Standing in Ques
It has been three years since I first came to London and I have had first -hand experience of fascination for ques in the UK. There will be an orderly que even outside a nightclub. So I have come to the conclusion that the best things do come to those who wait!
My first que was at the University cafeteria. At first it was a good space to meet your classmates and make new friends. This was much before we realised that the canteen food wasn’t all that great and when you are surrounded by a diverse set of options, one of which is free why bother waiting in line! After introducing myself to my fellow classmates I proceeded to ponder over what I should have for lunch. The cafeteria on that specific day was extremely English – chicken curry and rice it read. So that is what I ordered and proceeded to have luncheon with friends. I never met them after, but still a unique experience because the table was very representative of the student community. A Brit, a South-Asian Brit and an Indian. Yup, I was in for a ‘diverse cultural’ experience. The other time I stood in the que at the cafeteria I was introduced to adding vinegar to your chips/fries. Initially I didn’t take to the flavour. It is certainly is an acquired taste for now I absolutely love it. No one can ever stay away from vinegar for too long.
My next experience of ‘Queing’ was at the bus stops just opposite Waterloo Station. It was early afternoon, way past rush hour, nobody seemed in a hurry but yet there they were. Neat (and sometimes very straight) lines of passengers. It is nice to know that you may not be assured a seat but you will definitely get on your bus without fear of getting trampled under its wheels or stuck between the doors. When it comes to London transportation Qs, there are two kinds. One is for when you need to board a bus and the other is for when you need to board the tube. When you want to catch a taxi, it depends on where you are. At a station, yes, there will be a Q. But if you are on the road, it is surprisingly like anywhere else in the world. You need to be loud and quick on your feet or something that I have found useful is to wait near a traffic light so that you are likely to have more time to find numerous cabs and have more time to get in.
Queing for buses is orderly and everyone enters one at a time. In the tube, everyone creates an ‘illusion’ of queing. In reality you are just standing on the side and waiting for people to get off. This is usually the case during off peak hours. Early morning and evenings are times when the code of conduct is governed by the kind of day you are going to have or have had, your evening plans or how urgently you need to get home to surprise someone. In short, there are no rules.There have been many a times when one or two people try to get in just when people are trying to get out. Some get told off but most of the time these transgressions are excused. In a busy city people unknowingly comfort each other.
I like ques because they have led me to meet and interact with people from all walks of life, I have been given opportunities to experience once in a life time events and have been on the receiving end of good will.
My most memorable memories of queing was at the Olympics. Every time I had to Que at an event, during training, on the shifts I always met with positive energy, an excited face and fellow Games Makers. At one que I was standing right behind an anti-doping squad representative, I managed ques of spectators wearing the country colours and costumes, gave away hi fives and was once even thanked for all the good week we were doing. At Christmas time last year one of the choir boy’s fathers gave my friend and I free tickets to sit right under the dome for Christmas service at the St Paul’s Cathedral. I understood the meaning of ‘inclement weather’ while waiting in a que outside the US Embassy while it was raining, literally! The man standing in front of me turned around and said “so this is what they mean when they say that you may have to wait your turn outside even in inclement weather.” So I put two and two together and learnt something new. While waiting to get into the Olympic Stadium I met a fellow Games Maker and realised that shifts had started months before the actual event began. All the initial logistics were implemented with help from volunteers too. When in doubt about how to get to an underground station after an event I always follow the que. While waiting for my free lunch outside SOAS I heard about the challenge of long distance relationships and how to some people the US elections is not really of concern to them (if the wait is long you can’t help the fact that you may be eves-dropping on someone’s converstion!). I was referred to a lovely book and gifted a coupon for a free hair cut while waiting in the free lunch que.
So I have learnt one thing from my queing experience in London. It is a chance to learn something new. So take the awkward silence, the looking at the floor moments and turn it into an opportunity.