A day in London always means experiencing more life in concrete than all the green I’ve ever seen, ending with delicious supplies from Chinese supermarkets. One market was so crowded that the queue now extended through a third of the store: as well as the usual crisps and candy, you shuffled past aisles of sesame sauce, chili extracts, and all kinds of noodle. If those were our usual impulse buys we’d all be much happier people.
The length of the queue meant making gaps for people pushing past the cross-aisles. One old woman took her basket to the junction, saw the length of the queue, and genuinely thought she had a cunning plan. It was amazing. She should have been old and intelligent enough to bluff dinosaurs, but her face advertised her intent like a six year old who’s spotted some chocolate closer to her hands than its owners. Age is meant to give the old wisdom, not make them think that everyone younger is blind and stupid.
With the next parting of the queue she tucked her head down, pretended to count things in her basket, and bounced off the invisible forcefield of English queue-fu. She didn’t realize that the English react to people trying to push into a queue like fellow boarding schoolers trying to push into an anus: clenching up but never mentioning it out loud.
It was hive behavior. Everyone identified the threat and acted in unison to protect the system with their own bodies without a word being said. If we could hook other shared social contracts into this level of co-operation we’d be living in a utopia. The failed queue-jumper looked up in what she may have imagined was confusion, unaware that the wrinkles in her face looked like denatured-protein circuitry of cunning. This was no infirm old lady deserving of assistance. This was someone who’s century of experience amounted to “I’m more important than other people, because they’re stupid”, and had just realized she was wrong about that. She sighed and strode off to the end of the queue. And in another unconscious moment of mass-mind, everyone was pleased to note it had gotten considerably longer in the time she’d spent scheming to skip it.