Standing in Line (etiquette)

From Standing in Line | Ask MetaFilter

Except in pubs, people seem to form queues spontaneously at shops, cash machines (ATMs) or anywhere else they have to wait.

There’s generally a queue in the pub as well, its just an invisible one in everyone’s head.

Queuing is definitely part of the national psyche here. People moan about kids not being brought up badly and not queuing properly but that’s just kids being kids and it’s always happened.

I can’t fucking stand queue jumpers though. In fact, the only time I can remember even coming close to being involved in physical violence in recent years was over some queue jumping.

The story is a bit long, but it probably helps build a picture of attitudes to queueing here in the UK:

If you ever want to see British queuing at its best, go to Victoria Station in London during the rush hour and watch the people filter out of the station and queue for the buses – long snaking queues stretching patiently across the concourse, some with gaps in to allow buses (and people) to go through.

Except, that is, when the Underground Train drivers are on strike. When that happens, every single Tube commuter tries to use the buses instead, and a significant portion seem to decide that the queues obviously don’t apply to them because their journey is far more important and must be completed RIGHT NOW!!!11ONEONE.

In other words, they become queue jumpers.

Queue jumpers are generally a weasily and cowardly lot who like to pick on the weak. In contrast, I’m a big stocky bloke with a shaven head. It doesn’t matter that on the inside I’m a nerdy bloke who generally wouldn’t hurt a fly, when John McQueuejump skulks into view he generally scurries quickly past me avoiding my gaze and looks for better prey.

This was exactly what happened one day, when I found myself part of the aforementioned queuing at Victoria during a Tube Strike.

A suited, and obviously late, business man bustled up from the closed tube entrance, took one look at the queue and then sighed. I was ten feet away from him virtually at the front of the queue, and from that moment I knew he was going to queuejump.

And queue jump he did. He walked to the front, carried on walking past the various blokes and was about to push in ahead of a lady with a push chair who was two people in front of me when he suddenly realised I was looking straight at him with that most dreaded of English expressions – RAISED EYEBROWS (dun dun dun!).

He changed his mind, lowered his gaze and walked quickly past me before cutting back in line ahead of the old lady directly behind me.

I turned round and said, politely, that there was a queue here and that perhaps he’d missed it.

“I’m in a Hurry.” He said.

I pointed out that a lot of people in the queue were in a hurry but they seemed to recognise the need to queue, so maybe he should consider heading to the back of it.

“Mind your own fucking business.” He said.

Well obviously I did the only sensible thing a man can do in that situation.

I turned to the old lady behind him, smiled sweetly at her and said:

“Would you like to go in front of me madam?”

And she did, the queuejumper being forced to shuffle back as I did to let her in.

Then i turned to the bloke who had been behind her, and said to him:

“Want to go in front of me mate?”

And he did as well.

In fact, the next sixty or seventy or so people all replied in the affirmative as well, and slowly but surely I (and the queuejumper) shuffled further and further back the line until we reached the end of the line and the end of our strange comedic queue-based dance, me holding eye contact with him the whole time.

By the time we got there he was furious, but was still unwilling to risk saying something to me.

Then as the bus finally pulled up, from the front, came a shout. It was the old lady who I’d first let in front of me.

“Young man! Do you want to go in front of me?!”

“That would be lovelly – thanks!” I shouted back, still holding eye contact with the queuejumper. I shot him my warmest (and smuggest) smile…

…and suddenly he snapped.

With a roar of primaeval anger he lunged at me, fist swinging. Luckily I’m quicker than I look and managed to sidestep just in time. His swing whistled past my nose, missing by milimetres. Overbalanced and unable to stop, he tumbled arse-over-tit onto the ground as everyone looked on in a mixture of shock and amusement.

As he fell I felt a strong but firm hand on my shoulder and turned to see a member of the London Constabulary there with a huge grin on his face. Him and his partner had been watching amused from a distance as the whole scene had unfolded.

“You want to press charges?” He said, laughing.

“Nah.” I replied, “Not fucking worth it.”

“Fair enough,” He said, “You better go get your bus. Don’t worry about tosspot here – we’ll make sure he won’t forget today in a hurry anyway.”

“I fucking HATE queue jumpers” His partner muttered, as he held the guy down on the ground. “Should be a law against it…”

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