We British are well known for our ability to queue, and I am as happy as the next person to bide my time in a queue when there is good reason to queue. I have learnt to accept that sometimes a queue is just an inevitability, and there is no point in getting frustrated by it. Sometimes, if I am feeling particularly spiritual, I will happily join the longest queue!
I know, I must be mad.
Yesterday I had cause to join four queues at varying times throughout the day. The first instance was in a particularly busy store where only two checkouts where open. The queues, when I joined them, were of roughly equal length with around 12 – 15 people ahead of me. I wasn’t in a hurry, so I joined one of the queues and patiently edged my way forward as one by one the people ahead of me were served and therefore left the queue.
However, as so often happens, as it was my turn to approach the checkout, no less than three extra staff appeared and each opened a new checkout! Needless to say, the two queues behind me instantly became five and dispersed very quickly.
The next shop I visited produced the same experience. I joined a queue and further checkouts were opened as I was about to be served.
The third queue was not in a shop. I met up with a friend and decided to go for a coffee. At the counter, ordering the drinks, I was in the smallest queue I’d faced so far that day. There were only three people ahead of me. Surely this wouldn’t take long.
Some of the orders being placed were also for food and there was a lot of indecision over what food to order. You’d think when people join a queue to place a food order, they would know what they wanted, but no, not these people. They perused the menu only when being served, and the server, rather than ask the customers if the next people could be served whilst the customers made their choice, decided to stand and watch the customers choose!
And when the server finally got to me what do you think happened?
Well, if you thought another checkout was opened, you’d be wrong! There was no one else waiting behind me, so there was no need to open another checkout. There was only me to serve and the queue was gone. So what happened? Well, instead of serving me, the server decided it was time to collect some cups from the empty tables!
Momentarily dumbstruck, I looked around to check whether a coach party had arrived demanding so many cups of coffee that the server had panicked. Whilst noticing that there was no coach and there was no queue behind me, I also noticed that of the thirty or so tables, only five were occupied and only one other had used crockery on it. Could this establishment really be so short of crockery that they could only manage to serve six tables before needing to put a wash on?
On her return, carrying a tray with one cup and saucer and one glass, the server apologised for the wait and took my coffee order.
Later in the day, I needed to refuel my car and once again encountered a queue whilst waiting to pay. I was fifth in the queue, and just as when ordering my coffee earlier, I was also the last in the queue. As I got to the cashier to pay, I still had not been joined by any more people in the queue, although more cars were being refuelled at the pumps, so a potential queue was brewing!
There was obviously no need to open a second checkout, and there was certainly no crockery to collect, so what could possibly go wrong here? Surely I was going to be relieved of my money instantly and be on my merry way in seconds? Wasn’t I?
Of course not!
However, what happened next was something I could never have imagined happening. As I stepped forward to announce my pump number and hand over my credit card, the cashier said, and I quote “won’t be a minute, I must just nip to the toilet”!
I should imagine the look on my face was a picture and I must admit to checking my surroundings for hidden cameras. Surely this was a set up? Wasn’t it? Well, no, it was for real. She really did disappear off to the toilet leaving me dumbstruck for the second time that day! I reached over to a shelf, picked up a copy of the A to Z street map and altered the letters to Q to P and left it in front of the cash register!