The Third Leader: Wait your turn

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The Independent Online

Back to normal, then: queues. I don't know. Which should you trust: your instinct, the Government, Nature, the Market, the oil companies and the protesters, or your instinct not to trust the Government, Nature, the Market, the oil companies and the protesters? Tricky.

And it is a strong instinct, the first one, the one to queue. Security, Prudence and Order beguilingly combined. Boring, though. Which is why I am providing a list of interesting things to ponder while you're in one.

1. If queueing is so quintessentially British, how come it's a French word? 2. Actually, Alexander Walker had an answer to that: "The reason we British have the word 'queue' is because the French had no need for it." 3. Funnily enough, it didn't appear here until Queen Victoria did. 4. Funnily enough, too, the word "queue-jumper" didn't appear until that much-mourned decade of lost politesse, the 1950s. 5. Do the sheep-pen maze thingies make us more or less sophisticated than then?

6. Both men and women are sighers and watch-examiners, but only men drum their fingers. 7. How many friends, family members and casual acquaintances can join the person in front of you before you get really (but silently) annoyed? 8. We all know that the other queue is always quicker, but why do people always want to cross yours just in front of you?

9. Why don't queuers start fumbling for their particulars before it's their turn? 10. Humour is a great help. Viz: Patient: "Doctor, I think I'm a billiard ball." Doctor: "Get to the end of the cue." Ah, well. Sigh. Drum. Goodness me, I hope they're not closing.