Monday, 8 April 2013

Excuse me, Sorry, Thank-you.

It's Monday morning and although I'm lucky enough to be "working" from my bed in my pjs, I know an awful lot of you have to actually get dressed, comb your hair and venture out into the real world and interact with real people.
As I type I bet some of you are queuing for buses, coffees or taxis. And If you are British I bet you are doing this in a terribly polite British way.
A line of people waiting for a bus
A line of people waiting for a bus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I read once that a group of psychology students did an experiment. A group of them started a queue for..... nothing. When asked what they were queuing for, they just wordlessly pointed in a vague direction ahead of them. But bizarrely passers by started joining the queue!
Obviously it's a little bit of a stereotype that Brits are almost painfully polite - Ive met plenty of my fellow-countrymen who were rude oiks and I've met foreigners with impeccable manners. But the queuing thing does seem to be a bit British.
We've all been there. You have patiently stood in line for a bus. Bus arrives. Someone comes running up the street thinking they are going to miss it and ignoring the queue snaking out of the bus stop tries to crowd on at the door. And what do we do? We might roll our eyes at each other. Shake our heads disapprovingly. Even "tut". But its a brave Brit who says "oi - get to the back of the queue!"
As an aside, I did notice last time I was in London, people did not seem to be so much queuing at bus stops as herding. They didn't seem to be tourists? Maybe this is a byproduct of multi-cultural living - other cultures without the inbred queuing gene have different ideas. It certainly made life easier for me and my huge family - after missing two buses trying to queue we gave up and used the "strength in numbers" principal and barged our way onto the bus. Survival of the fittest seemed to be the way to go but I did feel a pang of sympathy for the family left standing on the kerb with their Granny.......
But most of the time I play by the unspoken rules. If I'm walking down the street and someone knocks into me, or treads on my toe, I hear myself say "Sorry".
And no matter how much of a hurry I'm in to get through the checkout at the supermarket, if someone with a couple of tins and a loaf asks to jump ahead because they only have a few items, I always agree with a smile whilst inwardly seething with the realisation that the queue-jumper has now made me late for school pick-up.
I even agreed once to letting a woman in hospital have her C-section before mine ( mine was scheduled first) because she was nervous. I was nervous too, and starving hungry, but it seemed like the right and proper thing to do.
krispy kreme doughnut cake
krispy kreme doughnut cake (Photo credit: bunchofpants)
I've heard of people missing their stop on the bus because a stranger was talking to them and they were too polite to get up and leave before the end of the story. And its a rare Brit who will tell an unwanted, unsolicited sales caller just to bog off - we make excuses about boiling pans, crying children, being busy, instead of just hanging up wordlessly.
The best queueing story I've heard so far is from Scotland where people desperate to get their hands on American-style doughnuts caused traffic chaos - check out the link below for the full story!

I'm curious to hear -what is the maddest thing youve done to be polite? And I'd love to hear from my overseas readers? Is it just us Brits or do you suffer from over-politeness too?
Leave comments below!

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