The law of queues


Growing up, we have all been exposed to different laws. The laws of Science and Math. But there is one law that doesn’t conform to any logic. I call it the Law of Queues.

From what I have noticed the Law of Queues works on the principle of ‘individual aggravation’. The Law watches where you stand in any queue and then kicks into action. All queues around you move at jet speed, while your queue moves at the slowest snail’s pace.

I have had my share of woes with this law. A few years ago, after a wonderful holiday, we were in line to check-in. And there was just one person ahead of us in the line. When it was our turn, the lady at the counter put a COUNTER CLOSED sign and walked away, much to our irritation.  It was only much later that we discovered that the flight that had been sent for us had a smaller capacity, and hence could take only a limited number of people. And that number was reached after the man before us in the queue checked in!

Courtesy – iStock

This weekend we were at a mall to buy a few home appliances. Once we had paid, we were directed to a particular aisle from where we had to pick up our stuff.

The Law of queues  must have watched us walking down. The line snaked on and on. We wondered why. We soon found out that the store offered this service of checking if every appliance was functioning ok.

We resigned ourselves to the long wait. Thanks to smartphones we managed to use the time well, without crying out in frustration.

Clucks of exasperation could be heard on and off. And finally we were at the magical number two.  But we found out that the person before us had many, many things to check.

We watched in silence, and patiently awaited our turn. When we moved to first place, we could almost feel the eyes of ‘number three’ boring holes into us. There were some muted groans and clucks.

But queues move. Life moves on….

Relax, Nothing’s Under Control


Our group of eight is flying from Nairobi to Oman, with a changeover at Abu Dhabi.

We have a two-hour gap for the changeover. Our flight from Nairobi takes off after a one-hour-fifteen-minute delay. We are not overly worried, we can still make it, we reassure ourselves.  Pilots do make up for lost time, at least some part of it, we discuss.

The post-holiday weariness is evident in all our eyes. The energy we traveled with, the endless photographs we took, the curios we picked up, the local flavours that we experienced and wondered at, all these seem so far away now, though we’ve just wrapped up a wonderful holiday.

We board, and sleep on the long flight, a dreamless sleep of fatigue, punctuated by in-flight meals that our tired bodies require.

We land, and anxiety hits us as we have only about 40 minutes left to disembark, and board the next flight . But, we are going to take on this challenge, yes, we are.

There are a few passengers sharing our plight as we make a beeline for the exit. We charge out and run, our sleepy legs jolted awake with cruelty. Our razor sharp eyes blindly follow the transit boards.

Eight people racing, up escalators, down others, running on travellators, with duty free shops and boarding gates whizzing past. We are close, ten more minutes left. There is a long corridor stretching ahead and we run, run, run.

We are sure that when the ground staff see us, they will hold the flight.

Just as we turn a bend, a member of the ground staff from the airline waits for us, waving.

Relief pours out in rivulets of sweat as we run with a sense of purpose now.

When we reach him, he says, “Are you taking Flight so and so to Oman?”

Eight heads nod vigorously.

“Relax! The boarding gate is closed, and the flight is taxiing on the runway readying for take off. We are putting you on the earliest available flight, which is at 2.45 a.m tomorrow. Just another five hours”, he says.

We just broke some Olympic records in sprinting there!  Eight indignant faces stare back at him, gasping for air.

We resign ourselves and settle down for the long wait.  The laughter comes much later, as we recollect our sprint through the airport.