Disunited States of America

It became abundantly apparent within my first few weeks in America that there is no concept more alien than the idea of queuing. Forming a queue this side of Atlantic is so utterly alien that the word itself has been expunged from the vocabulary of the continent. I find this to be a grave shame. I like the word perhaps more that the concept. I am big fan of the letter ‘Q’. I find there is something very proud in the ability to be followed by two pairs of vowels, letting neither remotely impact your sound. ‘Q’ is a letter which knows it’s worth ten points on a scrabble board. Without it, James Bond would undoubtedly be dead.

While awaiting the arrival of a Greyhound coach northbound to Chicago, it became clear that the coach due an hour before mine did not show up, resulting in a mob formed by two rival coachless groups of coachless passengers demanding priority. Each passenger was so desperate they were prepared to board anything which entered the bus station that remotely resembled a vehicle. Everyone was looking into the whites of each other’s eyes, squaring up their competition, thinking ‘Yeah, if it came to it… I could take you’. It was soon clear the bus station was rapidly taking on water after colliding with an iceberg, and this one single coach was everyone’s lifeboat. The mob was spread along the curb in clusters, each subgroup surrounding chosen individuals who were predicting with the devout certainty of prophets that yes, this is where the doors will open. Men fooled themselves into thinking their women and children could be used as the bargaining tools of priority, but secretly they had no illusions: if push came to shove, which it certainly will, they knew they would be prepared to leave them behind. I had no Leonardo DiCaprio to explain to me the hydrodynamics of a sinking bus station, so when the coach rolled into the bus terminal I ran to its door just like everyone else.

I wanted to be the Moses that bought these people the tablets of queuing etiquette. I wanted to them to see that, yes I know this is your 5 o’clock coach, but these people have been waiting since 4 o’clock. I wanted them to appreciate the wonders of the letter ‘Q’ and, given the time and right place, you could turn that triple letter score into 30 points. But when you blind wrestle your way to the front of a crowd, take multiple elbows to the face and several knees to the crotch, and still manage to secure yourself THE last place on the coach, you can’t help but think, fuck queuing, I got me a seat.

Mark Lautman


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