Culture Clash is an ongoing tongue-in-cheek series about the downsides of travel. Half rant, half sass, this sarcastic series is meant to highlight aspects of travel that are usually glossed over by the typical travel blogger. Oh, and did I mention there will be cursing?
Malta has me on the offensive.
I've got my elbows up. My legs are braced in a widening stance as I press my shoulders out, expanding my meager vegan frame to take up as much room as physically possible. My 40L backpack keeps the plebeians behind me at bay, though a few start inching around me. Like a mass of suntanned Gollum's, they sneak and slide against the side of the bus to cut in line.
Who the fuck am I kidding!? This is a mob, a push-and-shove throng of degenerate tourists and geriatric locals all clawing to get on a bus without enough seats. "Who cares who was here first (it was me, for the record) as long as MY needs are met, right?"
Jesus H. Crow.
If there is anything that gets my knickers in a twist about travel it is this: the inability of people to line up. If it were up to me — and it should be — people who cut in line would be burned at the stake immediately. No questions. Just boom, flames.** They are up there with bike thieves and people who download on public wifi; they are humanity at its absolute worst.
“But Chris, isn't that kind of petty? Don't all cultures do things differently?”
Yes. But I never said I wasn't petty.
They do. But just because a culture has ingrained social practices doesn't make them reasonable or enjoyable or ethical. Hell, chances are it's just the opposite. Think running of the bulls or curling. Some cultures just do stupid shit and everybody just lets it slide.
Obviously, as a straight white dude from Canada who lives in Sweden, I've been sucking on the teat of privilege pretty much every moment of my life. I get that in some places, it IS a fight — tooth and nail — to get access to products and services. I get it. But there are times when the stakes are low yet everybody and their dog still act like we're dodging bombs under Blitzkrieg. I mean, have you been to China? How about during Golden Week? Christ Almighty, it's if Chaos itself was snorting lines and pissing Red Bull. Unadulterated nonsense.
Where I come from, when you need something, you get in line for it. You wait. First come, first served. People who cut in line are called out (ok, as Canadians we might not call them out but we sure as heck THINK about doing so!). Hell, here in Sweden they have evolved BEYOND the line. You just show up, take a number, and wait as you will. No chaos, no confusion. Just polite order, respectful behaviour, and sweet, sweet efficiency.
Why do they do this?
Because it is mutually beneficial.
When you use a line, EVERYONE knows where they stand — and you better believe that sweet pun was intended. People who arrive early are rewarded, and those slovenly social dregs who can't show up on time have to wait. It's democratic (then again, so was the election of Donald Trump so I should probably not hold democracy up so high...)
Anyway, the point is this: lines are better than no lines. Every single privileged person from a country that uses lines will agree...and that's, like, probably a lot of the world? I really don't know. Whatever. The world needs to get its shit together. How are we going to stop climate change, fight fascism, end poverty, and survive the zombie apocalypse if we can't even figure out a simple queuing system?
But hey, don't take my word for it.
Wait, yes, do take my word for it. Line the fuck up.
** we could make reusable, flame-retardant stakes so we don't need to cut down so many trees. I'm sure Elon Musk could figure something out for us.
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Before you send off any hate mail, please remember that this is a tongue in cheek series. It's all fun and games until somebody gets a letter bomb.