I HAVE just returned from a couple of weeks of standing in lines, aka queuing up, and I have no complaints to make.
There were times when I stood in a queue to be let into a restaurant even though I could clearly see empty tables in front of me; then when I chose to take a break during the meal I’d find myself in a queue to get into the washrooms where I learned not to be surprised to find even three queues – one for the urinals, the other for the cubicles, and a third for the wash basins (aka sink).
My event was the type for which we were allocated shuttle buses, so we got to queue up for these as well, while other people queued up for taxis.
Regardless of how busy one was, the queue was always in effect and formed so naturally that I was astounded to see fellows queuing up to witness some drama. A suspect had been apprehended outside the convention centre we were at and as the police went through their protocols of placing him under arrest, we gathered in a small group (those who were idle enough) to witness events.
I didn’t understand how I found myself right at the front of the small crowd at some point, but thought that some people had had their fill and moved on, and just as I contemplated doing so someone nudged me a little bit.
Afraid it was a pickpocket – a rarity in the city I was in – I turned back quickly only to find that an orderly array of people was neatly arranged behind me waiting their turn to view the drama ahead!
The possibility was too much to contemplate, and I had to ask, “Is this a queue?!”
Laughter ensued because normally this question was politely spoken when one arrived at a fast food counter or entrance to something or the other, and the words then were, “Is this the queue?”
Later on I realised that they might have thought that to be a taxi line but still, the fact is that they are mentally configured to fall in line and be orderly.
Being the type of person who craves the type of orderliness that we see in societies that queue, I enjoyed this aspect of my trip thoroughly the entire time.
The reality of change began to hit me when we got to Dubai and, still in a queue, witnessed a fellow breaking ranks with his suitcase to get it into the airport shuttle ahead of many people who had arrived before him. The indignation was silent but profound, and the shuttle operator calmly but firmly pointed him back to his place in the line.
We all breathed normally after that and went on doing so till we got to Entebbe Airport. Right there at the arrivals, before we had even processed ourselves into the country, some fellow tried to squeeze past me on the right just after I had compromised mentally with myself and agreed not to raise complaint about the family that had squeezed past us on the left.
“Yes?” I asked the chap, as I moved to block him even more, while a
police person observed with a bored look.
“Let me pass?” he said, not even bothering to add any justification to gain my sympathy – no faked heart attack, no wife in labour, no burial to get to, not even a cramped leg from the flight. He was just trying to jump the queue, such as it was.
“No! Let’s go together. Get in line like everybody else!” I said, firmly.
Only to look around me and realise that we were a crowd of people trying desperately to get ahead of one another before we got to that point where we “had to” queue. The actual queue only formed where there were cordon straps indicating where orderliness was expected.
Anywhere outside of that is a free-for-all.