Travelling, ever travelling, this week. On the way to Kabul.
Was waiting in line, preparing to board a plane. The door hadn’t opened yet and the line and the line was about 70 people long. I was a third of the way back.
There had been a group of women sitting nearby. I don’t know where they were from. Let’s say they were from the planet Baru. They had been talking and twittering loudly. When one can’t understand the tongue, it all sounds like twittering.
At one point, a Baruvian picked up her bags and walked my way. Her eye scanned the length of the line while she dropped her bags next to me. I caught her eye and then wandered my gaze back slowly toward the end of the line. She nudged her bag forward an inch or two with her foot. Still next to me, but the message was clear. She wasn’t going back there.
The doors opened and the line lurched forward. She was watching her friends, so I pulled my suitcase forward, ahead of hers, staking my claim. She kicked her bag into mine. Bump.
With each movement, I felt a tiny bump. Message received.
Her Baruvian friends stood up as a group and brazenly marched to the front of the line. No one seemed to bat an eye.
Bump from behind. All the way down the ramp.
Was talking with some people who remarked on how they lost a long distance bike race to someone who passed them in a car with their bike on the back. The other racer got out a mile or so before the finish and won. They lamented that some people do whatever it takes to get to the front. It was something that they’d gotten used to.
“Lines”, they said, “are for democracy.”
I wondered if that were true or not. I mean, sure, America is a representative democracy and we do pretty well with lines. The British, though, are a monarchy, and they love lines. The Germans seem very orderly and they’re democratic. The French, home of liberty, fraternity, and equality, could use some remediation.
I’ve thrown elbows at Greek grandmas, trying to make the last bus. Greece is the founder of democracy.
India touts itself as the largest democracy in the world, but in a crowd, it’s chaos!
And speaking of India, how is it that the British exported queuing to colonies, like Singapore and Hong Kong, but it didn’t take hold in India?
I grew up seeing photos of Russians in the Soviet era queuing for food at the store, but last year I had a group of Russian tourists walk through me like I was a ghost. They’ve got some democracy in ‘em now, right?
I wonder if it is more about scarcity. If there’s enough, I don’t have to fight. I can wait. I’ll get mine eventually.
I wonder if, as China or Russian gain strength, they will queue more politely? As there is a widening income gap in the US, will we need to sharpen our elbows?
On my next leg, a group of Afghan men did the same thing even though there were stanchions set up for a queue. Three of them moved as one, hand on the shoulder of the man in front. Well orchestrated. Precision ditching. Shuffling ever forward. Grinning politely all the way. They could not be stopped.
That’s okay. I’ll guess I’ll still get my seat.