On Queue

I thought I’d share something that just happened.

I went to my local grocery store to pick up a package that had arrived for me in the mail. Arriving at the postal section I found one open register and about fifteen people patiently waiting in a neat queue leading up to it. (Actually I counted them and it was fourteen but exact numbers do tend to sound rather pretentious in a context such as this, am I right?) Taking my place at the back of the queue I slowly but surely made my way towards the front while new people arrived, making sure that the queue remained about the same length at any given time. After about fifteen or so minutes I had reached the position of number three in line to the register when a new customer walked in, asking with a loud and clear voice

‘Isn’t there usually a queue ticket system here?’

to which the clerk, a guy who looked to be in his early twenties, looked up at her and answered

‘Yeah, actually. The dispenser is over there on the wall.’

before turning his attention back to the customer he was currently serving. And well enough, on the wall right by the entrance, partially hidden behind a rack of post cards, was a perfectly functional dispenser of queue tickets. Since the clerk had made it clear enough that he had said all he intended to about the matter the situation was now in the hands of the newly arrived, a fashionably dressed middle aged woman, who was closest to the ticket dispenser. So what did she do? Did she suggest that since there was already a neatly functioning queue in place we should simply take tickets accordingly to retain the order in which we were? Of course not. She just matter-of-factly took the first ticket for herself, happy as can be to skip ahead of everybody to the very front of the line and as she had thereby declared the rules of the situation the queue then simply turned around 180 degrees and went on functioning just as neatly as before, only now it was a queue to the ticket dispenser instead of to the register and the people who had been in the front were now at the back. I myself went from being number three in line to being the second to last and the poor old lady who had been standing ahead of me went from being merely seconds away from being up to having to wait a solid twenty minutes more. Fortunately for myself I don’t really mind waiting in queues unless I got somewhere to be. I just use the time to live out some adventure inside my head or, as in this case, observe the situation and the people around me. (I actually gave my ticket to the old lady and having seen me do it a young woman with a significantly better queue number than me generously did the same, so she thankfully didn’t have to wait all that long after all.) The mood in the room turned rather interesting after that, although people arriving after it happened would hardly have been able to pick up on it. If looks could kill the fashionably dressed woman would have been Julius Caesared on her way up to the register and I have no doubt that quite a few fists were being clenched inside of pockets. Still, it’s nice to see that at least in some situations blatant opportunism is still frowned upon in this day and age.


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