12 August 2008

Right on queue

The world is overpopulated – and how I would like to deal with it, is to give up all the people ahead of me in the queue for medical experiments. Starting now.

The world is overpopulated – and how I would like to deal with it, is to give up all the people ahead of me in the queue for medical experiments. Starting now.

Queueing is a supposedly civilised relic from the British Empire. You need only visit the East, or vie for a place at a museum in Italy with 40 Japanese tourists, to realise that the idea never really caught on internationally. I wonder why.

In most countries of the world, the pushing-shoving-elbow-and walking-stick method is preferred to get you to the front of the queue. If you are elderly, or infirm, or simply small, buying stamps could be an exercise that could land you in the ICU.

Queue here for misery
You know the feeling. You run into the post office on the way to your doctor’s appointment. All you want is a booklet of stamps. As you join the queue, one of the clerks whips down a tatty little green curtain and puts a sign out front that says: Please use next teller. It is lunchtime, after all. Now we’re down to one. So what if that’s the busiest time of the day?

The four people ahead of you each requires the type of attention that warrants calling the manager: a lost post office box key; no I.D., but an urgent document that has to be collected; the checking of address details for a package to Outer Mongolia; two toddlers that have reached the end of their tether before their mother can pay her phone bill.

And at the end of the tether can also be found an overturned rope-thingy that indicates to people who have marshmallows for brains where they should queue. Also to be found here are what you hope is water on the floor and two torn posters advertising post office services. And a mother who looks as if she can be used as is in a contraception advertisement.

Then you get to the front of the queue. Nirvana. Or not quite. The stamps are finished, and so are you. We’ve had trolley rage, road rage, parking lot rage and desk rage. Welcome to the era of queue rage.

Queues are everywhere
But post offices are not the only places with queues: just think of banks, state hospitals, supermarkets, ATMs, parking lot checkout points, customer services help lines. They’re everywhere. And they’re growing at a rate in inverse proportion to your patience and tolerance levels.

Queues can even be found in places that don’t look as if they have any. Restaurants have queues. When was the last time you were seriously miffed because the table in the corner, who placed their order, ten minutes after you did, got their food first? The queue is now in your head, which is even worse.

What’s the solution? Well, short of wiping out everyone in front of you – and there are some motorists who aspire to doing this – not much. You could move to a place with a population of 500, but maybe there won’t even be a post office. Let alone banks and a public hospital. Or you could bribe someone to stand in the queue for you. (Who wants pocket money this week?). Or you could plan things in such a way that you are there at opening time.

Personally, I think people who always manage this need to be sent to the real-life school of personality adjustment. It’s where they give you one.

Or you could phone a help line, or get a prescription for tranquillisers. But here’s the thing: you’ll have to get in line for both of those.

(Susan Erasmus,, January 2007)


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