It’s challenging being a Briton abroad. We sort of carry the weight of the average impression on our shoulders. You try to be extra polite, extra gracious and extra embracing because you are extra aware that we have an international label of extra fussy.
Dalaman Airport, Turkey emptied the plane promptly onto two buses. Great! We knew we had a few hours ahead of us in a hopefully air conditioned car (though if it was just rolled down windows, that would be okay too – we’re not fussy!) – leaving the plane so quickly was a bonus!
And then came the queue for Passport Control.
Except it wasn’t a queue. It was a mass. A mass of mainly British holiday makers. A mass of mainly British holiday makers in 28 degree heat. A mass of mainly British holiday makers in 28 degree heat with one thing on our unified mind:
Protect your queue – for Queen and Country!
The photo is from about the halfway point and just before my realisation that Husband and I would have to jiggle into a snaking line of tourists that was making its way more directly to one of the Passport booths. At the point we joined, along with how many others, you couldn’t even see the booths.
An angry and likely overheated teenage boy to my right was eliciting advice from his more quietly angry mother about what to do as more and more people merged with their ‘queue’.
Don’t let them in,
She said with all the certain control of any good matriarch,
There’s too many…
A boy of about five or six to my left had already declared his exasperation at everyone joining his queue. I’m beginning to think it’s something they put in our water.
About a fifth of the way to go, we heard a whistle behind is and could see the crowd trying as best it could to part, fanning back in a reluctant Mexican wave for a man in a wheelchair. Yes, the same man who had been bouncing spryly up and down for the toilets, the trolley and for Husband to get past him, in the seat at the end of our row on the plane. Clever old people. However, the look of unabashed delight as he flew through the mass was sort of worth it. More whistles came, more suspect wheelchair inhabitants, along with large groups of family trailing past us behind them.
Behind me, a conversation broke out.
Well, now you’re in our queue!
I’m not in your queue.
Yes you are. You were in that one, and now you’re
in this one!
[sheepishly] I’m not in your queue.
I turned to see the speaker of the first more tense interlocutor and beheld a red faced bespectacled English man berating a younger, more embarrassed looking Englishman with scrunched up shoulders, sort of caught between both queues.
Because there were no queues.
And when that happens to the British – when one of our great underpinnings of polite society is challenged, we descend into chaos.
Or, because we’re British, terse verbal exchanges with other holiday makers.