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Thursday, November 15, 2012

How To Survive a Queue


This is a fairly typical line, or queue as it's called here, at the ATM. Every time we visit Mansa we have to go to the ATM twice because of our daily limit. This means standing for 5-50 minutes (or more) in line each day.

Once we get our money we may have to go inside the bank to pay our internet bill. This entails standing in line yet again for at least 30 minutes. 

To pay almost any bill in this country means standing in a queue somewhere. And this means developing queue standing skills or at the very least survival tactics.

When we first moved up to this area there was only one bank. The ATM was often out of service which meant extra long lines. Also, there were fewer businesses and agencies available for paying bills so many of them had to be paid at the one bank. One day Tom waited in line at the bank for about an hour with no progress. He then called home and had me send our gardener to stand in his place in line. Our gardener served as Tom's proxy for 3 hours that day and eventually came home when the bank closed without him ever reaching the counter.

One of the only ways to survive long lines is to switch off and just act as if you have nary a care in the world. This used to be very difficult in the 'olden days' when we had no car and had to travel by bus to Mansa. The bus would arrive in Mansa anywhere from 9-11 and then turn around and head back by 1 or 2 PM. This made for a few very stressful hours as we tried to get everything done. Ending up in one of those seemingly endless queues were enough to make even a saint cry.

(And in case you hadn't noticed yet....I'm no saint.....so, yeah......)

Here are some of the tactics I've employed. 

1. Read a book. Those who know me know this is a no-brainer. I nearly always have a book in my bag for this very reason. Now with the Kindle I actually have dozens of books! Hooray!

2. Surf the web. Smart phones have made life in queues so much more tolerable. You can read emails or see what your friends are up to, and even whine about how long you've been in line.

3. Play mental games. If I tired of reading whichever book I had with me, and before the days of digital entertainment in phone form, I would time the minutes that it took each cashier to help each customer and then count the people in line and then calculate the estimated time it would take until I reached the front. I would congratulate myself and give myself 'points' if a customer completed his/her business within my estimate. 

4. Compose blog posts. Guess where I came up with the idea for this one?

5. This is an unusual tip but it is highly necessary here: Stand at a 45 degree angle to the person in front of you. Let me explain. Zambians don't pay much attention to 'personal space'. If you stand directly behind and parallel to a person, the person behind you might get real up close and personal. Standing at an angle means you can actually carve just a little bigger space around yourself. I also like to see ahead and behind me in the queue. I feel a little bit safer. It's the same reason I choose my table carefully in restaurants. I need to keep things in view. Tom calls it the 'Too Many Bourne Movies Syndrome'. LOL

6. Keep your perspective. Everything will eventually get done. Maybe not on our timetable, but it will get done. If the bus leaves you behind, then you get to stay in a hotel. Fun! If it takes 3 days to pay your electric bill, well, at least you have electricity. Very few things can't be gotten through.

7. Keep your sense of humor. Look around for funny signs. People watch. Whatever it takes, chuckle at something.

8. Talk with a fellow queue-sufferer. Even if the conversation consists of "Ah, this queue is long." "Yes, it is long." "What is the problem with these people?" "Ah, yes, it is a problem." "Development is needed." "Definitely it is needed."
At least time passed during that exchange.

9. Breathe through your mouth. This doesn't always come into play. But, when it's needed, It. Is. Needed.

Have I missed any tips? Do share!

And pray for me as I stand in queue after queue this week repairing or replacing our poor lightning struck appliances.

Exactly Three Years Ago: Chola --an Our Kids installment


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