May 3: the evolution of the queue

The great British queue is evolving. They have always prided themselves on queueing, the British. It has been part of their self-identifying story, like the stiff upper lip and keeping calm and pulling together in difficult times, all stuff that feels increasingly like nonsense and no more than a dossier of propaganda  pulled out of the hat for political purposes every so often. And so it is with queues. But the coronavirus queue reveals new  baroque strands. Outside the supermarket you have the two metre distance queue and the man who lets the gap grow. So that you are standing two metres behind a man watching a TV show on his phone who lets his gap grow to eight metres. This gives rise to anxiety in queue-ers like yoursef. When you turn a corner the strand of the queue could be lost. New people could slip in. You could be lost, become a mere pedestrian and not a queue-er, all that queue-time effaced, eradicated. And, in any case, you look forward to moving up in the queue. The moment you all shuffle forward. It’s one of the highlights of your day. What is this man’s motivation  for letting the gap grow in front of him? Is he oblivious? Is he a queue snob, refusing to recognize the strict regulations of queue culture, a queue libertarian? Is queueing beneath him? Does he see himself above the queue? He is like a car in a traffic jam that refuses to push along when the traffic creeps forward. What’s the rush? you might say. The traffic jam isn’t going anywhere. But no, there are streets that feed into the traffic jam and cars that insinuate themselves into the line and so take your place. Leaving a gap in a queue is never a harmess venture. When you vaunt your relaxation and casualness, your anti-queuenesss, what happens is that others pay.

One thought on “May 3: the evolution of the queue

  1. Yes but then … inside the supermarket the queue evaporates as if it had never been. Darting, ramming, sliding by, feigned blindness, all these techniques serve to mock negate or transcend – depending on your point of view – the reason why this obsessive exterior queue pattern had been established. Inside the supermarket we are once more our true selves – the id resurfaces.

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