On Wednesday, I found myself patiently waiting in a queue, talking with a nice lady from Toronto, to get through airport security at Heathrow Terminal 4. Nothing unusual there.
Although, for someone from London to exchange pleasantries with a complete stranger is a little unusual (but she started it).
However, on this occasion, only two X-ray machines were in use so the queue was a little longer than usual and slowly and relentlessly growing in length.
A BAA lady was monitoring the queue and, from time to time, would open up a barrier to allow economy pasengers to join the Fast Track queue (much to the disgust of all the business people who had paid a premium specifically to clear the security checks quicker, avoid mixing with economy passengers, as they are in such a desperate hurry and are so important with their toy phones glued to their ears). This action would get smiles and thanks from those invited but would only provide a brief respite from the underlying problem.
The queue got longer. People got more disgruntled. One man walked to the head of the queue, presumably because his flight was imminent. People grumbled under their breath, in a very British way. The queue got longer.
A couple of ladies decided to follow suit and boldly walked straight up to the head of the queue. People actually dared to challenge them (they must have been foreign tourists). The lady from BAA interjected and politely requested that they rejoin the queue from whence they came. They retorted ‘but the queue is big and we will miss our flight’. The lady checked the boarding passes and told them that they had a full 45 minutes before the flight departed which that was plenty of time and they reluctantly went back to a stream of quiet ‘Tut’s.
A man immediately behind me then said to the BAA lady ‘Some people just think they’re better than everyone else’. At this stage, my wait was almost over as I was nearly at the X-ray machine. However, I thought this was a little unfair so I took a deep breath, summoned up the courage and said to the BAA lady.
‘The queue is so long that people are actually queuing out in the main concourse. You really need to open up another gate. That is why people are getting worried and trying to jump the queue’.
She genuinely look surprised as if I had told her that I believed in aliens and replied ‘Are they really ?’ [ queuing on the concourse ]. Not sarcastically but in all honesty.
To my absolute amazement, she then walked the whole length of the queue, beyond passport control and looked out to the concourse, as she slowly absorbed the full extent of the queue.
She then returned and summoned two of the four BAA staff who were just stood around, chatting about their Christmas presents, the state of Aunt Agatha’s health, flicking through the newspaper, arguing over whose turn it was to get the coffee, the weather and Chelsea’s domination of the Premiership
Another X-ray scanner was opened. The queue started to reduce. People were happy although no-one had the courtesy to start a spontaneous round of applause for yours truly. I asked the lady from BAA for an application form for a job as a ‘customer service assistant and senior queue monitor’.
The two remaining green shirted BAA staff remained chatting, no doubt discussing those January return to work blues and how difficult they were finding it to get motivated for work in 2006.