"I Walk the Line" - Johnny Cash, 1964
Whether it's referred to as a "line" or a "queue" - and whether you're "in line" or, like in New York City, "on line" - there are different rules of behavior in dealing with waiting lines, depending upon where in the world you are.
I've learned pretty quickly that in England, queues are almost as sacred as they are in Manhattan. I learned that very quickly when I moved to NYC in 1986. But besides the line/queue difference, there's a big difference in the way the unwritten rules are policed in the two locations.
In New York, he/she who dares to break into an existing line will get verbally admonished first. If that doesn't work after the first or second try, he/she is then likely to be shoved out of their offending position. That's just the way it is there. Do not dare break the sanctity of a line...for anything.
In England, the people in the queue who are being bumped back frown and grumble and mumble to each but say or do absolutely nothing to the offenders.
So here's what happened to me after work yesterday. It was pouring with rain in Oxford. The queue for the two northerly park and ride buses is combined into one big waiting line, as both the 300 and the 500 buses depart from the same bus stop. There's a bus shelter there, but only about 8-10 people will fit underneath. I was about number 12, so I was standing in the rain (but under my ever-with-me umbrella). I was getting a little wet, but that's par for the course when you live in Britain.
I noticed a group of about 15 students milling around in front of a Border's shop two or three doors down. I remember vaguely wondering if they were going to try to crash the bus waiting line. Also, about 15 people (with umbrellas, I should add) were taking cover nearby in front of the box office of the cinema. I was thinking that was OK, as long as they waited for the end of the queue before trying to board the bus.
The 300 bus (not mine) came first. None of the students, nor the folks in front of the cinema, made a move. So far, so good. And a few of the people under the bus shelter boarded the 300, so I shifted up under cover. I was now the 7th person in the queue.
And then the 500 bus rounded the corner and approached. The woman behind me muttered something about how she bet all of the other people were going to try to move ahead of us waiting patiently in the queue. I was thinking the same thing.
The 6 people ahead of me must have been thinking the same thing, too, as we all shifted forward, very tightly, toward the curb where the bus would soon open its doors.
And here came all of the queue jumpers as well.
I said to the woman ahead of me the we should make sure we all got on the bus first. Another woman farther ahead heard me and said she agreed. I heard several "Yes, that's right!" comments coming from those around me. And we moved forward. And so did the queue breakers.
I think I must have said something, again, like "We should not let them do that." And the woman (British - as all of the women around me were) ahead of me said, "Oh, YOU should be the one to do something!" (Because I'm American, I thought!)
And so you know what? I did! I put on my best "New York" aggressive face and posture. I stepped out of the line slightly, spread myself out as wide as I could, and said to the interlopers that I wasn't going to let any of them on the bus ahead of me. I then sort of guided all of the people directly in front of and behind me onto the bus, blocking the path of all but one of the most aggressive of the students. One of the students (German? Dutch?) glared at me and told me that they'd been waiting "a long time" for the bus. I told him so had we, and we were waiting in the bus queue. "I didn't see a bus queue.", he said. I said something to him like what did he think all of us were doing snaked down under the bus stop cover and sidewalk/pavement behind the sign for the 300 and 500 buses. He shrugged and said something under his breath. And I made sure he didn't get on ahead of me!
When I boarded, the driver was one of the few female bus drivers for the park and ride buses. I told her we had a bunch of queue-jumpers out there - the drivers are usually very good about watching that people don't do that, but the crowd at the door of the bus in this case was really big and disorganized - and with a wide smile on her face, she said that it appeared that I'd at least handled some of them. I got a kick out of that.
I'm usually not that pushy. But I was "the assertive American" at that moment.
And this morning, one of the ladies near me yesterday smiled and said "Good morning!" to me for the very first time when we boarded this morning's 500 bus at the park & ride station!