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TRAVEL TUESDAY: standing on line (queue)

2009-07-14

A series of observations and tips from my recent trips to India.  Feel free to add your thoughts and experiences in the comments, as well as make suggestions for future TRAVEL TUESDAY topics.

As I prepared to board the plane at JFK, it would have been nice for the flight attendants to tell me that this will be the last time I will be standing on a real line (particularly when traveling by air), until I came back into the country.

It might be the high population, maybe it’s the heat everyone wants to get out of, or it could be remnants of a place where if you’re not at the front of the line, you might not get a spot.  Whatever the cause, in India, if you try to stand on a line (defined for the purpose of this post as “people casually standing directly BEHIND one another, so that a series of people make a snakelike formation extending backwards”), you are stupid, because everyone else is pushing and shoving at the open doorway.

This might be strange to those who grew up in America, where the first thing we were taught in kindergarten was to stand behind the person in front of you, hold your partners hand, and stay quiet (is this militarism being taught in grade school?).  It was strange to me, and I didn’t realize how much I had been shielded from by my parents, because this was not something I remembered as a child.  But I quickly learned to follow the rule: Any space in front of you means you are telling everyone else that you are not on line, so attach yourself to the person in front of you and stand your ground.

You might be reading this and worrying about the poor Appachens and Ammachis, greyhaired, fragile, being tossed aside as the young bucks get the best seat in the house.  FEAR NOT!  The Appachens and Ammachis gave me the most vile bruises on my chappal-ed feet and digs into my poor fleshy tummy with their elbows, as I tried to be polite and let them in.  They didn’t need my help, and I’m sure I heard more than one of them say, “Sucka!” in various Indic languages, as they stepped over my weak American ways. 

These same elders were also the biggest offenders when it came to directly cutting in front of people, on any line that did seem to exist.  They operated fearlessly because if they were confronted (which I will admit that I did after the first 12 times), they could act as if they didn’t know what they were doing, didn’t know the language I was speaking (sorry, furious sign language gestures are universal) or that their grey hair gave them a pass (it does, until you start pushing and shoving people aside).

Who did have my sympathy?  The young moms, by far.  Many of them with one or two small children or infants, no strollers, having to trust the help of strangers, nobody standing up to give up their seat on a bus…they earned my deep admiration and deserve recognition for navigating air travel alone. 

So I spent most of my travel time as a Robin Hood, saving the moms and trying to keep my toes from getting squished by vigilant ammachis and appachens.  Better luck to you!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. mallory permalink
    2009-07-17 12:16 AM

    These are the sort of situations where eve teasers thrive. Refer to blanknoise.com for more information.

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