Friday, 23 August 2013

Of Queue Queue Blimey a Queue

I returned home last week from a few days in Geneva. I love going abroad but I always enjoy returning to the UK. Call me a home bird if you like. This time it was different however. For the first thing that confronted me a Gatwick Airport was a queue for passport control that zigzagged its way left then right then left and right some more from the officials to where I stood and promised me at least a half hour wait.
They say that the Americans have such a good standard of service because they complain when they're not happy. My experience of the British in queues is that they moan like hell to the person in front and behind but say nothing when they finally get served. So I did a deal with myself.
I promised myself not to stress or get angry as I stood hot and tired in more or less the same place for 30 minutes on the understanding that I complained when presented with the opportunity. That is complained properly, not moaned, and to a person responsible for the debacle not Joe Blogs in front of me.
When at last I was given the opportunity to present my passport I asked the official whether he thought things were going well this evening. He replied with some honesty that he didn't think they were. I said that I felt it was a poor service and he agreed but suggested I talked to the people in charge pointing to a raised platform behind him manned by two officials.
The conversation went like this :
"Excuse me Sir but that over there is disgraceful" (they both looked at the now even longer zigzagging line)
" What is?"
"That queue. I've waited 30 minutes just to show someone my passport. This is the first experience many get of the UK and all they see is British inefficiency"
" I'm sorry Sir but we have all the people available to us at their posts. It really is the best we can do"
"I run a company and if I said to customers who complained about our shoddy service that it was the best we could do - they'd laugh at me".
They both cowered away peering at the queue as if to convince themselves that it wasn't that bad and I had overreacted.
So I ask myself did it change things? Probably No. Did it stress me out complaining and send my blood pressure sky high? Well, actually No. In fact quite the reverse. It felt very therapeutic. And indeed when queuing I didn't feel stressed or at all angry because somehow I knew I'd make someone account for the discomfort they were putting me through and that helped.
Would I do the same again? Yes. And every time.

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