I see a queue and my heart sinks. Nothing to do with impatience, or having somewhere else to be. Nobody likes a queue, but I hate them.
Do I really need to stay and pay for this item? I’ve used so much energy getting here, getting the item. The place wasn’t wheelchair accessible, so I’d made the gamble: to do the shop race. Get in, grab item, get out. It’s just a small shop, so no trailing down aisles.
I’d got the first parking space, dodged the people milling around, and found the item I needed in record time.
Then I turned the corner and saw the queue.
My heart drops. I want to leave, but I really, really need it. It can’t wait. I have to get it today.
So I join the queue with trepidation. And immediately it begins – the ache intensifies, solidifies into an unmistakable gnawing, right in the bones.
I eye the people in front of me, judging them. That one’s near the front and hasn’t even got their purse out, one of the cashiers yawns. Hurry, hurry, I plead. But they continue leisurely, with all the time in the world.
The pressure begins, and I’ll soon by at my point, my limit. I begin to sway from foot to foot, trying to ease the pain. But it builds, and they continue to amble on.
I begin to plead with them in my head. Please leave the queue. Please see I have just one item and let me go first. Please.
I know this won’t happen – why should they? They are in front of me, it’s first come, first serve: the British way.
I feel sick. The pain is intense. Like someone has their fist around my spine and delighting in crushing it, bit by bit. It travels up into my shoulders, getting tighter and tighter, into my legs, my feet.
Just one more person and I’m at the front. Then they head towards one of the cashiers, but it’s a complicated return.
And then it’s my turn, oh thank goodness, I take a step towards the second cashier, but he stands up with a shrug and declares himself closed. I want to cry after him, no, please… He instead heads towards some children milling about by a second counter to serve them. They don’t even care, they seem annoyed he has interrupted their conversation.
The other cashier is still wrapped up in the return. I can’t breathe. Tears sting my eyes – over a goddamn queue.
I’m shaking. Why did he leave? He could see my stick, surely he must have seen my pain? Why isn’t pain visible – it would make life so much easier. They give us parking spaces closer to the shop, but queues are just tough damn luck.
Finally, it’s my turn, for real this time, and finally I can limp back to the car and collapse with relief. The pain stays for days.
I hate queues.