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Saturday, 16 October 2010

Queueing Action Part 4

To succeed at our Doctors’ it really helped if you had a photographic memory. Your first task on entering was to register everyone in the room so that you knew who was before you and to make sure that no-one who came in after you usurped your place. The whole room sat in that absolute silence common to waiting rooms everywhere, each person desperately trying to maintain their mental picture of the pecking order. Occasional fine tuning would occur when someone with a degree of confidence would make an opening bid, such as:
Large, imposing woman in armchair by fireplace: “I think you were before me, weren’t you dear?”
Young woman wrestling with toddler on her lap: “Oh yes, I came in after the lady in the red hat, didn’t I?”
Lady with red hat: “That’s right, because I came in at the same time as the gentleman with the umbrella over there. I distinctly remember remarking on the rain shower we had just had so that must have been about (tentatively) half past four?”
All: “Yes, half past four. That’s right.”
Conversations like this helped everyone to get the pattern right in their heads and to introduce newcomers to the rules of the game. Unfortunately, the physical layout of the premises enabled the more unscrupulous to buck the system. It was impossible to see the corridor from the waiting room. Therefore, it was entirely possible for the more impatient or thick-skinned to lurk in the corridor, listen out for the bell or buzzer and race down the corridor to the consulting room whilst the debate in the waiting room concluded:
“I think that’s me. You’re waiting for Doctor X aren’t you?”
“I don’t mind who I see but I think it’s your turn anyway. I’m after this gentleman.”
“Oh, don’t worry about me, I’m here to see Doctor Y”
Etc., etc.
The receptionist’s purpose was to dig out your medical notes and leave these tightly stuffed brown envelopes on a table in the corridor for you to collect and take in to the Doctor. It seems remarkable, in this age of Data Protection that everyone’s medical records were left there for anyone to access. So, by the time that you had confirmed your turn in the waiting room, proceeded up the corridor and found your medical notes it was by no means unusual to knock on the consulting room door only to find a low drone of conversation coming from the other side that indicated that someone had pinched your spot. Clearly, if you weren’t agitated by attending the doctor before, you certainly would be after a few iterations of this scenario.
Strangely enough, the only time I have seen queuing discipline break down into violence was at the most unlikely venue imaginable. Over the years I have been to rock concerts up and down the country, from the Hammersmith Odeon to the back room of the local pub. At these I have rubbed shoulders (and very little else – you never know where it might lead) with every sector of society and have never seen any trouble. However, at a Ken Dodd concert in Derby Assembly Rooms a few years ago, one gentleman (who wouldn’t see 70 again if he used a telescope), accused another of a similar age of pushing in front of him at the bar and all hell broke loose. It took three bouncers to pull them apart.
So beware the awesome power of the queue, you never know when and where it might strike next. I’m sorry, were you before me?
Taken from "Steady Past Your Granny's" - see widget on this page