22 October 2016
Waiting in line for your turn for whatever it is you are queuing for is a characteristic of civilized human behavior. Photo: AFP
Waiting in line for your turn for whatever it is you are queuing for is a characteristic of civilized human behavior. Photo: AFP

How to deal with the queue jumper

The queue jumper or barger is one of the most infuriating and uncivilized creatures to cross one’s path.

Waiting in line for your turn for whatever it is you are queuing for is a characteristic of civilized human behavior.

Those who, for whatever reason, will not or cannot wait their turn belong in the jungle.

These savages fall into various categories depending on the ploy or artifice that they exercise.

The classic queue jumper waltzes up to the front displaying a haughty contempt for all those waiting patiently in line.

Carried off with a certain élan, people assume that it must be a VIP or someone with a genuine entitlement and invariably, short of some low muttering, no-one objects.

Then there is the character I label a “burr”: this one approaches someone already queuing, gushes greetings and engages in over-animated chatter adhering to their interlocutor, stuck firmly in position.

The psychology of this ploy is artful. Polite people assume that having conversed, the burr will wave farewell and go to the back of the queue but they have no such intention.

The longer the chattering continues the more awkward it gets to raise an objection.

I once observed a particularly outrageous illustration at the airport in Calcutta. A woman whom I subsequently learned was a travel courier upon reaching the check-in desk turned and beckoned over a group of about 20 passengers to join her.

When I remonstrated, she had the impertinence to announce, “I have been holding their place.” Airline staff who condone this kind of trickery should be sacked.

Another airline subterfuge is to wave a boarding pass and say loudly, “My flight’s due to leave in 10 minutes”, as you thread your way like an All Black center forward to the front of the security check.

Security personnel are so intent on checking your pace-maker that they don’t give a damn.

In vain you observe that they ought to have arrived earlier.

A recent experience at Heathrow’s Terminal 4 VAT reclaim line was a perfect example of the sort of thing that is capable of causing a riot.

The 40 meter long queue bent back on itself four times just to enter the lift to the floor where the next queue started.

A harassed young lady official was turning newcomers away from the lifts and pointing to the back of the line the purpose of which only the visually challenged could have missed.

After waiting about one hour, a group of Arab-speaking people pushed their trolleys towards the lift and were advised to join the queue.

Refusing to take this advice they harangued the young woman and the man who had by now joined her for 10 minutes until suddenly, no money appearing to have changed hands, they were permitted to join the nearest line to the lifts, slipping in before two Chinese girls.

To my amazement no-one said a dicky bird.

A particularly effective method is the wheelchair. Husband pushes wife or vice versa, engaging your sympathy until you catch them jitterbugging in the disco next day.

And have you ever wondered how those four fat ladies got to ride in the airline golf cart?

I confess that on occasion I will allow a lady to jump the queue with impunity, considering it beneath me to complain though my face may wear a pained expression.

How, in all conscience, can one deal with these wretches?

The low mutter about knowing their place cuts no ice any more than a dirty look.

You could try heavy sarcasm: “Please, go ahead, I’ve only been standing here waiting for an opportunity to wave you through.”

But as they usually have a skin as thick as an armadillo, this is unlikely to work.

A rather more direct approach is “Oi! Go back to Spec Savers, you’ve been cheated” or “Where’s your guide dog?”

A line that will endear you to your fellow sufferers is “Oi! Sunshine, lost your GPS?”

Then there is the embarrassment technique: “Give way everybody, weak bladder coming through.”

It is essential to deliver these remonstrances in a courteous tone of voice with a smile on your face because you don’t want to be arrested for Airport Rage.

Sadly, most of these malefactors are not only impervious to criticism but often adopt an air of injured innocence and accuse you of being offensive.

Then there is the foreigner who feigns ignorance of any known language and like Mainland Chinese, no counter measures will work.

In the case of the latter one must beware lest the Liaison Office misinterpret your complaint as evincing hostility to the motherland.

The apparent willingness of so many civilized people to allow queue jumpers and bargers to get away with it only encourages them and nibbles away at the edges of civilized behavior.

Consideration for others is the hallmark of civilized society and we abandon it at the risk of returning to the law of the jungle.

When you stand aside to let someone pass, if they fail to acknowledge it, say “thank you” and smile sweetly.

Those who have the capacity to learn will do so. And those who don’t, leave you in the moral ascendancy.

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