An immigrant’s tale

Musings are thoughts, the thoughtful kind. For the purpose of these articles, a-musings are thoughts that might amuse, entertain and even enlighten.

For many mainland Europeans the definition of an Englishman is one person in a queue. This is, of course, due to the English – they only say “British” to appease their less fortunate brethren or when they wish to claim a Wimbledon champion – the English predilection for waiting one’s turn in an orderly fashion, no matter how sparsely populated the queue might be.

The Germans are full of admiration for the English in this respect. The French mock them, but secretly wish they could do things in an orderly fashion too. The Spanish find that queues lack passion, and the Italians would happily stand in line if they were allowed to wave and shout at the same time.

It’s also a matter of respect, of course; one’s neighbour has rights too. If someone has been waiting longer than one has, then it is only fair and proper that he, or she, she be allowed to proceed ahead of one. It’s the proper thing to do.

Queuing in St Lucia is a bit of an enigma. St Lucians do it willingly, though there is usually someone hovering about clutching a couple of potential purchases hoping to catch one’s eye on the off chance they might be able to move ahead of the line, as it were, if the line is in a store.

Woe betide anyone who tries to push his or her way forward in a line of St Lucians without acquiring the initial approval of the last in line – and even then, those further
up will certainly protest; the first Yes does not guarantee blanket approval for promotion up the line. St Lucians jealously guard their hard-won rights to queue at leisure.

In fact, a good queue in the store cannot be really appreciated if the one at the head of the line simply presents the purchases, pays, collects the change, and leaves. The most enjoyable lines of all are those in which the lady – they are invariably ladies – peer into the murky depths of their purses for several hours looking for the exact change.

Almost as entertaining is when the head of the queue, male or female, discovers a lack of financial resources and begins to subtract, withdraw and disqualify
various items from the conveyor belt while the checkout clerk adds, subtracts, divides and multiplies in a mathematical flurry of activity to find an equitable solution to the problem.

Meanwhile, discussions about various births, deaths, infidelities, many of which are ongoing as one stands in line, occur, adding to the collective wealth of knowledge so essential to small town social intercourse.

Queues in the face officialdom at ministries, police stations, Lucelec and WASCO are different and will be discussed at a later date.

Meanwhile, there are exceptions, especially for those ethnically invisible. Young men wanting to purchase cigarettes, for example, will, recognizing my invisibility, invariably push ahead of me.

Even when I am not invisible, check-out clerks, using their x-ray vision, talk straight through me at times to friends and acquaintances whose busy schedules prevent them from standing in line.

More often than not, during the rainy season, I run into these queue-jumping interlopers stuck at the exit to the store due to “fallin’ rain”, as I, having completed my queuing successfully, venture out into the elements eager to get home before a new queue forms.

Invisibility is ethnic. We’re born with it, so I really can’t complain when people do not notice me ahead of them in the line and push in ahead of me.


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