The English are a funny lot — with some idiosyncrasies that seem as odd as, undoubtedly, ours must seem to them. Now that trips to the UK have become routine for us, thanks to our English daughter-in-law, one thing is clear:
Whatever you can say about Brits, they are exceptionally polite.
So polite that when I’m in the wrong lane in those accursed roundabouts (which are rarely round), no one honks at me.
So polite that even if you cut in line, they will never confront you. They might raise an eyebrow to the person behind, but not directly to you.
So polite that if any of this is wrong, they’d never correct me.
The English also have a thing about queuing — standing in line. It’s quite amusing, and rather fascinating. Given the slightest opportunity, including those Americans would generally find unnecessary, the English will form a queue.
There are unspoken queuing rules, polite shufflings with some kind of mutual understanding among strangers, and almost a compulsion to queue. Early, often, and sometimes, in duplicate.
About 10 days ago at the Portsmouth waterfront we awaited the hovercraft to the Isle of Wight. Everyone was seated. About 15 minutes before boarding time, one family man pushed a stroller with his kids near the door and remained standing to fiddle with his phone.
Within seconds, a dozen more were up and calmly walking to stand behind him, with more rising up. All silently. All as if on cue, to queue.
We — the pushy Americans — were having none of this. We’d been near the first to arrive in the room, determined to get seats together once on board the small hovercraft. So we stood up, forming our own queue — a “V” of two queues.
What do you think happened? Some of the queuing crowd chose our queue. There we were, with two queues. The English version of a panic ensued: in other words, people thus far un-queued — ever calm — looked at both queues, unable to choose. Which queue was the correct one?
What to do? ‘Twas indeed a conundrum.
Seriously. There are books written about queuing in England, including the tongue-in-cheek “Queuing for Beginners.” There is a science called “queueing theory.” People everywhere form lines, but for the English, it’s a far more serious, and very polite business.
The British carefully mind their P’s and queues.
Now before I leave off, a promised answer to the Nessie question. Yes, we visited Loch Ness in Fort Augustus, Scotland. No, we saw no monster. We did, however, meet a friendly, thickly accented local named William Jobes who’s been looking for it for 50 years. His photos — as you can see — are somewhat famous on the Web, considered evidence of what scientists have recently guessed is a giant eel(s), a.k.a. Nessie.
Notice the hand-drawn version? That time, said William, he couldn’t get his camera out fast enough and he SWORE it had long hair, like a highland cow. So that’s how he sketched it.
Whether or not you’re a believer, there is definitely something out there.
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Here’s a word for today: Gobemoush (“gohb-moosh”) — someone who believes everything he hears.
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Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network who’s grateful to English drivers for their patience. Share your left-side driving stories at Sholeh@cdapress.com.