Friday, August 17, 2007

The Royal Post - standing in the bread line

If there is one thing the British know how to do well it is form a line. There is a unique order to lining up in Britain. If, for example, there are three ATMs, one single line will form in front of them so the first in line goes to the next available magic money machine.

This is equally true of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Gatwick Airport, places where I have had further opportunity to stand patiently in an orderly queue talking about the weather to British people I don't know and won't meet again.

However, the Partick Post Office queue really doesn't cut the mustard. The floor of this post office is slightly concave where thousands have stood before me, making the once blue, now grey carpet threadbare . There is no banter about the weather, just a sombre line of people, staring forward waiting for their turn to shout through a small window to the post office clerk.

Invariably, I will be behind the person who wants a passport, holding up the line for ten minutes while the clerk checks the list for official justices of the peace ensuring tight personality checks under new terror laws of said passportee.

This is the worst of the wait, for now my iPod would have run out of batteries and the personal sanctuary in my head is now at the mercy of the post office line. I am now hearing a repetitive symphony of ambulance sirens on their way to the western infirmary, the warbling call of the Big Issue seller outside (Biiiiiig issue...tae help the homeless buy ye biiiiiig issue ootside....ah only harve one left, buy it so ah can gae hame") and the bloop te bloop blap followed by Ringo Starr saying "Come on Thomas and Friends" of the coin-operated child's Thomas the Tank Engine ride which hides some carpetless floor boards in the Post Office.

Finally it's my turn. Now I have to make a decision about whether to buy a first or second class stamp - surely Britain is the only country to extend the class system to small sticky bits of paper....

The clerk asks me what I would like. "I loaf of bread" I say. He gives me a funny look. "Well, for the amount of time I've been waiting in this line, I thought I had been transported back in time to a communist Russia bread line.

A wry smile. "A second class stamp for you then?"

1 comment:

Mike said...

I love your blog, Ali! It makes my day when I'm sitting here bored, and it's about 37 degrees and 99% humidity on a typical Carolinian summer's day. They actually do talk about 'first class mail' here in the US, but I've never heard anyone mention 'second class' so maybe it's just a way of saying that they will do their best (and - as expected - the prices are probably about half of those in the UK.....) Oh, they also queue (or 'make a line' - Americans don't queue) quite patiently here as well - but, of course, there is the obligatory TVs hung on the wall, tuned to CNN or Fox to pass the time. They talk as well - and when they hear a different accent, they often want to talk some more..... Understanding that southern drawl is probably as hard as the Scots brogue.

And - they sensibly have a separate counter and a separate line for passports!