The Zen of a Knackered Bus pt4

aka. the Long, Long Road to the Till

10 Dec 07

What I am about to talk about has nothing to do with buses, knackered or otherwise. I hope, nonetheless, you will appreciate that it is in the same spirit as my previous similarly-titled entries*.

I want to speak about the noble British art of queuing. I say “noble” – there’s very little that’s noble about it – the stress, the sighing, the frowning, the muttering, the frequent glances at the watches… The fact that we do queue is something we are proud of; especially compared with those pushy-shovey foreigners. However… noble? And by extension… dignified? I am doubtful.

When we are in a queue, we are waiting. We don’t like to wait. People generally don’t like to wait. Not when waiting is the primary activity which we are, in a given time period, undertaking. Queuing is boring and frustrating. We stand there, nudging slowly forward, shopping basket or whatever in hand, thinking about what else we could be doing – and, if we are a little more existential by nature, what proportion of our life is taken up with this empty, unfulfilling activity. Waiting is filling in time. It is what we are doing in between doing things which we actually want to do, or at least between things which we consider useful. Waiting – and its most visible physical manifestation, queuing – does technically serve a purpose, but it is infused with this drab miasma of pointlessness. May I suggest, however, that it is possible to strip queuing of its negative connotations, of its cloying air of tedium, of its haze of nihilistic inbetweeniness?

Queuing is, of course, best done with friends or anyone else you can have a bit of a chat with to make the time pass a little quicker… but what of those occasions when one is forced to partake in the sad, slow shuffle of The Solitary Queue? It’s quite simple really… read a book! Always have one with you whenever you go shopping on your own… and when you are waiting to pay for your pack of frozen peas and your loaf of sliced white and your chocolate covered Hobnobs, grab a few pages of the latest King or Koontz or Krantz… or what the hell… Wittgenstein or Marcus Aurelius or Kropotkin! Whatever floats your, as they say, boat.

Queuing need not be boring or frustrating. It can be a pleasure. You can even learn to look forward to those times when you can do little else but cast your mind adrift on a sea of philosophy or fiction. Queuing can be the new sitting…

———-

* See this, this and this

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