When Sartre said that ‘Hell is other people’, he must surely have been thinking of other people who make you wait. For example, in any supermarket I will unfailingly, like a lemming to a cliff top, rush towards what I think will be the fastest-moving queue.
Only of course it won’t be, because that morning the cashier will have overdosed on Mogadon, have the manual dexterity of a tortoise, and will be sitting at the till with the broken conveyor belt. Ahead of me will be someone who has at least three items without a barcode. The commotion this causes requires the intervention of at least two supervisors, a manager and the fire brigade to resolve. I usually keep myself occupied at this stage by trying to stifle the blood-curdling screams fighting their way up my wind-pipe.
My favourite customers though, are the magicians who produce chequebooks. Remember those?
Well, grit your teeth and smile through your tears, because it’s going to be another ten minutes before anyone can even locate a working pen, and a shop assistant old enough to remember how to process the cheque. And that’s before we even get to the idiots who can’t remember their pin numbers.
Don’t even think about using one of those self-service tills either, because I’ve noticed that they seem particularly alluring to individuals with the lightning reflexes of a sloth and the IQ of a banana. Your blood pressure will never recover from this type of assault. Only hardened queuers with experience of hostage-negotiation should attempt this queue.
Some waiting periods can be particularly painful. I once developed a terrible backache and fearing all kinds of potentially lethal conditions, crawled off to see my doctor. I was so relieved to see only one other patient in front of me, an old lady with what looked like a huge photo album on her lap. We both sat stoically enduring some wrist-slitting music while we waited. (It amazes me that a profession whose Hippocratic Oath states ‘First, do no harm’, insists on piping that suicide-inducing muzak through to their patients) Anyway, the old lady smiled sweetly at me and said ?Doctor always likes to see my new cat photographs, you know? and her smile gave way to a maniacal grin. I tried to smile back through the pain.
Well, she was in there for a full 40 minutes, and I could hear the two of them laughing merrily over pictures of kittens chasing socks, while I slithered to my knees overtaken by yet more excruciating spasms. I guess that’s why they’re called waiting rooms…