There’s nothing like jumping a queue to get Canadians riled up. I live in a nation that prides itself on equality and social justice and which is also renowned for its patience and good manners. Right now everyone is frothing at the mouth about stories in the press about famous and influential people being immunized against H1N1 ahead of everyone else.
I can’t help thinking it’s a good job all those outraged citizens don’t live in Baku, Cairo or Dubai. One thing that I have learned from living in other countries is that most people in the world don’t queue. Or as a friend once put it, they do queue but horizontally, ie shoulder to shoulder, side by side at the counter, instead of the orderly line we expect.
I remember the first time I entered my local post office in Cairo. It was a scene of total chaos, crowds of people at every teller’s window, and in the middle of the room, sitting on benches, a few hapless souls who had given up all hope of ever being served. Unable to able to read any of the signs, I proffered my airmail envelope to the guard by the door and shrugged my shoulders in the universally understood question “What do I do?” He waved me to a scrum of people in the corner.
I bravely shouldered my way into the middle of the group, and soon found myself completely wedged, unable to move in any direction and at 5’3” almost completely invisible. But after what seemed like an age a knight in shining armour came to my rescue, in the form of a tall, elderly man standing behind me. With a firm shove he propelled me forward a foot or two, while at the same time shouting over the heads of the crowd to the teller and pointing down at my head. I don’t know what he said, but the meaning was clear “Hey, serve this poor foreign woman next!”
A brief pantomime at the teller’s window, involving her punching numbers on a calculator and me proffering the contents of my wallet and I was out of there. There was only time for a smile and a quick “shukran” to the chivalrous gentleman, now pinned against the counter himself.
I can’t say I have ever mastered the art of queuing horizontally, despite now having had many years of experience. My British/ Canadian heritage is just too strong. It’s like haggling, something else I’m completely hopeless at. But that’s the subject of another post . . .