The Silent Power of the Queue

(Manufactured in Britain)

Human beings are like ants. Luckily our Queen doesn’t behave the same way, but stick with the metaphor, it gets better. We scurry around conducting our lives, trying to cram lots of activities into the little time we have until the giant magnifying glass in the sky comes down. We’d like to say we’re more advanced than these small annoying insects; we are the squishers, not the … ‘squishee’s. Metaphor finished. However, although we have evolved far beyond the ice-age anthropoids, here it appears we stop. Our grand march through various ages, adapting and strengthening our race … the embracing of Darwin’s majestic “survival of the fittest” mantra core to the human success. As Britains, we consider ourselves superior to all manner of animals, insects and Italians. Our downfall comes not in the shape of a raging rebellion as favoured in Russia, or from overspending on the grapes and olives which the Greeks have done; nothing so manly! Instead, we wait stolidly in line for our fate to overtake us, whiling away our lives at a pace a snail would find lethargic.

The Queue. It is one of the only systems that Britain has going for it. An effective system of getting a train or a bus to turn up at a certain time every day has eluded even the most career-driven of Ministers for Transport, so organising people from different backgrounds and tattoo-counts into orderly playground lines every day across the UK would surely be a logistical and intellectual impossibility. Somehow, though, it has worked. It hasn’t gone bust like a Rover, or refused to work because it didn’t get overtime, or fiddle its expenses. This shining example of British restraint is a lesson to the rest of the world. (Not one they want; it is a source of amusement and derision to the rest of the world, encouraged by the fact that even the Germans, sticklers for discipline and obedience, simply stamp on the weaker species in order to get what they want. Maybe not the best example).

To the uninitiated, it would seem simple thus to take advantage of the queuing system in this country. Wrong. Imagine being an immigrant. Forget having the correct visa for entry, passing the English culture test or getting a job in this wilderness of employment. These are all walks in the various dog-poo littered ‘parks’ near your house. Try learning a system that has no (recognisable) words, little eye contact, and very strict rules.

The British queue, at a casual glance, consists of various sheep of different sizes and shapes standing in a line. No talking takes place, no confrontations flair up despite the often large numbers of people crammed into rope-lined areas. To the French, who love nothing more than rioting and cutting off some heads in the process, it is inexplicable how some simple frail materials can reduce a civilisation to subdued adherence to the ‘rules’. The Italians, for example, are caged in at football matches so that their howlings and rattling of the bars merely resemble the gorilla enclosure at Slough Zoo. Cricket could never be transported to Milan in its current form. Yet the Italians and the French are affected by the same austere atmosphere as they encounter our queues.

Let’s face it, without queues we are lost. We are not manly enough to beat each other into the ground to get what we want; our stiff upper lips quiver and break down at the mere thought of such anarchic behaviour. Our lack of aggression, though, is a ploy. Should one unsuspecting person jump a queue, they incur the wrath of every single person whom they have insulted and overtaken. The punishment is not a form of swift retribution, a box around the ears and a collective effort to deprive the bugger of his wits. Instead, the British take a depraved (yet justified) pleasure in mentally torturing that person. The dozens of eyes boring into the back of the head. The tense atmosphere as everyone thinks exactly the same thing. The look of astonished outrage. The tutting, shaking of heads, fists clenching. Never does anyone shout out, tackle the cheek of the actions or make a spectacle of it. No, like true Britishers we silently pray that his soul experiences eternal damnation. Meanwhile, all of our hateful boredom can be happily focused on this feeling of communal together-ness. And who said community spirit is dead?

Yet, a stranger to our shores will struggle to comprehend how these rigidly held principles can abscond when faced  with unspoken etiquette about a temporary gap. Should a bona fide member of the queue dart out to pick up a forgotten whatchamallcallit, the desire to get to the front of the queue should dictate that a steely glance and a snarl of “f**k off” is given upon the attempt to ease back into the queue. Instead, the offender is practically begged to take his rightful place. It is this nobility and highness of minds that has given Britain the deserved reputation as a strong, upstanding nation of pansies.

Eventually though, our great seafaring race of accountants and builders will start to diminish. Even the Spanish will catch us up on the evolutionary scale, as we embrace the weaker species in our self-righteous system. Whilst our European neighbours are busily trampling over those too small to reach the counter and keeping Darwin’s ‘Survival of the Fittest’ running, we are defying this by allowing all those who would normally not survive in a mosh-pit scenario to live and enjoy their lives.

We must lose the passive-queuing lamb to the slaughter instinct. Otherwise, come the 2012 Olympics, the foreigners beating us into the ground will be the tourists.