Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Stand in line please

Queues. Queues at the bar. Queues at the checkout. Queues at the security check. Do I have a unique inner talent that both guides me to the queue with the imminent problem, whilst  transmitting my intentions to all and sundry? And why do I attract taxi-drivers with a lifetime of sob-stories which they need to share with passengers?

We have just returned from a splendid holiday in Turkey. Weather was great; food was good; company was excellent and the activities generally taxing enough to be satisfying without being unduly tiring. 

There was just this irritating queueing problem that kept catching me out. 

We had just recovered from a 20 minute monologue about the problems of a divorced single overweight red-bull intoxicated cabbie and got our way through the airport obstacles of bag drop and security check. I lost the plot for a split second and offered to go and buy a paper (mainly for the puzzle page to keep my mind active during the flight). 

Getting the paper was easy. Paying for it via the "scan-it-yourself-pay-and sort-the problems-out-yourself" checkouts was almost impossible. In desperation about not missing flights I saw frantic tourists throwing £20 notes into an honesty basket to pay for a Daily Mirror. In my case I had stupidly tried to buy a bottle of water to replace one confiscated at the security check so I just had to wait for the one slow, harassed assistant to serve me.

Hey ho - off to the plane, which departed on time (despite having me on board). The fact that we were almost the last to board mattered not. It meant less time thinking about the physics underlying the problems of getting a very heavy metal weight into the air. However I really didn't think enough about what to have from the hot snacks menu. My wife had thought it through and calmly chose a hot bacon baguette which miraculously managed to appear within 3 minutes. Needless to say, my cheese and ham toastie took a full half an hour.

Realising the power of my latent "rent-a-crowd" talent I began to focus on an expedition to the toilet - an expedition that would clearly have "timing issues" (to quote a popular misconstrued phrase). No need for further details....just think extreme discomfort.

And so it continued throughout the holiday. Almost every time I headed for the drinks bar I would arrive no higher than 10th as 2 or three lines of customers glided into the queue formation. The queues behind me were almost always non-existent (after all it was much more fun to arrive just before me rather than just after). On the rare occasions when I got there first, the drink had just run out (coffee, coke, tango, orange) or the beer barrel needed changing. 

In the self-service buffets of the all-inclusive guests, diners in front of me would help themselves to just the right amount of pancakes/ fried eggs/ beefburgers to leave...nothing. I could have lived with this had I not noticed, time and again platefuls of uneaten meat and eggs littering the table tops. Maybe the sight of so much food was just too strong a temptation - which I suppose is a harder issue to deal with than queues.

For the most part, several days passed without problem (or perhaps I had moved to a denial phase).

Then came the thunderous climax - the grand finale - the mother and father of "rentacrowd" problems - checking in at the airport for the return flight. 

Wickedly, Bodrum airport actually has 2 security check-ins. The first one is a "total baggage" check which takes place just after the departures entrance and comes at a moment when thoughts about passports and airline tickets are uppermost. So I struggled to get all the baggage onto the moving rack without slowing down the queue too much, whilst removing my metal buckled belt with one hand and getting small coins into the plastic box with the other hand. The red alarm light flashed as I went trough the scanner - and the guard gleefully found a mobile phone at the bottom of  a deep pocket (the usual place for my wallet). Place small mobile into large plastic box and go around again. 

As I came out the second time, conscious of trouser slippage, I was confronted by 2 security guards - despite getting a green light from the scanner. "Open bag.!" in a tone and expression that left little room for negotiation. So clutching my trousers with one hand (having only managed to get the belt through 1 loop) I opened my rucksack to reveal 3 spherical objects - which to an x-ray machine could just about have been home-made bombs or baked hand grenades - but which were in fact 2 apples and an orange.

The disappointed trigger happy guards (with back -up hovering within metres) scowled and sent me on my way - doing up belt and re-arranging hand luggage contents whilst walking in the wrong direction for the check-in desks. 10 minutes later, just as we reached the front of the baggage drop queue I heard the public announcement about a mobile phone left in a plastic box at security.

When I finally left the hard-to-convince guards, clutching my ancient "bottom-of-the-range" nokia mobile, I swear I sensed a communal "high-five" going on in the background. But at least the problems couldn't get any worse I thought. I was now mentally prepared for the wrong choice of snack on the plane and a customs queue at the domestic airport. 

I just wasn't prepared for a booked taxi which arrived an hour late at the pick-up point. It just wasn't fair on my friends.

Great holiday, really great. In fact it's difficult to remember when I enjoyed a holiday as much as this one - 
..just a shame about my "rentacrowd" effect...

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