Wait a Minute!12. August 2013 by Joachim Goldberg
I couldn’t resist another trip to Venice with the family this year. Despite the numerous complaints one so often hears, it is undoubtedly my favourite European destination. Yes, it is very warm at this time of year, and it is often overcrowded with tourists. The lagoon does stink a bit when summer temperatures reach their peak, and there are countless other less well-founded prejudices. But, even at 35 degrees in the shade, Venice is fantastic.
Venice is also the city of queues. On our most recent visit to the Biennale, we had to chill our heels for a good 45 minutes in the ticket office line. A similar experience was to be had each evening at the Lido, a nearby resort which is essentially just a lake with luxury hotels around it, where we used to go to sunbathe and swim at the end of a busy day. It has a supermarket that is immensely popular with the tourists. The result is that one needs to wait at least 20 minutes to get to the check-out with one’s purchases.
On one particular evening, the queue advanced particularly slowly. Even in the last curve, the rules of line-standing held that everyone must remain very civil; nobody jostled, or shoved, or tried to push in. Then, suddenly, a wheelchair arrived from the side, laden with a heavy shopping basket and an elderly lady. It was manoeuvred by a distinguished-looking fellow, but any resemblance to a ‘gentleman’ ended with his sartorial elegance. Without looking left or right, he squeezed from the side into a space briefly left vacant by the person in front of us, narrowly missing some sandaled toes on the way. There was no explanation from either of the new arrivals, no expression of regret and no word of thanks.
Naturally, I have been raised to make allowances for people with physical disabilities and, when necessary, to lend a helping hand. However, the knowing grin from the crumpled senior was hardly conducive to any acts of benevolence. I turned away, but the look on the face of the chap behind me was also one of surprise mixed with indignation. In fact, right along the line, puzzled frowns accompanied the low mumblings of discontent. None of us, it seemed was sure of what the correct response should be when two very strong social norms come into collision. My spontaneous mental response to assuage my sudden cognitive dissonance was to ‘upgrade’ the pair’s situation to one of an emergency (edit). However, as the man unhurriedly lay the articles on the conveyor belt and then, after paying, sauntered towards the exit, the only thing left to do was to look away (ignore).