This year we visited the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta. Malta used to have an efficient local bus service which was subjected to privatisation and the whole thing turned belly-up. The service bombed and suddenly the orderly process of getting a seat on a bus became a competitive mad scramble.
This has made me think about the whole issue of good manners in a queue or a line.
A couple of years ago or so I went to an all-inclusive holiday resort in Turkey where you really did need sharp elbows! At meal times the crowd started to gather around the locked doors in something reminiscent of the waiting period before the start of a European Cup Final or the US Super Bowl. As the tension mounted they began snorting and stamping like impatient bulls waiting to be released into the ring, agitating like ancient warriors preparing for a deadly battle and arranging themselves like combatants in a French bus queue.
Five minutes to go and the tattooed ones start to perform a HAKA and terrified men behind the doors suddenly opened the locks and ran for their lives as a tsunami of greed was released. The whole thing was rather like the first set scrum of a British Lions/New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Test Match, muscles bulging, eyes popping, sweat dripping, elbows flying and fingers gouging and this, let me tell you was only the women!
The majority of the hotel guests were from the UK but there were also quite a lot of people from Russia and Scandinavia and from most other countries in Europe and the nationalities all behave differently when lining up (or not, as the case may be). Russians and Ukrainians especially don’t like standing in line but I was at an advantage here because I had been to Russia only a year before so I knew not to hang back when these people are around and I sharpened my elbows and got straight in!
If pushing in was an Olympic sport then Eastern Europeans would be picking up a lot of medals especially if there was a category for barging in because this would require no finesse at all and would be based on simple brute strength as they muscle their way to the front of the line. Italians would do well in the stealth category because they can slip in with the speed of a stiletto knife and I’d back the Greeks in the opportunistic category because they can slide into a space as thin as a cigarette paper almost as though they had been beamed down from outer space.
Sadly for all of them however they would be destined to be like a British tennis players and they would only ever be left fighting for second place because they would never be able to beat the undisputed champions of pushing-in – the French. The French don’t believe in distraction or sneaky moves they just move right on in ahead of anyone as though you are holding a door open for them and then look you straight in the eye with a Gallic sneer that says, “I am French and it is my God given right to push in”.
They really believe this and with the advantage of this being hard-wired into their national psyche they would win over and over again and would be especially good in the being completely rude category. You would need a police road block to keep your place in a French queue.
Along with the UK, other countries that would not do so well in the games would be the Americans and the Germans who both display exemplary discipline in line but absolutely the worst at this would be the Swiss who I can guarantee would come last every time.
In a French queue, if I am challenged about pushing in my plan is simple, I give an arrogant Gallic shrug, say something like “Bonjour Monsieur, Allez Oop, Vive Jeanne d’Arc, Vive Charles de Gaulle, Merci Beaucoup” and give a contemptuous sneer as I asserted a natural French divine right to barge in.
So, how do you do it and who gets your vote for best at pushing in?