Off went the lights and the engines of all the waiting cars. Everyone was perfectly happy to do exactly as they were told.
'Look at them]' said the boy I was with. 'Conformists]' he yelled out the window. 'Spineless load of people. They'd never do this in Italy, someone would have died and at least three women would have given birth by now. I'm going to start a minor revolution.'
We began to sound the horn, tentatively at first, avoiding all eye contact with the police as they wandered down the column of cars. Someone about 10 cars behind us eventually joined our protest, to the rhythm of 'We are the Champions'. Then a few more started, and the whole line of cars was soon honking away. The people had taken power and the queue began to move.
The docility of the British is apparent everywhere: they will never cross the boundaries into a cordoned-off area; will never grab a seat that has been territorially marked with a jacket; find it difficult to get sunbeds anywhere near the pool; will believe any ludicrous remark an airline pilot makes over the tannoy; and are embarrassed about going anywhere uninvited. It seems that we enjoy being powerless and staring into space.
Not me. Queues make me aggressive and irritable, and over the years I have perfected various ways of blagging my way to the front, or in and out of most places. This usually requires minimal effort, just a touch of confidence and the ability to deal with a modicum of confrontation.
When the queue in the post office round the corner from my house shows no sign of movement, I often simply stroll forth, nose pointing straight ahead, eyes trained firmly into the middle distance, ignoring all attempts to attract my attention and buy my stamps. No one ever tries to stop me.
While desperately trying to network with the celebs during a short stay in Los Angeles, I made it into a Hollywood premiere by turning up, unsuitably dressed, and pretending to be the girlfriend of the co-star, fresh off the plane from London. To be the girlfriend of the star would have been foolish, as she would surely have been ridiculously famous and photographed at the entrance. But friend of the co-star worked a treat. I also remember getting a friend to follow me around with a camera and a large and ostentatious flash, most useful when trying to get past night-club bouncers.
Once, at an airport check-in, I found myself stuck behind an emigrating couple who were obviously trying to fit their sitting room into their baggage allowance. I moved over to the first-class desk, where I pretended to have an upgrade. The airline staff checked me through and, while they looked in vain down the upgrade list, I simply wandered away. They were still muttering through their radios, checking out my credentials while my baggage travelled beautifully along the conveyor belt towards the hold, and I was well on my way to the Duty Free, boarding pass in hand.
I have one friend, Rupert, who should be awarded a degree in queue-jumping and getting into places where he should not be. Over the years he has become irritatingly smug about his ability in this area, so I was more than pleased to be both witness - and party - to his first failure.
We had prepared long and hard before attempting to crash a party in Los Angeles for a scene in The Player, donning black tie and a sequinned dress. A whole bevy of Hollywood celebrities had paid around dollars 1,000 a ticket for the pleasure of being in the film and security was tight. We made it through the first barrier just by being dressed for the part, but were stopped at the second.
Rupert was furious. We tried each of his three ways of dealing with authority. Blank denial: 'Ticket? What ticket? I don't need a ticket.' Absolute agreement: 'Ticket? Of course, how foolish, it's in here.' Or complete confusion: 'Ticket? No one has tickets these days.' Nothing worked. The real guests were followed by flashbulbs bigger than anything we could muster, and Cher mowed us down on the way in.
It was humiliating to be frogmarched out by security, but at least we had tried, and at least it was Cher who had beaten us to it.Reuse content