Russians are a lot less polite than me. At least by my standards. For the sake of clarity, in what follows all the judgements are based on my standards of politeness. The standards that I like, that is. I make no judgement about which standards are best. Although I know which standards were the foundation of the British Empire.
I am not sure whether they just don’t see that I am standing in the queue (but a normal distance back to give the person in front of me space, rather than right up behind them as they do), or whether they see me and think “ah ha, there is a dumb person standing too far back that I can push in front of”.
That is to say, I am not sure whether their pushing in front of me is malicious or unconscious. There is a well-known principle (but I can’t remember it) that says something like “never assume malice when mistake provides a good explanation”. So I assume that they just don’t realise I am standing in the queue. The same thing happened in China.
I can see that, if I adopted Russian queueing practice (where you also have to almost physically accost the serving people to get them to help you – otherwise they will just continue talking to each other, adding up figures, counting money, or looking at the television while you stand at the counter – I am not entirely sure what they think you are there for) I would get served more quickly.
(This reminds me of a brilliant line in the guidebook. Where it says you know you are in Ukraine (the follow the same rules there) because “you walk into a hotel and the doorman hollers ‘what do you want?'”. So very Russian. And Ukrainian.)
But I consciously choose not to, most of the time. Sometimes I have no choice. Russian queues for the escalator, for example, are a matter of push-forward-into-the-crush-of-people-or-never-get-up-the-stairs. Similarly with getting into the metro. Queueing for train tickets. Or getting through the checkout at some supermarkets.
But there are things that distinguish me from those around me. One of those is my differing rules on what is polite, and what is not. I don’t want to be a Russian. And I don’t want to compromise my standards of politeness just because they have different standards.
Funny how inside that noble principle of mine is a belief that Russians are somehow worse than me because they have different rules on what is polite and what is not (it is not, for example, polite to whistle indoors so they tell me). I don’t know why I think that. But I do. And we shall leave it at that for now, else I shall be diverted from my purpose.
So I recognise my failing, or at least I recognise that by behaving differently I could get served faster. But I don’t want to do anything about it that involves me being less of what I would call polite.
Then enter Ukrainian girls. The Ukrainian womens’ Ultimate team (an object lesson, take note all you Ultimate players, in the fact that Ukrainain women are all very attractive as testified by The Beatles and, more latterly, Billy Joel, and quite am amazing principle to see in real life) were staying in the same hostel as me. They were playing in the Ultimate tournament about which I wrote. (Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put).
We went out, of an evening. We went to bars. I can stand at bars all night and not be served. I met a fellow from Montana who had the same problem. Because I am not pushy enough. If you do not push here, you would die. Even the beggars are pushy.
But I hit upon a novel way to get served quicker without compromising my standards of politeness. I hand my money and order to one of the Ukrainian women. 5 seconds later (after she has practically climbed over the bar to grab the barman’s attention), we have our drinks. QED. An elegant solution, as policy analysts are sometimes fond of saying (actually quite seldom, since they only infrequently actually come up with elegant solutions, but the point remains, even without the analogy).