In South Africa you never jump a queue and you never cause a scene.
So there we are in the local doctor’s waiting room.
He is a character, a personaggio which is the Italian way to describe ‘a character’.
Of course, thinking in English you would first end up with the word ‘carattere’ … which I probably have spelled incorrectly!
It is like the word simpatico … that is charming, likeable, charismatic, so nice, everything that you would use in that sense … excepting ‘sympathetic’!
When you arrive in a waiting room you have to look around you and somehow, goodness knows how, guess who might be ‘last’.
Then you point politely and ask ‘Ultimo’?
Hopefully, if you have it wrong, they will identify the last person in the ‘queue’ before you.
There is no queue … just people sitting or standing or walking outside, coming inside, walking outside again … confusion.
Now the very important thing is the following: when it is your turn, or you think it is your turn, stand up and move to the ‘position’.
Now the ‘position’ is not a specific spot with say a white line or a white circle or whatever.
The ‘position’ is a general area that you would occupy at the ‘head’ of the ‘queue’ and by your assertive demeanor signal to everyone else that you are next!
For a South African, albeit an Italian hybrid of such as I was at pains to explain in a previous article, this is asking the impossible!
How on earth do you do this without risking being seen as arrogant, uncaring, a me first etc!?
There was this fifty something blonde woman, I kid you not.
I am so certain that she came in after us and asked ‘Ultimo’?
Now we were there, in that waiting room.
I think what happened was that there was not an accurate affirmation that in fact we were the ‘Ultimo’.
Nonno is very hard of hearing and his eyesight is almost non-existent so I was alone in that instance … in this strange cultural dance.
But we were there before her, and she did see us!
Others would come in and start the ‘Ultimo?’ tango.
Nonno remembers seeing a flash of orange lady’s bag as his ‘Ultimo?’ but he is 93 …
No, Nonno, it is the other lady there, which he cannot see of course.
And every time he asks, in front of the blonde ‘after us’ lady, I look at my ‘Ultimo?’ and she nods. A nod that the blonde ‘after us’ lady could not have not noticed …
Now surely, surely, surely, humbly, humbly, humbly, I ask: could the blonde ‘after us’ lady not have corrected me if I was wrong!?
Nonno was determined about the flash of orange bag so when he sighted it he was up and about to occupy the ‘position’.
No, Nonno, non ancora, e quella signora prima! (No,Nonno, not yet, that lady there is first!)
And my ‘Ultimo?’ got up and nodded her acknowledgement.
So in she goes … and Nonno stands down.
But now comes trouble.
The blonde ‘after us’ lady assumes the ‘position’.
WT#$@% … excuse my French!?
This is one assertive pose that has me spinning!
Nonno does not see her, but after a few minutes stands up to assume the ‘position’ and notices the blonde ‘after us’ lady.
Ma, signora, siamo noi adesso!? (But lady, it is our turn now!?).
She will have nothing of that!
She stands her ground and Nonno starts giving me a life lesson aloud in Italian: you see, this is what happens in Italy, you have to be on the look out for this otherwise you will never get anywhere!
I cringe … !
The blonde ‘after us’ lady is unfazed about being at least three decades younger than this 93 year old young man, and stands her ground, offended that we (well, Nonno that is …) dared challenge her!
Ja, Ja as we say in S’African …