The Queue Jumper

I had a truly uplifting experience last week that I’d like to share with everyone.

Ben and I were in Oxford last week. And when we arrived at Heathrow, (lots of memories wrapped up in that place!) it turned out that the line at immigration was hideously long. We were both bordering on deliriously tired, and we were clearly going to be standing in line with all of our luggage for an hour. Basically, you could sum up the situation as tedious in the extreme. I was standing there with a glazed look on my face, shuffling several steps forward every so often and thinking of nothing in particular except occasionally noticing what bad outfits people wear on planes.

And then suddenly, into this gray, drab, dull, flourescently lit tedium, there came something that can only be described as a blessing. A little human drama began to unfold directly behind us in line, and it raised my spirits immeasurably.

It began when I felt someone breathing on my elbow. That was a bit disconcerting. I whipped around, and there was an exceptionally short Indian woman standing behind me. Right behind me. As in, very much involved with my personal space. She was probably 65, and her height was such that when she breathed, it hit me on the elbow. She had a wicked scowl on her face, and also a mustache. She was leading a little girl by the hand, and towing a suitcase. I turned back around and tried to ignore the breathing on my elbow. I was beginning to settle back into my stupor when she kicked things up a notch in the whole personal-space-invasion by prodding me in the buns. Indeed. She did.

At this point I began to really sit up and take note of this woman. She had a very settled scowl, and apparently thought that if you were just standing there in line then you weren’t really trying. She began to hustle us in all sorts of ways. I think she was attempting a sort of border collie move, and trying to crowd us up into the people ahead. But honestly now. You’ve got to give people room to breathe. No sense in having more togetherness than we actually need. And, as we all know, standing with your nose pressed up against the next person in line won’t make the line move any faster. So we stayed right where we were, and that didn’t seem to be ok with her. Not her style. She wanted action. She breathed on us, prodded, us, and bumped into the back of us repeatedly.

And then, in a completely unprecedented move, she stuck her head through in between Ben and me and had a little look round. Her head popped through the gap right around our midriffs, and looked side to side to scout things out and see how things were coming along. Ben and I stared at each other in surprise over the top of her head, not entirely sure how to respond to this very unusual situation, and trying not to actually laugh out loud. After all, she had an ear glued to each of our stomachs, and she would definitely have noticed if we laughed. Then she withdrew her head and returned to her usual place, wallpapered to the back of me.

A few yards later, she did the head move again. I was just totally amused at this point and I’m pretty sure I snickered. Inwardly of course, I was howling with laughter, but outwardly I managed to keep it reeled in and just let out a smallish snort of amusement. But then, just when I thought this woman couldn’t get any more outrageous, she did. It turned out that this time her head was just the thin end of the wedge; the camel’s nose under the edge of the tent. After a moment of reconnoitering – spying out the territory ahead, she squirted right through the gap and then drug her suitcase and small girl through behind her! As soon as she got through, she spread out very wide – presumably to keep us from being able to fight back.

At this point I couldn’t hold it together anymore and was weeping I was laughing so hard. And for the rest of the time in line we had a front row seat and got to watch her breathing on the back of the poor Korean couple ahead of us. They had seen her move on us, and they were very determined to not let her get the best of them. It was phenomenal. She prodded them, hustled them, and generally gave her best imitation of ivy on a wall. She did actually try to snake them on the corners a couple of times . . . but they were seriously skilled and never let her past. The man would throw out an elbow, the wife would reach across and grab the rope thingy, and she never took them. I’m pretty sure that they earned her respect in that queue. We, however, were definitely objects of her scorn. She was seriously looking down on us in spirit, if not in reality. Silly Americans who have no idea how to stand in a line.

It was great. Made my whole day worthwhile. Good clean family fun, free of all this modern suggestiveness.

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25 thoughts on “The Queue Jumper

  1. I was literally crying with laughter as I read this out loud to my 17 year old son. :) Brilliant!

  2. What a wonderful story! When I first arrived in the US, I’m sure I penetrated many, many persons’ personal space! And probably jumped the queue too! It’s a third world thing! And there is definitely an art in “Prevention of the Queue Jumper”!

    I’ve reformed my ways in the 25 plus years I’ve been in this country. Truth be told, not entirely. I still find myself ‘jumping the queue’ on the freeway and ‘playing’ with people’s personal space in the elevator! May God continue His work in me!

  3. This story is, at very least, worth a knotch back in line. Thank you for passing on the rolling laughter.

  4. I had to fight to hold back the laughter because I am waiting on my inhaler prescription refill, but hoo boy was that funny.

  5. This would make a perfect epilogue to your book…”Some Americans in Oxford!”

  6. So…have you learnt your lesson? Will you resist next time? Or will you try queue-jumping yourself? And if you do, will you promise to tell us whatever hilarious story ensues?

  7. Finally, a woman I can travel with! (you, that is, not the camel’s nose) Glad to know others find humor in situations like this, too!

  8. Oh my word. Seriously! I have never, in all my life, met a person who is constantly finding themselves in the most ridiculous situations. Situation that you would never come up with unless they actually happened. Who was it that said something in the vain of “Reality is always better then fiction because we could never come up with that stuff on our own.” C.S. Lewis I think? But case in point!

  9. That is so funny!!! I think some of the funniest things in life are reserved for you, Bekah. Probably because you relay them in such a wonderful manner to all the rest of us.

    Love,
    Aunt Monica

  10. Monica — either that, or crazy stuff happens to all of us and we just don’t have the knack of seeing the humor in it. If it had been me, I’d probably have related a story about how angry I was at this rude woman. I’m sure I could have as effectively gotten people to share in my indignation as Bekah has gotten us to share in her laughter. How much more she honors God by blessing others with that outlook!

  11. Priceless! We’ve lived in Mongolia for the last 7 years and get all around Asia–lines = mobs in many of these areas. Getting one and off airplanes is the most challenging–I have even seen people climb over airplane seats to avoid the line. However, the beautiful Korean Air attendants (who never ever sweat) do all but taze the crowds into obedience. I have to confess to very bad behavior in lines and behind the wheel when I return to US–it usually disappears when the jetlag does :) Keep us smiling!

  12. I admit, I was a little indignant reading about this too. Valerie’s right, it’s great you can see the obvious humor in something that people like me are just quick to get annoyed with! Also, this post would be even better if you’d taken a picture of the lady as she was peeking between the two of you.

  13. Hysterical-historical moment for the book of family stories! ROFL at this. I’m with Valerie – I’d have had to back her off my arm. I see myself picking her up under the arms and setting her back in line while she kicks. LOL this is good stuff.

    Love the perspective, Bekah. Yes, let us laugh.

  14. Thanks for the laugh and the humor you see in life. I really appreciate that! I also wanted to “like” lots of the responses here!

  15. Not what I was expecting when you first began to describe your “blessing”, but it certainly was looking on the bright side of the situation!

  16. I am quite certain that same woman passed through immigration in Lima just a few months ago….

  17. Sounds like an experience I had while registering in a Bulgarian police station years ago. Little old lady flanked us, then had the gall to look back and gloat over it.

  18. I think my favorite part of this whole scenario is that you reacted the same way I would – howling with laughter. Man, I love it when people like that show up that I can watch. Did you figure out how many places in line she’d jumped behind you?

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