Frankly she was having a rant.
“People don’t queue any more! We always used to queue in England. Now it’s a free-for-all. Where has all this pushing come from? Europe? America? It’s wrong, I say, all wrong!”
I smile sympathetically and glance at my daughter who’s dragged me here – with heavy bags and sore feet in pointy boots – because there are always less people at this stop. But there is one very old lady, huddled in an anorak with a brown furry hood gazing up at us beadily like a furious mole.
I try to look sympathetic but after all, Brits still do queue for most things – in supermarkets, the post office, the cinema. We even queue for buses. It’s just that when the bus actually stops, so does the queue. Then it’s each man for himself – The Charge of the Light Brigade so to speak. I don’t like that bit much though I can barge like the next woman.
She wipes her nose with a cotton hanky. Her hand trembles. She’s tiny and has skin like rice paper. My daughter and I exchange looks. The air is raw. The sky frowns. There are a few flakes of snow. The waiting grows and so does the queue. We all shift and sigh and lean forward every time we spot a splash of red and as each bus lumbers past, we subside, withdrawing our heads with pained expressions like constipated turtles.
By the time the bus comes, the queue snakes out of sight. My companion leaps up with startling speed and struts to the pavement edge, wobbling slightly. But the bus overshoots and stops further down the queue. My daughter and I, who now have an unspoken commitment to this lady (we were both off the scale on the Myers and Briggs “Feeling” section) appoint ourselves her personal bouncers. I shepherd her towards the bus with the Marks’ bags, nearly tripping her with my pointy boots and my daughter flattens herself against the rest of the queue – impressively barging a bloke twice her size. Even so a couple of people make it ahead of us.
If there’s a heaven, and I absolutely always believe there is (apart from the odd panicky moment at night, and once briefly stuck in a lift in Istanbul), I bet God wouldn’t put the Brits in charge (“Number 12,006 please!”). He’d more likely choose the Americans (“Hi! – huge smile – How y’all doin?”) or the Europeans (“Greetings, with Schnapps and many kisses!”) Or perhaps, horror of horrors, there’ll be no queue at all… just an open door, a lighted room and a traffic cone left by a teenager.
And we’ll walk on through in our pointy boots and furry hoods with our heavy bags and our pained expressions. And first or last it won’t matter in the least.
No ranting in sight.