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September 22, 2019

Jumping the Queue

During our younger days we were accustomed to the queuing system. Queuing is to wait in line to get something done or served for you, in turn. The person at the front will be served first and then the next in line will get his chance. It is a very orderly and systematic procedure, which also helps to get things done quickly. Imagine all the people crowding and scrambling for a place at the front to get served first. These sort of undisciplined behaviours are undesirable and at the same time they even hinder the process, whatever that may be. Its only natural that people want to get what they came for as fast as possible, but it is not proper to scramble, push, elbow and sometimes fight their way to the front.
However, over the years this queuing system started to deteriorate gradually and became worse at a time when almost everything was rationed. Those were the desperate times when most people became undisciplined and their attitudes toward others changed. I do not think I would seem to be too pessimistic if I say “the law of the jungle” or “the survival of the fittest” mentality had set in. In the beginning when the rationing of commodities started everyone abided by the rules, but as the goods get scarce and the black markets began to thrive, jobless people and low income family members turned to black marketing. The morals and manners started to decline and that was when the unruly behaviours started to invade the mind sets of most people. Everyone was vying to get hold of whatever that was on sale before the stocks were sold out. I could not bear to blame those poor people, as they are hungry they would resort to anything. However, I am trying to analyze how our people came to lose regards for the queuing system.
In those desperate times, it was not rare to see people jumping or cutting in the queues, sometimes resulting in scuffles or heated arguments. In some cases they went out of control and it would need the police to intervene. Such scenes were common, especially at the cinemas and at the commodity shops where scarce items such as cigarettes, milk powder tins and even toilet soaps and bar soaps etc, were sold. There were similar incidents at soccer stadiums, railway and steamer service ticketing counters, as the black marketing took root in every field of businesses. Later some destitute persons queue up not to purchase anything, but to sell their places in the queue to those who really needed. The situations reached a certain plane where the mentality of the “survival of the fittest” prevailed. That was also the time when our national character, and the morals and manners of the people ebbed.
Now as our country has started on our journey of development, all the qualities that contribute to that effort need nurturing and enhancement. One of those qualities that needs priority is the discipline of the people. So we should start with the most basic and simplest thing, such as the queuing. It would also enhance the image of the country and our people can, again, take pride of being citizens of a disciplined nation. There are many places where proper queuing is necessary, but I will cite only the three most important places that need to be addressed.
The Bus Stop.  The first place concerned all walks of life and hopes everyone will agree, is the bus stop. I must say there are no queues at the bus stops at present as far as I can observe. The commuters would scramble — pushing and elbowing their way to get onto a bus, whenever one came along. As there are no regular schedule or timetables of the different bus lines displayed at the stops, like elsewhere in the world, people are not sure when the next one will come , so naturally there are scrambling at the bus stops. If only the authorities can regulate the bus schedules to suit the requirements of the commuters and the bus drivers strictly comply with the timetables, the queuing system could be introduced and maintained easily.
The Shopping Center.  Many of you may have experienced someone ignoring the queue and went straight to the cashier to get his or her purchases settled ahead of those in the queue. If there was no one to object, they would get through. Though such incidents may be rare, they are very irritating and undesirable. The worst incident I encountered was the time when a security personnel at a shopping center approached the cashier from the exit side, to get some items cashed out. He was doing a favour for a customer who I assumed was his acquaintance. As I was at the head of the queue at that moment, I deemed it my duty to object and I did so accordingly. I told the cashier not to oblige him, but my objection fell on deaf ears. I reported the matter to the in charge on that floor, but he neither said he would look into the matter nor apologize for the conduct of his staffs, but gave me a surprised look as though I was an alien from outer space. Though angry and frustrated, I left before I lose my anger, which would put me in an embarrassing situation.
The Bank.  At almost all the banks I had been to, I had observed customers crowding at the counters and vying to get the notice of the staff to attend them. On one occasion, though I arrived early at the counter, as I cannot attract the attention of the staff, I was not served first. That was very embarrassing. From what I had observed at banks in foreign countries, there are dispensing machines placed immediately inside the bank that dispense token slips. The customers took one token each from the machines as they entered and sat down at the seats available and waited for their turn, with dignity. There are digital displays above each counter and when a counter is free, a number would be displayed above that counter and the customer holding that token number would approach it to be served. This is a decent or dignified form of queuing, without unnecessary line of people shuffling along as the queue progressed. These procedures can be seen at the airline ticketing offices and hospital dispensaries too.
Some people used to boast that we Myanmars are civilized and cultured, however, in my view the above mentioned behaviours are contradictory to their claims. Cultured and civilized people should have decency and dignity and act accordingly. As we are living in the global village that the world has become today, we need to change our mind sets and get ourselves in stride with, and be part of that village society. It may take time to achieve that status, but we should start right now to educate and train our people to be disciplined and hence be worthy citizens of a cultured and civilized nation, if we wished to be recognized as such.
Lately, I had been mentioning the civic duty in some of my articles. However, I presume there are only a few, who are my contemporaries and those of a generation later, know what that meant. During my schooling days, we were taught the civic duties and, in some schools, morals and manners starting from the kindergarten. These subjects were intended to make us disciplined, well behaved, laws abiding and dutiful citizens. The civic duties can be generally defined as the obligations for the citizens to fulfill, in return for the privileges and rights accorded to them by the state. The morals and manners taught us to be well behaved and to be dutiful and responsible persons. In fact both the subjects have the same objectives—to breed good citizens. So I would like to urge the educators to consider introducing either one or both of these subjects in the primary and middle school syllabuses as extra curriculum subjects. I am sure they would greatly assist in revitalizing the national character and also in the nation building process.
Looking forward to a well behaved and disciplined society

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