Posted by: Rebecca | January 1, 2020

Winning at waiting

Tourists’ nationalities are often defined by their behavior… the ignorant Brits… the methodical Germans (and their towels)… the French who scowl when asked “do you speak n?” (where “n” is any language other than French)… the Dutch who don’t queue… Well in the Netherlands, the latter is a free-for-all to which I’ve now become accustomed and, as a true expat, have accepted, adjusted and adopted.

I first realized this a couple of weeks ago, when traveling through Schiphol. Knowing which route to take to get straight to the front of the security queue, I arrived to find three Brits, who’d snaked the long way around the barriers, seen me appear at the front (through a different entrance) and didn’t like it. They really didn’t like it. At all. Being British, they even ‘tutted’. Feeling comfortably on home turf, I didn’t respond to their apparent discomfort for a good five minutes, until one of them finally asked me if my flight was late. Knowing exactly what he was referring to (but quietly reveling in the fact that he’d asked me the wrong question), I replied by saying “No, my flight’s on time, thanks”. Another tut (and a long pause) later, he finally said “Well as long as you’re happy jumping the queue.” Again, my satirical streak in full force, I keep quiet, giving him the opportunity to finish his rhetorical sentence (knowing full well he wouldn’t), before answering “I’m ok with that, I came through the fast track lane.” No guilt, no concern, no beating about the bush, just blunt tolerance of what others considered unthinkable.

Anyway, yesterday Sophie and I are in Squire’s in Sydney Harbour and it’s my round, so I trot off to the bar for drinks. The place is rammed so I’m expecting a long wait, but approaching the bar, I spot a gap – awesome. Making a beeline for the welcoming spot of mahogany, I lean on the bar in ignorant bliss and glance around, suddenly realising why the place appears so busy – everyone’s lined-up in queues; the front person being served at the bar, with everyone else forming an orderly queue behind them. Subtly trying to hide my faux pas, I make a hasty retreat to the back of the queue, (un)casually commenting as I go “Sorry, didn’t realise there was a queue”. I return to our table with drinks a few minutes later and relay my lesson to Soph… “So the Aussies like to queue, right?” “Yep” she replies. Noted.

24 hours later, it’s New Year’s Eve and we’re back at the harbour. Allowing plenty of time to find a good spot to watch, we rock up around 6pm with a few rugs, bottles of water, a tactically snuck-in banana (breaking all BYO rules) and utterly inappropriate clothing (expecting a balmy Sydney summer night, I brought deodorant; everyone else brought sweaters of a far more practical variety). Determined not to spoil the night, we pace ourselves and start easy on lime & soda. An hour later, Soph lets everyone know there are now just five hours to go… 60 minutes later, this time accompanied by a tray of cheesy chips and a (debatably named) bottle of Coke Zero, she updates the crew (in case we weren’t wondering) to say there are now four hours to go… Another hour passes, before we look to our resident Small Person who gleefully advises us that, with three to go, we’re now half way!

Just to throw a little variation into the mix, I suggest that the build-up to midnight will probably start a bit before 12, so there could be only about two and a half hours to go? Sophie’s excitement steps up a gear, and by 21:30 we’ve gone way beyond water, chips and Coke Zero – I head off to the waffle van.

Now, remembering my lesson of the previous day, I spot two orderly lines of people. With a smugness worthy of Edmund Blackadder, I observe which queue appears to be moving faster (the left one) and join the back of it. We move pretty quickly, more so than the people to my right… my smugness quickly evaporates when I reach the counter, see no-one to tale my order, and realise I’ve joined the collection queue. I sliiiiiide to the right (much to the frustration of, but in supposed ignorance of) the kids who are now on their third round of waffles, and slip into the order/pay queue before finally getting my hands on the waffles.

Back with the crew, Soph (whose updates are now accompanied by an excited little jiggle) announces just two hours to go (or one and a half, if you exclude the build-up). My queueing failure has her in further hysterics (perhaps aided by increasing excitement and ridiculous amounts of chocolate waffles) and by 11pm we running tag-team on bag watch / toilet stops, before heading to the bar for bubbles – one hour to go… By now, we’re three girls called Sophie, the Sophies’ flatmates, one Sophie’s mum & dad, and another Sophie’s cousin, all fueled by too many chocolate waffles, a fab band on stage, some epic dad-dancing in front of us, and a random coffee mocktail created by the waffle guy and his ‘home brew’… and we’re ready for fireworks!

Needless to say, midnight arrived, the fireworks were fab, and everyone hugged each other. Yes we took too many photos (and spent all day today editing them down to find the best ones). Yes the airwaves were too choked to connect to FaceTime (so apologies if I didn’t message everyone). And yes we decided to walk home to Central (hence today’s coastal stroll was replaced by a day on the beach).

And yes, today I queued for trains, busses and an escalator – winning at waiting!



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