Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Neat lines are faster
“Hello! Can you join the back of the queue?”
The American lady addressing me looks frustrated. The line for transit passengers at Istanbul Airport is long, and I just tried to join it at my nearest entry point.
Reluctantly – how very American to make such an issue out of nothing and in such an impolite way! – I move to the back of the queue. And there it hits me: how very Iraqi I have become in my five years in Kurdistan!
Before, I would never have thought of jumping a queue. We have lines everywhere, in busy Europe. For the ATM to get cash, for the fresh bread in the bakery, for the cashier in the supermarket, for the machine that sells train tickets, for the bus. For the museum, for the football stadium, a concert, etcetera etcetera. When you arrive, you join the end of the queue, or come back when the line is smaller. As simple as that.
The only ways to jump the queue is in case of emergency, or when you buy only one product. And always after asking nicely. The queue at the airport would have been jump-able too, if I had little time to catch my connecting flight. Then people would have agreed on letting me go first.
In Kurdistan queues are never neat. Using this disorder, people move to the front. It depends on how you do it – smiling, using charm or female attraction, using seniority or position – but it is very possible to get served before your turn. As everybody does it, so do I. Why wait longer than needed?
In Europe, in some shops we have numbers to regulate the process. Then you could even leave the line to run another errand and come back before your number is called.
The worst mess are Kurdish lines at the traffic lights. That starts on the way there; drivers jump lanes, overtaking on both sides, in a rush to be there first. At the traffic light, suddenly the three lanes have become four or even five, with cars moving into the smallest of spaces. The same happens at the checkpoints.
Kurdish drivers think they will be the first by moving themselves in between cars and lanes. But they create chaos. At the end, the space is too small for all these cars to move at the same time. And then there is a fight who will go first. I have seen queues take hours to dissolve, because nobody could move backwards nor forwards anymore.
Neat lines work the fastest. Perhaps I must quit my Iraqi habit, and join the queue at the end again.This column was published in Kurdish in the newspaper Kurdistani Nwe