Saturday, 18 May 2013

A very British pass time

queueing, or as our cousins across the pond phrase it, standing in line.

There are suggestions that this is a dying art, the art of waiting your turn.  In this digital age people are more and more expecting things faster than fast, on demand and there almost before you even knew you wanted it.  The idea of waiting as outmoded as a sundial for telling the time.

But the art is still out there and can be found in many of it subtleties at bus stops and stations.  There are queues which support the American description linear in form and queues with no physical structure just an unspoken acknowledgement of precedence.

At bus stops, with or without shelter there is not usually an easily defined direction for a queue to form, nor quite often is there the space.  So the queue forms in the mind, as you arrive you take note of who was already there waiting, these people form the  before me group, there is no need to know in which order they arrived just the recognition they all get to go first if they are waiting for the same bus.  It is for them to know in which order they have the right to board.  The expectation is that those who come after will place themselves in the same notional queue .  There is a level of comfort in knowing your place, an orderliness in this unspoken agreement.  You can feel a general sense of unease if this order is disrupted by anything other than a polite offer by word or gesture for someone to move ahead ( often made to those with pushchairs, small children, the elderly and still, occasionally, from a gentleman to a lady) a not you turn hush.

At some bus stations ( the 2nd and 3rd previously mentioned) there is both direction and room for a line to form, but even so there is art to the function.  The multi queue is a thing to behold, one stop but three anticipated buses, all of which can pull in to the stand but with only one point of  access or egress (a set of automated doors) from bus to bus station.  A single queue forms which as a bus pulls in moves forward and often with out word splits as those wanting the particular bus set slightly to the right and those still with waiting to do, step to the left.  Thus the queue as a whole moves forward, the choreography of this living line becomes more complex if two buses arrive at the same time, a three way split occurs and two lines of people are trying to funnel themselves out through the double door as two sets of clowns (see previous blog) are trying to get in.  Oh and occasionally, the clowns from one arriving bus are also passengers to be to get on before them.

It is all very polite, civilised and fosters a sense of order and oddly enough belonging.  I am given to understand that this delightful dance is not the norm country wide, one lady looking bemused at the ebb and flow of people commented to her local companion "we don't do this in London, you just bustle  up and get on regardless" her friend gave her a look of pity and said "here we wait our turn."

There are those who will suggest that it is the young, brought up in the atmosphere of instant gratification, who are eroding the art of waiting for your turn.  But that is not my experience, it is not a matter of age but one of attitude.  We are loosing the understanding of others rights and needs and constantly trying to sublimate them to our own.  There is a suggestion that being polite and patience is a form of weakness, a waste of time and a barrier to progress, the busy person's time to valuable to waste.  I disagree, I think that if we shift our focus to only ourselves, without concern for others we are loosing a vital part of what makes us mentally healthy and a society rather than a collection of  selfish individuals.

Any anyway time spent waiting is thinking time, even if you are just contemplating the art of a queue