Before we moved here, I heard queuing is not a strong part of German culture. I found it surprising, considering this is a country that seems to be obsessed with order. But, it’s true. And, it’s hard to not form judgements about people when they’re trying to cut in front of you. I look at queue jumpers through an American lense and, well, to my eyes, they seem unprincipled. But, for Germans, who have never found queuing important, this is just a natural act. And, to be fair, not all Germans are queue jumpers but plenty are. At first, I found it amusing and let them go without an argument. Now, I keep my elbows out a bit and my peripheral vision on high alert. Like yesterday, waiting in line for a rotisserie chicken at a street vendor, I noticed the man behind me slipping from side to side trying to maneuver me out of the way. So, to his frustration, when he moved right, I moved right. He sighed. Then left, left, sigh. And so on, until it was my turn.
But, sometimes you can’t predict the line of attack, like in the grocery store the other day. I had one item to purchase and Jack in the stroller. I briskly walked up toward the clerk, who was checking out a customer, and suddenly, like an Olympic long jumper, a woman leaped in and sandwiched herself between me and the other customer. I looked at the empty grocery belt and placed my one item on it. The long jumper threw me a glance that appeared to show some sign of unease but, I wasn’t sure. I watched her as she continued to hold her grocery items in her hands. That was her fatal error. The clerk moved the belt so my one item was ready for check-out. What was the long jumper going to do? Shove aside my item and lay down hers? “Scheisse” she muttered and she took a step sideways and I glided forward to the clerk. Victory was mine. Later that day when I was walking out of Nora’s school during pickup, who should appear before me? The long jumper, with children in tow. It’s a very small world here.