"Queue, please!" is a phrase that is very rarely used in India! For we do not have queues here but groups that start off in a single line, and slowly turn into a number of circles, each trying to get to the destination in the shortest time possible. So there you are standing placidly, in a queue, when suddenly you feel a shove behind you, signifying that a person akin to a bull in a china shop has taken his place about seven places behind you. The shove is felt like a jolt at the fault line of an earthquake, as a ripple goes through the entire line. The expressions on the faces of the affected are epic, ranging from bewilderment to incredulity (a stronger form of bewilderment!), mild annoyance and outright anger.
The world is made up of two types - the mute and the vociferous. The mute stand stolidly, hanging on to their places by the skin of their teeth, concentrating on getting to the end of the queue as soon as possible.
The vociferous tell, (or is it yell?) a different tune. They grit their teeth, take in deep breaths and let out a volley of abuses that can take the skin off one's ear. "Who on earth does that character think he is? A road roller?" is the mildest form of abuse, only because I do not approve of repeating cusses. However, if one wants to take a free lesson on the subject, a queue is the best place to be at.
Just as you feel as though you are part of the Pilgrim's Progress, inching forward painstakingly, there will appear a arm from right behind you, one that appears amazingly long by human standards. It snakes its way into the counter which is two places away from you, its armpit around the vicinity of your nose, never the most pleasant of experiences. For there are people who have never heard of deodorants, or even plain soap and water.
So you turn your head, hold your nose, hang on to your place and gently suggest to the interloper that you are in a queue, and would like to remain there, and could he please refrain from jumping the line and above all, could he please remove that eyesore of an arm.By then others have also begun to nod approvingly, and throw gimlet stares at Mr. Armpit. Most of the time, that is enough to make him pipe down, and stay quiet.
However, there are those folks who were born with an extra helping of cheek when the good Lord was ladling out portions. So if you are stuck with someone like that, God forbid. For he will just turn the other cheek and stay put till the odour makes you stumble out of the queue, giving way to him. Or else he will argue till the end of time, or till the end of the counter, whichever comes sooner. Either way, you end up wishing you were back home.
One disadvantage of being shorter than average comes into play when you are standing in a queue. There will always be that one person who looms over you like a beanpole, shutting out the view ahead. So you bob up and down, duck from side to side and hope against hope that you will know when you get to the counter. Of course, most of the time you are swept along like a pebble in the flood of humanity, where survival of the fittest comes into play.
Queues are normally found at temples, movie halls, ration shops, railway stations, and you guessed right, liquor shops. You would be surprised to know that the most orderly queues are found at the last mentioned, the reason being that the people standing are very determined to get to the counter, whatever it takes. Secondly, they know that brand that they want will definitely be there, and hence, the wait is worth it. There are also chances that they might get to jump the queue, especially when the man ahead, who is already the worse for wear, suddenly goes down with a giant crash, and stays down.
And of course, the queue that is most painful is the one before a public toilet. When you have to go, you have to go! And when you can't, because there are folks ahead of you, that is surely the most terrible state to be in!
Wouldn't life have been easier if you had just been born an Englishman?