Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Queuing theory

December 5th, 2010

I don’t do queues. Just because I’m English doesn’t mean I should relish such things. Problem is, neither do the Chinese. Where we differ is I do like order. Which is very British. And this disparity was becoming a source of increasing frustration at Check-In in Shenzhen airport. The couple ahead of me had morphed into an entire extended family. They’d oversized luggage, a few had forgotten their identity cards. And they were late.

Best laid plans do go awry. That can happen to anyone. But this was just plain incompetence. I don’t mind that. Provided it doesn’t impact on me. Which it was. Unable to express my irritation verbally. Probably not a bad thing. If you have to explain to someone why they should have got out of bed earlier, you’re usually wasting your time. Obliged instead to use more subtle techniques to make them feel uncomfortable. And that I could do. Well enough.

It got worse. Or at least I perceived it did. Security check. Not the reassuring professionalism, the thoroughness of Wuhan. Just blind procedural obedience. Uninspiring. Had to remove my netbook to be scanned separately. At a loss to understand why. The requirement probably as baseless as the notion than using a mobile phone in a petrol station could induce a spark. You’d be better off banning people in nylon track suits. One of the reasons I’ve never re-fuelled my car in Newcastle.

Pseudo-science or patently contrived arguments have never done much for me. But give them a safety or security moniker and you dare not challenge them. Old favourites like the insistence of some airlines that you have to let down your bicycle tyres before they’ll carry them. If they were to explosively deflate, even in the reduced pressure of the hold, cycling will be the least of your worries.

But best of all is the insistence that packages that smell of almonds should be treated as suspicious. Trust me. Reckon you’re most likely to encounter such things around Christmas. Usually before. Unless you’ve got stingy relatives. That’s because, chances are, someone’s sent you a Christmas cake. Plastic explosives that ressemble marzipan haven’t been manufactured since World War Two. Quite realistic it was too apparently. A few people actually ate some by mistake. Doubt constipation was a problem.

Unable, wisely, to verbalise my little rant, I headed off for a coffee. Or I would have done had it not been for the price. Anything between six and thirteen pounds. I was sure it’d been cheaper in Azerbaijan. This was not a good day.

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