pee dripping from his foot to join her on the floor. You feel like joining her. In fact, you may do just that, right now.

You hurl yourself onto the floor, kicking and screaming, revelling in the freedom of physically demonstrating your rage with complete abandonment. The little display shelves of chocolate at just the right height for children comes crashing down and your tantrum is decorated by the multicoloured packets of Mars, Twix, Bounty, Maltesers and Kinder.

This feels great!

Then you are lifted to your feet by two security guards who take you ‘somewhere quiet’ and you realise, all too late, that what you did is not normal, not acceptable, not polite and that you will, most probably, be put into the mental ward of a local hospital for observation.

Of course, we know that really, you are the only sane one, but will they believe that? No, they will not.

This is why queueing is important. Done properly it retains sanity and treated with respect it ensure we do not let our most base instincts out to play.

Next time you are in a queue, imagining the mutilated bodies of those jostling, rude people scattered across the floor, remember you can achieve Zen simply by acknowledging something to yourself: You are the only sane person in the whole world. Repeat until it is true.

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