Friday, 8 July 2011

Italians and the art of queueing

There’s no direct flight from Genoa to Rhodes and so we left for our holiday from Milan, Malpensa. Apart from being very convenient for us ‘genovesi’ the airport in my city is really horrible. Must be the only place where you pay a euro for your trolley but don’t get it back when you return the trolley, where the taxi drivers invent the fee, don’t use the meter and the price goes up the more passengers there are, where the bar staff seem not to have realized that there might be foreigners around and scowl and swear if anyone asks them anything in any other language than Italian. Makes a great impression when you first arrive.
Our tourist minister Victoria Michela Brambilla is apparently working on it (she was another Miss Italia finalist in a past life but unfortunately I couldn’t find any photos… you’ll have to put up with this one.
She’s famous for showing her stocking tops during live televised debates. She loves dogs and her current ‘tourist crusade’ is to get dog friendly beaches in Italy. With a gal like her on our side you really can’t go wrong!!)
When we arrived at Malpensa the first obstacle we had to confront was the check in queue. Queue is a pretty big word to describe something which is not a natural state for an Italian to be in. A plane full of tense tourists anxiously studied the flight board to see which desk to go to and when it was finally announced… OMG, as they say… it was like a rush to get on the last train out of Hell. Old women battered children, respectable family men crushed anyone who stood in their way, anything to get to the front of the queue first. Queue: in Italian ‘coda’. It means either animal tail, traffic jam or queue. You can’t go wrong with an animal tail: either you’ve got one or you haven’t. The second two are more complicated, especially if you’re Italian.
Let’s take a simpler example: the supermarket queue. Imagine you’ve finished your shopping and move to the checkout area. You swiftly weigh up your options and aim for the check out of your choice. Within seconds an old lady, clutching one or two items, arrives at your side. That’s right, at your side. She doesn’t stand behind you but next to you, and smiles. At this point you glare, trying your best to convey that, ‘I know what you’re up to. I was here first so don’t try it on with me!’ look. She smiles sweetly back as though she’s known you since you were two and butter wouldn’t melt in her crafty old mouth. Luckily you know better than to drop your guard because as soon as the queue moves forward a little so does she. A little more than you… and before you know it she’s in front of you and not only that. Someone else has appeared at your other side. Nobody it seems feels the need to extend the queue backwards.
Not so long ago the situation was helped in the supermarket where I usually shop when they introduced self-service check outs. No pushing in there, and it means that I can do the shopping without having to argue every time. I’m sure they could think of something to help the airport check in situation too. Just put those snaky little barriers in… seems simple doesn’t it! Try telling it to the Italian airport authorities though! Maybe we can get Minister Brambilla on the case :)