“Queueing has become a symbol of Britain’s civilised, fair, quiet way of doing things. But is it all it is cracked up to be? The person at the front of the soup kitchen line gets fed first even if the one at the end is hungriest. The youth at boarding gate five gets to sit down before the pensioner with an arthritic hip. There is more genuine fairness in Mediterranean countries where people do not have the decency to queue but do have the decency to not queue well. When buses arrive, for example, you don’t see groups of young men muscling their way to get on first. People generally give way to the weakest and frailest. To think queuing is morally superior is to confuse fairness with orderliness, a particularly British mistake.” (Julian Baggini in The Guardian)
This is total nonsense. Nowadays in London nobody queues. This is because so few bus passengers are British. The bus arrives and everyone moves towards the entrance in a phalanx. No, there is seldom any pushing and shoving, but nor does anyone “give way to the weakest and frailest”. You could have been there at the bus stop for a quarter of an hour, but it doesn’t stop people from Mediterranean countries and elsewhere edging on board first and taking the vacant seats. Why? Because there are no longer any unspoken courtesies or accepted ways of doing things.
I live (in London) on the same street that my grandmother lived. There used to be an orderliness about life there. A real queue formed for a bus, and, yes, old, frail ladies were nonetheless allowed on first because manners and consideration were important. People (generally) walked on the left hand side of the pavement because this is the side you drove on; now there is no accepted side, just dodgems. My point may seem petty but these little things made the boring but necessary things in life easy and predictable. There is nothing wrong with “orderly”. Mr Baggini of the Guardian is too young to remember little politenesses and courtesies – or, apparently, orderliness as well.
(My wife thinks I’m getting crotchety and grumbly. Well, I guess “yes”, maybe I am!).