a queue must start in the mind


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

Queue
A frantic queue formed and active somewhere. Photo from http://www3.pictures.gi.zimbio.com/

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.

wishing you all tolerance, toleration & tolerability in 2015


I’M making one small amendment in my season’s greetings this year, and wishing you all Tolerance, Toleration and Tolerability in the New Year ahead.

Tolerance not in the sense that allows for the compromise that is to blame for so much of the mediocrity that some of us suffer in our part of the world, but in the real sense of the word in everything we do or are involved in – from discussing politics to manoeuvring through traffic or busy shopping centres.

This is not to be confused with beating around the bush and being generally lackadaisical, ineffective and ineffectual, as some former Mayor (who shall remain unnamed) took the word itself to mean when he said something like, “I am straight to the point. I don’t go ‘tolerating’ around when I want something…” in response to an interview question about his amazing success with members of the opposite sex.

Unlike the toleration I am wishing upon the entire country, okwetoloola, in Luganda, is to go round and round or chase one’s tail the way an idle dog tends to do when lacking useful entertainment or application, is a big problem – both in private and public offices. This is evidenced by the number of gripes and complaints you and I have about our various service providers or crucial government officers in charge of the desk we approach for assistance

The former Mayor who confused toleration with toloolation actually hit on a serious problem that needs addressing, but that’s not the one I am focussing on in my season’s greetings.

Tolerance, Toleration & Tolerability.

Tolerance, we should have; Toleration, we should generally exhibit; Tolerability (not really a proper word), we should provide.

This last week in particular gave us some tolerance training by presenting short-fuse situations such as massive traffic jams even within four-car parking lots, angry shoppers scrambling to scoop up last remaining singular items before setting off for the village, and irascible shopping attendants whose usual irritability was being stampeded by these hordes of early-salary-must-leave-town-soon shoppers.

All of us had the opportunity to put our tolerance to the test in these situations, as people behind us in the stationary traffic hooted inexplicably even though hundreds of cars in front of you were as immobile as yourself, and those polite enough to join the supermarket queue rather than jump it kept muttering, “Msstw…” as a form of verbal hooting to make you move along faster.

Heading out of town for the Christmas break, we were provided with even more chances to test our tolerance levels as we sped down the narrow highways with just inches of space between cars; or even watching those cars in front of us continually drop empty plastic bottles and snack remnants out of the window onto the road as they trundled along to litter the village.

Even at the privacy of our computers, the word privacy being mocked here since the first thing most of us do is log on to platforms like Facebook and Twitter, we have had more and more practice for tolerance, toleration and tolerability.

Especially in recent days when politics loomed large as a topic for discussion, which discussions escalate quite quickly into angry shouting matches decorated by lively insults like shopping mall Christmas trees carry baubles and tinsel.

Considering that next year we will be going deeper into the heart of politics with electioneering, I fear that without tolerance, toleration and tolerability there will be cases of computers being physically thrown at people during online political discussions, and maybe worse.

So as we use this week of holidaying to spend time away from traffic jams, from the office, from ineffective service providers, from having to fill out forms with little hope of resultant action, may 2015 bring with it Tolerance, Toleration and Tolerability.