I love the Italians. They’re stylish, cool, articulate, passionate, a-la-mode and best of all, terribly cheeky. They always have a prego for my grazie. The men call me things like bellisima and carina, wolf whistling as they zoom past on their Vespas in pin stripe suits and pocket squares. The women will inform you that your shoelace is undone or that your cardigan as fallen from the back of your chair onto the floor.
But for all their pros, they have one enormous con that, as a member if the British Empire, I refuse to accept.
They have no idea how to queue. And it makes me so darn mad.
I could be anywhere, waiting to guiltily purchase clothing that will most definitely push my returning luggage over the 20kg limit, queuing up for my ritual cry in the University Erasmus Office or even hovering nervously at the post-office cash machine in the hope that my overdraft is still in tact. All of these situations are occasions that would be easily facilitated with the implementation of an orderly queue. Instead, what occurs before my eyes can only be described as sheer madness. Madness, I tell you!
Take the till at H&M. There I am, blue dress and chinos in hand. I’m waiting patiently just in front of an unmanned till under the impression that as soon as a sales assistant spots me, they will draw the logical conclusion that I would like pay. I have weaved my way through the makeshift barriers and I am standing at a threshold: the threshold between nice clothes and an empty bank account. All it takes a flicker of a facial expression and the unwritten contract between sales assistant and shopper is signed, sealed and delivered with an Italian flourish.
That’s when I spot her.
Scary Spice Mum.
Armed with a pram-dwelling toddler, she is clad entirely in leopard print. She’s wearing far too much lipstick and not enough perfume (Ever walked past somebody in the street and a waft has just hit you, right in the nostril?). Four items are in her hand, all a mixture of animal-print attire. She’s ten feet away from me, standing at the next till along.
Right, hang on.
What’s happening? She has to have seen the clearly marked designated queuing area, why on earth is she stood next to me rather than behind me? I don’t understand. It even says “Queue here” on the sign. What have I missed?
Soon, a number of women assemble behind her and a sales assistant appears in front of her, takes her items and begins to scan and fold them methodically. She’s violating the unwritten shop assistant-customer contract. As for Scary Spice Mum, she’s gone against the shopper-sisterhood code.
NO! I want to yell. THIS ISN’T RIGHT! You’re all doing it wrong! I have been left to stand here like a lemon, disregarded. A disregarded lemon.
Suddenly, adrenaline kicks me in the chest. My mother’s voice sounds in my head: “Man up, woman! Beyoncé wouldn’t stand for this shit and she isn’t even British! Where is your self respect?!”
You’re absolutely right, mother. Beyoncé would NEVER stand for this. And let’s be honest, I am as close as I will ever be to becoming Beyoncé. Time to make a stand.
However, short of shouting, “Excuse me? Yes, sorry, but the queue is actually over here. Trust me, I’m British. This is what I do”, There wasn’t much choice in what I could do next. So, true to my overwhelming sense of national pride and devotion to Her Majesty’s glorious realm…
I stalked to the back of the makeshift queue, muttering under my breath. For you see, folks, I am simply too British to have the nerve to begin an argument in a language that is not native to my tongue, let alone instigate a debate on the moral compass one must use when faced with a queuing conundrum. After all, if you can’t beat ‘em…