Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Only one item

I learned this from the Dutch.

We used to have to shop for the Youth Hostel and needed one, sometimes two trolleys.

Then when we get to the cashier we find a man, woman or child with a few items in the basket. We would offer to let these persons go first.

Yesterday I had to send something away by registered post.

In front of me was a lady on the phone. When she got to the counter I saw that she was applying for an Oyster Card with a passport. While the postmaster was checking her details, three more large envelopes came out of her rucksack.

Eventually she pulled out a long (and I mean long) form out of somewhere. At which point I asked, "Are you going to be very long?"

She turned around with a very gruff, "Yes."

I turned around and left. I was due somewhere else.

Knowing this postmaster, it wouldn't take two minutes to complete my transaction, but this lady in front of me didn't think to let me go ahead. She had that look on her face that said, "It is my right to go first. It does not matter how long I take. You might only need a stamp, but I will take 20 minutes or longer here if I need. Buzz off."

The thing is whenever I give way to another shopper at a supermarket because they have only one or two items with cash on the ready, it makes everyone smile in the queue.

There was no smiling at the sub-post office yesterday when I was there.


1 comment:

Laura Brown said...

Where I grew up (West Virginia, in the U.S.) we had the same custom in queues -- so much so that people would apologise if they inadvertantly kept someone with a small order waiting ("If I'd known you were just ordering a cup of coffee, I would have let you go ahead of me!") I'm sad to say that I have never observed it in the UK. I'm sure it's just a difference in cultures, and of course I'm biased toward my own, but it does seem a lot less friendly and welcoming to me.

In my mind this is somehow connected with people's behaviour when sitting on church pews or Tube seats (the long, benchlike ones that they use on the Met line). Back home, if someone is sitting on the end of an empty seat or pew, and someone else comes along to sit there, the first person scoots down to make room at the end -- or they give a reason why they don't ("I'm getting up to do the reading in a few minutes"). But over here, the first person stays put, maybe shifting slightly so that the newcomer can climb over their feet. After eight years here, I still haven't got used to this!