19-Dec-2011

Right on Queue



There is something fundamental in our genes that do not allow us to queue. I would not be surprised if Indians originally came up with the concept that a straight line does not exist.

Nowhere is this deep inability to queue in greater display than airports, the mother of all queuing conventions. We queue up just to enter, and then to collect boarding passes, through the security check, to board, to disembark, collect our luggage, with mini queues tossed into the mix if one wants to buy food, shop or use the washroom.

It is almost like someone is wrenching our souls and not merely making us queue up.

With such a traumatic situation, it is not surprising that we break queues more than we keep them.

Like the time, a fat gentleman swaggered to the web check-in counter, with his chest pumped out in pride. He waved a crumpled bit of print in front of the airline personnel and asked for his boarding pass to be stamped. When he was asked by the airline employee to join the long queue of passengers who had already done a web checkin, I could see his jaws drop. As if he could not believe that the rest of us had crawled out of the primordial ooze and managed to discover printers and the internet.

The thought of joining a queue when there had been a hope of a welcome shortcut, was too much for him to face.

Especially since it is not easy crossing over to THE OTHER SIDE. The side where you form a queue and spend the rest of the time looking over your shoulders to defend your spot. Several times of doing this, and you not only develop peaky eyes but also manage to form the perfect lecture in your head to launch on any errant co-passenger.

This lecture is unfortunately mis-directed sometimes.

We were all queuing to enter the Delhi airport. (As an aside – I think the Delhi T3 is just so impossibly glamorous that even the usually recalcitrant Delhites are too scared to not queue up). A lady with three massive suitcases and a small child came to the head of the queue and requested to be let in. The smartly dressed lady at the head of the queue angrily launched into her pre-prepared lecture. Except in this case, it would have been nice to let the young mother go ahead.

Though I sometimes suspect not all young mothers or mothers-to-be are that deserving. Like the one who rushed past my 60+ dad at the security check. Dad began his pre-prepared lecture only to be informed harshly by the lady that she was pregnant. He quickly apologized and stepped aside.

(It got me thinking. When did we begin to assume that the world owes us one? Shouldn’t we be polite to people who are doing us favours?)

By the time we board the flight, things are usually pretty rough, with everyone clustering around the ticket checker. I usually find myself right at the end when the cluster has been cleared. Despite this, I have always managed to find space to stow my luggage overhead. Then I wonder, why the rush to get into the closed (and weird smelling) confines of an airplane.

Getting out and collecting luggage is of course a free-for-all. If you are silly enough to actually not have any body part touching the baggage conveyor belt, then be prepared for someone sneaking into the 1mm gap between you and the belt.

Maybe it is not enough to have a training programme for just airline employees. Maybe we should have one for passengers too called ‘The straight line does exist’

5 comments:

haathitime.com said...

And something about being forced to stand in a queue makes their sense of personal space vanish into thin air!

For most junta (and i dont mean this condescendingly) being made to stand in a queue, means sticking to the person in front of you, probing, poking and feeling as much as is required. Like its going to make the queue move faster or disappear altogether..

I experienced this at a wedding of all places yesterday!

Archana said...

I have no idea how the very same Indians manage to queue up properly at the US airport to board the flight from US to the transit airport. However, from the transit airport to Chennai, it is a massive free-for-all. I don't even see flight attendants *trying* to regulate the boarding on India-bound flights anymore. I guess the attitude is "if I can get away with not queuing up, I will do exactly that irrespective of how it delays things for everyone". This not queuing up irritates me SO much that I am always ready with my "are you blind and thus cannot see the queue?" lecture.

That pregnant lady story was so weird. Poor dad was so bamboozled by the rude demand that apparently he later meekly asked mom if there was something about pregnant women that made it impossible for them to queue up or to be polite!!

Bharathis said...

LOL! Brilliant title and very funny!

Anita said...

haathitime - lol. That's true. I don't know why we touch so much in queues.

Archana - Seriously. I love watching us behave so well overseas.

Bharathis - Thanks!

Priyanthi said...

I so agree with haathi. It's like once you are in a queue, its an entity by itself. So where is the question of personal space? And try giving the offending personal space invader a glacial stare. Water off a ducks back!

I guess, we just have to develop thick skins to survive.....