Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Publix are pensioners mornings between 7 am and 8 am.
Publix is large chain of upmarket supermarkets in the USA, to a little old Zimbabwean they are quite literally heaven on earth.
It's still dark at 7 am in Johns Creek in the Spring but the car park was already pretty full. Masks on, gloves on, hand sanitiser at the ready, the pensioners are a careful lot in the USA!! All standing the respectful and obligatory 'social distancing' length apart.
The trolleys were ready for us in a neat line, already sparkling and de-sanitised. The Manager was beaming largess and we felt very welcome, and thanked them for opening early for the Oldies!!
HeeHoo headed off to the meat counter as is his wont and I made a beeline for the loo roll racks, which were swathes of emptiness, except.....was it could it possibly be a 12 pack of double quilted heaven lurking in solitary isolation
I quickened my pace, not wanting to rush in an unseemly fashion and bowl over the other grey haired customers. Yay!! I got one, we had not had a chance to stockpile and soft perforated items were at a premium at home!!
Now 'shortages' are laughable in the USA, especially to us Zimbabweans who have experienced shortages since the second world war!! Shortages in the USA boil down to not being able to choose from fifty different types of bread, ground beef was limited to two per customer, UHT milk two per customer, eggs a dozen each!! Everything else was bursting at the seams!! There was no queue, the till operators were excited to see you and it was nothing like the deprivations we have know for year after year back home. I wrote this article on queuing some years ago and hope it brings a laugh or two.
I have been trying to decide whether my favourite queue is the Cross Border Car Police Clearance Queue at the Drill Hall, or the bread queue which is thrilling to say the least, once that steamy hot loaf is safely in one's sticky mitt.
Yesterday it was my turn for the Cross Border Car Police Clearance Queue, where seventeen of us, first of all, stood in the boiling hot sun with our car bonnets wide open looking like a row of gaping mouths at the dentist.
Then we struggled for shelter under the tin roof of the Cross Border Polices' wonderful spacious offices (without a light bulb which is probably the reason that they have to close at 4 p.m. when you are two from the front !!)
Needless to say there were more Queue Jumpers that bona fide queuers but then....what can I say ......
However, have you by any chance noticed something odd about the people in Zimbabwe who queue, they love to snuggle.
The closer they can get to you, the happier they are, as you move forward miniscularly, so do they, so now you are jammed up against someone's aromatic nether regions, and your even more ample rear is cuddling with your fellow queuers privates !! Shriek !!!
None of this stiff British upper lip "keep your distance old fellow, see this invisible twenty centimetre area right around my royal personage, well don't mess with my space please !!!! "In fact "touch me not, I'm made of silk" !!!
Oh no, in a Zimbabwe queue one has to stand cheek by jowl, butt to butt, with one's fellow man whether you like it or not. In the olden days when I was much younger I had the solution, a quick step back with a stiletto heel into the arch of the "snuggler's" foot made him step back pretty quickly, but nowadays I am reduced to soft low heeled sandals which are more befitting to my mature status in life, and these don't make any impact at all on the "snuggler's" instep.
And it ain't no fun trust me, when you are two bricks and a tickey high, to have to snuggle forcibly when one's nose is the same height as most peoples' armpits.....
I am an expert on people's finger nails cos they usually dangle somewhere within my limited field of vision. There was a fellow in the Cross Border Queue with nails with the most awful ridges on them.
Now my mum always told me that your diet was lacking something vital when you got ridges on them, but I know for sure his diet was lacking something vital - food probably - cos he had the tiniest waist I had ever seen.
Scarlett O'Hara would have been proud to have a waist like that although probably not for the same reason I hasten to add. I felt very guilty looking at his ridged nails and his slim waist as I stood there with my own neat nails and my burgeoning waistline.
Funny I used get upset as my waistline measurement fast approached my age, but now its gone past my age, and even overtaking my IQ !!
But I digress, back to my favourite queues.
Well in The Cross Border queue there was a good deal of frustrated banter and we were all into the "knocking the uncivil servants" mood so we all got along quite well, but I have been in queues where nerves get frayed and tempers are not quite so cool.
Take the learner driver's license queue for example, one can lose one's cool there without any trouble at all. Now one gets one's offspring up at the crack of dawn, drives down to the VID and sits graciously in the "car queue" until the gates open at whatever time.
That part I had been prepared for, what I was not informed of was, that once the gates open, it's every man for himself and one has to sprint on foot to the offices in a mad panicking mighty brawl, to form yet another queue at the offices which are a full 200 meters into the VID grounds. !!
But how I fondly remember the fuel queues, in the good old days of petrol coupons, they were fun.!! Remember when you could either leave your car safely in the queue and bicycle home, or you could conversely leave a 44 gallon drum or a car tyre in the queue, which represented your precious "space".
Now this sort of thing was sacrosanct when we were all right and proper as we were in the good old days, but nowadays something is missing, and nowadays it's either your car, or your 44 gallon drum, that would now be missing to be sure !!
The bank queues at month end are the worst, queues winding round the block at least twice, at the banks, building society's and the ATMs.
Now someone from a higher place must have guessed that I am the world's worst queuer and so he invented "Veronica", who sits in an airconditioned office with easy dralon chairs, coffee in white china cups, poured from a solid silver coffee pot on a solid silver tray.
Whenever I have need to draw money I go and visit Veronica, and as I pass those poor folk in those endless queues I say my prayers of thanks quietly to God, to He Who Must Be Obeyed and to Veronica (And not necessarily in that order !!)
The voting queues at the last elections were good fun too, out came the indomitable Zimbabwe folk with their deck chairs, umbrellas and books, their braais and their cooler boxes.
But my very favourite queues used to be the queues at the Drive In cinemas way back in the Dark Ages when we were kids, something our kids will never know I am sad to say.
Mum used to bundle us up in our pyjamas, a box of sandwiches or popcorn, and an actual FIZZY drink instead of Mazoe Orange juice !!
With our treat for the weekend to keep us quiet, we would join the Friday night queue at the Sky View Drive In on the Johannesburg Road, which would wind it's way in a most civilised fashion, in an orderly ziz zag between those white painted rocks, until we got to the front of the queue and were allowed, wide eyed with wonder and excitement, to sit on Mum's lap, and drive giggling hysterically over those enormous dips upon which one parked.
We would then make her reverse backwards and forwards, inches at a time, to make sure that we all, both back seat and front seat passengers, got the best view, quite a feat for my poor old Mum, if I remember rightly.
My brother and I would then fight as to who would be allowed to get those little grey speaker boxes off their poles and hook it into the window, emitting that awful tinny music while the "trailers were shown".
Oh what bliss, what civilised ecstatic bliss, was the Friday night queue at the Drive In Movies......