Post Office Queues (the daily dental operation of life)
There’s nothing quite akin to a POQ (post office queue) to force you into an untimely examination of your life. Have you ever noticed that there is always a large clock placed up front? The effect being that in that hushed atmosphere typical of post offices, one can hear its loud ticking, driving home the harsh reality that, yes, even though time certainly does moves on, you, tragically, do not.
I am convinced that POQs are the cause of much misery worldwide. They are the small, daily dental operation of life – one need only witness the slack-jaw expressions on the faces of the others in the line.
After some minutes the tedium builds to a crescendo in your head. You’ve already fiddled with your phone as much as you can. You’ve done a few calf raises. Your cuticles are nicely pushed back and all your half-moons are showing. Now it’s time to simply stare at the back of the head in front of you and try to remain positive.
I sometimes have visions of being the champion of the room by marching up and somehow reaching through the security glass to grab the manager by the scruff of his neck, telling him in a steady yet threatening voice that unless he gets those five ladies standing in a huddle in the doorway of the store room to put down their coffee mugs and serve the 50-strong POQ, I’m gonna get a friend of a friend to rearrange his face. Capiche?
But even as I begin practicing my speech, I know it will never be said, because my British roots are strong and I really do hate any unpleasantness. And so, in the fashion of the millipede, the line inches forward.
Just as you feel you are perhaps drawing near to an epiphany – such mind-numbing inactivity having stilled your mind in preparation for mental breakthrough – you become aware of the stalker behind you, and how he is all but pressed up against you.
There are always a few people in life who clearly wish that face-to-face conversations would take place with both your noses touching. I, for one, enjoy a bit of personal space. If I could have a metre-long-radius bubble around me at all times, I would take it!
The social scientists would probably disagree, but I propose that the actual (subconscious) reason for this phenomenon of encroachment is that by brushing up against you, other POQ victims are trying to find solace in your mutual ordeal. One should try to remember, after all, that they are one person further back in the POQ and their gloom thus incrementally heightened.
Though outwardly I appear composed while standing in POQs, internally I am full of pain. I am there because I love post – I adore brown paper packages tied up with string – but the price to pay to get at it sometimes seems too high. The entire time I stand in a POQ I am in a state of uncertainty; will I actually have the stamina to endure the wait (and reach the spotlight and Hallelujah chorus that awaits the person at the front of the queue when the automated voice announces “next customer please”), or will I instead, with a cry of agonising defeat, leap the dividing rope and make a dash for the door?
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