Queuing, British Customs
An opportunity for some existentialist navel gazing, standing in a patient, orderly queue in the Post Office is a rite of passage for all Britons. But quite why we Brits are so talented at queueing is a bit of a mystery, a phenomenon hardwired into the British psyche and one national trait which will never die despite the gradual erosion of etiquette. While the ecumenical religion of good manners, inherited from the Victorian era and sustained to the present day, has lost some of its flock, it must be the fair minded egalitarianism of good manners that visits such perfectly observed queues to banks and supermarkets alike. Common courtesy: the basis of all society, the foundation for all good queues. Football is Britain’s national sport, yet, on the world stage, it is standing in line, waiting our turn that we most excel at. There can be few incitements to ire than the queue-jumper. If ever there was a a social pariah, a ne’er-do-well, it is the queue-jumper. While on the Continent skipping a queue is a meritorious act, the right of the individual, in Britain it is a heretical provocation, punishable in the fire of an angry gaze, doused in the indignation of all those who waited patiently gripping their car license renewal forms and wondering if they’ll have the time to get a sandwich as their lunch break evaporates before their very eyes. And therein lies the fraught internal that threads itself through the stoic lines of those waiting their turn: no-one likes queueing, it’s one of the most enervating trials of life. The ennui drains the colour from the cheeks. Your skins turns dry. The clock stops. And, most pointedly, the queue next to you will always go in quicker than yours. Then there’s the physicality of the department store’s Christmas shopping queue, where elbows sharpened like a stag’s antlers pierce into your sides as the desperate jostling commences and the season’s jollity draws in its cheeks in exasperation. So where can solace be found in queueing? In today’s stratified and distant society, it doesn’t bring us all together. Although we all share in it, there’s little of the Dunkirk spirit. Boiled sweets – the staple of the traffic jam – and a newspaper are but two crutches on which to lean your weary soul upon. The iPod? Just another source of torment for those stuck behind a gum-chewing teenager burrowing through their inner ear with Girls Aloud. No. We British have to dig deep within ourselves and will it over. Eleven months of rain, poor public transport and observance of the natural order of queues from an early age: we British were born to queue. We are the Olympians of queuing. If ever there was a stick-on podium finish at London 2012...
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