It’s funny how quickly one gets conditioned to one’s immediate surroundings. I have always found queue jumpers to be an annoying breed of humans. But two years of living in the UK, where forming queues seems to be embedded in the genetic code of its people, I have become ever more sensitive to the Indian way of breaking lines. I was prepared to pull by the collar if I had to even if it meant having a fight with someone on the first day of the new year.
I was standing in the security line at the Port Blair airport waiting to board a flight to Chennai. I ended up behind a large excursion group who stood in a huddle in an otherwise orderly queue. Behind me were around 20 other people, including a pair of women of ample girth, who were at least eight passengers behind me.
All was well until the next time I turned around. The two women had made considerable progress, rolling and tumbling down the line, rather like two boulders hurtling down a hill, shoving other passengers out of the way. People had been very tolerant towards them but I braced for battle realising they would hit me soon.
They made short work of the remaining three or four passengers and stood alongside me in minutes. Rather, they were now suddenly in the line just behind the large group of girls while I had been flung out into a trajectory going towards the toilet.
I tried to hurry past them to insert myself back into the queue every time it moved, but again they just rolled on as though I didn’t exist.
“Excuse me, I was in the queue after these girls,” I said finally.
The younger of the two women turned towards me with a look of mild irritation and surprise.
“Are you with these girls?” she asked. I wanted to point out that that didn’t matter because I was still in front of the two of them.
“No I’m not with them. I was right after them,” I said.
Instead of doing the courteous thing and letting me in, they just ignored me and continued on. We were getting closer and closer to the security guard and I finally snapped.
“Excuse me, do you mind?” I said at a pitch that made the entire group of girls in front of us turn around.
“Fine! if you want to go in front of us, please GO!” said the woman.
I reeled at the audacity.
“It’s not that I want to go in front of you. I was in front of you!” I said as I haughtily stepped in to occupy the space between the group and them, sniffing the air for the smell of success.