Not much is more English than queuing. We are the best in the world at self-organising into an orderly line without being corralled like rowdy cattle. Or at least we were. We used to take offence, in a chorus of disapproving murmurs if someone just ignored a queue, or barged in. We instinctively know that, for example, outside the bank I use if someone’s already at the cash point the queue will extend along the wall of the building, not across the pavement and into the pedestrian area.
In the past I’ve even been barged aside in a supermarket by two women who were desperate to get to a newly opened checkout lane. Usually when I’m in a queue and a till is opened I will usually suggest to the person in front of me that they go to it before me, as they were there before me but not many people do now. I was once in the barber’s shop and another man walked in and sat down. A customer paid for his haircut and left, the hairdresser said “who’s next please” and the man, who I can only assume was related to Usain Bolt, shot from his seat and into the chair before I had even had the chance to say “where the feck are you going, I’m next”. Being English I, of course, harrumphed, wished bad karma on him and waited for the next chair.
I’ll admit that most of us still have our instinctive ability to line up, many even offer to bump you up the line ahead of them if you only have a mars bar and box of tea in the supermarket and these people are to be blessed and cherished but…
During the time of Covid and social distancing I’ve noticed that people’s inability to see queues has increased, and others have reported the same. You’ll be queuing at the end of an aisle as required, then someone will walk past with a basket or trolley and march straight up to the checkout having seen that you’re standing there and not so much as wondered what you were doing – “yes, I just loiter next to the discount freezer for the fun of it, you meet such interesting people, such as the TEN PEOPLE WITH BASKETS BEHIND ME”.
Even in a virtual queue few people are willing to wait, most think they’re more important, that their job should be done before everyone else’s, their food should come first, “but I’ve paid for it” they whine, but so has everyone else, and all before you.