It is is often said of the British, that if there is one thing they are good at, it is the formation of an orderly and polite queue.
While I am generally for decolonisation and against the blind copying of foreign customs, I sometimes catch myself imagining how much better life might have been had we properly imitated this one trait of our former colonisers.
I say this because over the years, while queueing at the bank, the bus stop, the supermarket check-out, the cinema box office, in traffic, etc., I noticed that there were some of my fellow countrymen who felt their needs were more urgent than those of the rest of us, and felt no shame about pushing into an otherwise orderly queue in order to be served or dealt with before their turn.
These types are often self-important and filled with the belief that they are more important than everyone else, especially when they have the appellation ‘Hon’ (short for honourable) before their names. They think they are owed unfair precedence over others.
During my recent visit to Nairobi, I was reminded of this culture of queue-jumping by the self-important several times, both on the roads, where they have been encouraged to believe that the normal rules of traffic do not apply to them and their motorcades, and also at public offices.
A few examples of the latter offence against the orderly queue happened to me on the morning that I had an otherwise smooth and efficient experience at the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) offices in Upper Hill, Nairobi, where I had gone to get a new Kenya driving licence.
Here, in the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that in the past, I used my now lapsed membership of the Automobile Association of Kenya (AA) to avoid queues during the regular renewal of my driving licence. Until fairly recently, this was one of the benefits of AA membership.
However, the introduction of the NTSA has changed things and made the whole process rather more democratic, as it should be.
I arrived at the NTSA offices fearing that it would be a long and painful experience, only to be pleasantly surprised by the utter efficiency and niceness of everyone I dealt with. The process took just over an hour, but would have been even shorter had there not been a number of elected officials who pushed in the queue in order to be served before the hapless voters, who are only useful at the ballot box.
It was then that I thought that perhaps it is time we introduced a system, where this pushy lot have to pay in hard cash for the privilege of queue-jumping. Since our leaders seem to be so in love with the Chinese, perhaps they can adopt the system in place at Shanghai Disneyland, where visitors who pay up to eight times the price of a regular ticket are exempt from waiting.
After all, with their super-inflated salaries, the waheshimiwa can surely afford it, and the rest of us could be served without worrying about some tumbo-kubwa pushing in front of our queue.