The queuing calamities

Mar 28 2020. view 240

The dawn of 24th March saw a mass exodus of citizenry eager to leave the confines of their home and stock up on their fast-dwindling groceries. The curfew was officially lifted at 6 am but the eager beavers amongst us had already violated the curfew restrictions and formed queues outside the many supermarkets, grocers, boutiques, meat shops, pharmacies and anywhere that provisions were sold.

Even at 6 am the queues snaked around with many people of all ages from varying social strata standing in line awaiting their turn to enter the stores. While some people patiently waited their turn under the unrelenting rays of the harsh equatorial sun, others chose to ignore them and try their luck by queue jumping. Many chanced their luck and tried to go to the front of the queues only to be met with a barrage of verbal attacks which propelled them to the back of the queues.

Like countless others, I wonder why the principle of queuing is anathema to the vast majority of Sri Lankans. People have no perception of invading another personal space and are quite happy to paste against you if it means getting an inch further in a queue. During pre-Corona days standing at the fishmonger was the worst. Hands would pop up over my head, under my armpit, and even over my shoulder just so that they could wave their money and attract the attention of the fishmonger. During these testing times, despite copious warnings of the dangers of standing too close, some people felt a need to stand in a huddle and run the risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Many took to social media to air their experiences, some of which are reproduced below. When curfew is lifted again let's all remember to practice some good queue etiquette as we are all in this together!

At Maxies Colpetty, a woman in a helmet kept jumping the queue. She used to leave the queue, and return to a new spot that was closer to the store each time. Finally, someone shouted at her and she had to return to her old spot at the back. Also, no cops, no distance. Rihaab

I was at the big supermarket. The queue didn’t seem to be that long initially. But then after a while, I realized that the queue actually extended into a lane adjoining the supermarket and took a turn back towards the store... Joined the queue at 7.10 am and was able to get inside only at 9.55 am

Apparently, all that while people had been jumping the queue. Also, when I and a couple of people in front finally got our turn to go inside, there were one or two really old women who jumped the queue at the door to get in. They looked very feeble. The policeman who was around noticed, and asked them to join the queue as the others did. One managed to get in, the other lady walked away. I felt so sorry, I wouldn’t have minded if they were allowed in because the old could not have stayed in line for hours as we did. I’m sure she wanted just one or two items, I wanted to go ask her what she wanted so I could get it for her but she had walked away just as I was about to enter the store. Sarah

At the Maharagama market, there was a different queue for each shops ex: meat, fish, grocery, jackfruit, etc those queues were better than supermarkets, the only thing they didn’t keep distance, but they were not giving priority to who was in lines, instead they were packing and despatching goods for bulk buyers People were so annoyed by this preferential treatment. Che RI Ni

I was standing in line waiting to enter the supermarket when a lady showed a prescription and walked in. As we watched through the glass doors we all saw her doing normal shopping! Tamara

But I got to the supermarket at 6.30 am geared with face mask and sanitiser. People were just huddled and standing very close whereas I kept my distance with both the person in front and the one behind me. After about two hours a few women behind me were telling me to move ahead and close the gap. I paid absolutely no attention as I was doing the right thing. However, if they pestered me more I was prepared to tell them I've been sneezing from morning, would you like to huddle with me? Thankfully it didn't come to that.. No matter how much the professionals try to reiterate the importance of the safety measures, people just don't get it. Christina

I went to a little pharmacy in Dehiwela to get my mum's medicines and the queue was massive. I stood in line for two hours. There was no social distancing, people were all standing close together. I maintained distance but they kept huddling closer around me which was making me super paranoid and I said to the person in front of me and behind, that we need to maintain distance. Even inside the pharmacy, with approximately five people in there it was packed and as soon as one person came out another squeezed in. When it was my turn I waited until two people came out but I could hear the people behind me complaining and some of them kept gesturing to me to go inside. Manisha

A man jumped the queue just in front of me at a store down Marine Drive. The man in front of him helped him to do so plus he did so using the cover of the board... I wanted to inform the police but didn’t want to get scolded by the police for getting close to them to tell them. This was whilst the queue was stretching to Galle Road. On the other hand, everyone else stayed in line and even took care of a kitten which was trying to run on to the road. Zahara

I shopped at all different places. A famous supermarket in my area managed to control this ‘polime paninwa’ under control. However, it wasn’t the case in the Pettah market. People simply came, and said, I’m a regular customer and purchased. I own privilege cards from three major supermarkets but they maintained their set of rules with the help of the police department. These people simply came, gave the list and went and came back got their goods and left!  It was completely unfair in my opinion. My mom is really sick. She is a cancer survivor and Corona affects those people more severely. And so many physically and health-wise challenged people stayed in line while morons just came got the things done and went. Although others were screaming not to jump like that, one man ignored it all because he knew the owner. We can’t simply blame these people but also the owners who support these acts. A relative of mine, while waiting in the queue for oil, was shouting and screaming at the people who jumped the queue however what he did was even worse. He went as if he is about to regulate people, which he did and also used the situation and gave the can, filled it and went off! I also witnessed an interesting incident at the pharmacy where a teenager was standing in line to buy medicines. His father came and gave him the money and the teenager looked very disappointed to see his father without any goods apart from a small bag as the father was waiting in a queue somewhere else. This gentleman waited for more than 1.5 hours to buy CIGARETTES and bought no food. The son was extremely angry but he couldn’t do anything. The father was proudly bragging about his achievement and telling everyone that people can get food anywhere anytime. 'How can you spend a day without smoking?'  were his own words. Dafny

We had been queuing since 6 am outside a big supermarket. After being in line for almost two hours we saw 4 priests casually saunter up to the entrance and walk straight in. No one said anything, not even the police. Many felt that it was wrong of them to have used their robes to bypass those who were patiently waiting in line. Padmini


Tina Edward Gunawardhana

Tina Edward Gunawardhana is a journalist specialising in travel, fashion, lifestyle, cuisine and personalities. She is also the Features Editor for Hi!! Magazine. An intrepid traveller, she likes to show readers the world through her eyes and experiences. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - tinajourno


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