Paweł Potoniec

Queuing is a Polish sport that takes a little getting used to. If you have no experience of it, let us conduct a thought experiment before you meet the reality.


Imagine, if you will, that you have entered a bank, train station or (heaven forbid) hospital. You will, naturally, begin by seeking out the relevant window or service point. So far, so good. The next step, of course, is to get into line. This may not be quite as straightforward as it sounds, however. People may be forming an orderly and easily discernible line. On the other hand, they may be sprawled, apparently haphazardly, across whatever seating arrangements have been provided, or circulating around the building and doing something else before coming back to regain, just in the nick of time, the place they have booked by verbal agreement with the person behind them (who may subsequently have swerved off to do their own thing) – giving the ‘queue’ a shifting, fluid character. If one of these scenarios is being played out you have no choice but to scan the scene carefully, and try to identify somebody who could conceivably be the last person in the ‘queue’. Having done this, you must ask them if they are last (‘ostatni’). They will be happy to tell you if they are, or, if they aren’t, identify someone who may be. There will then be a general hubbub while the thing gets sorted.


This is a great way to meet people, and get a glimpse into the Polish distaste for overly rationalised public procedures. The big exception to this is in Post Offices. Here, bizarrely, a clearly understandable, numbered ticketing system is the norm. And let us not forget public transport: as far as getting on to – and sometimes off of – buses and trams is concerned, let us simply note that those of you from the rugby playing nations may well enjoy an advantage.

Tags: culture, institution, Post Office, Ticketing, public transport, queue, transportation, bus, tram
  • Latest modification: May 10, 2012 2:11:51 PM
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