If queue-hopping were an Olympic sport, the Sicilians would win gold every time. Yet recently I beat them at their own game.
My son – who lives bravely with chronic Lyme disease – had to have a massive amount of blood tests. We always go to the same clinic, as the people who work there are my friends. One of the men looks exactly like Johnny Depp, which is another valid selling point. This is why everyone locally calls it the Johnny Depp Clinic.
In Sicily you are told that you must turn up for a blood test – absolutely any blood test – without having eaten or drunk anything. This means that everyone at the clinic feels dizzy, and with an aggressive sense of personal priority. Even more than usual.
By popular demand, the clinics open at the crack of dawn. Everyone wants to be the very first person to get their blood tested so they can dash off at high speed to the nearest bar where they plan to swig down a yard of coffee and devour a large cornetto whole. (Just in case you don’t know, in Italy a cornetto is not an ice-cream but a croissant with custard or chocolate squirting out of every filo fissure.)
When you have to leave the house before 7 a.m. with no food or caffeine in you, fashion is not your highest priority. Even though I did eat breakfast myself, I only realised as I walked in under the clinic’s neon lighting that I had thrown on a navy jumper, brown trousers and black shoes.
“I’m hungry,” announced my son, angrily.
I queued among a throng of people which I estimate was slightly larger than the seating capacity of Wembley Stadium, all dressed in stuff that might have been pyjamas or possibly garments they had deliriously fished out of the dog’s basket by accident. They were about as pale as olive-skinned Sicilians are capable of looking, which is basically lemon yellow.
“I’m huuuuuuuungry,” moaned my little lad, loudly. Many people nodded in agreement.
“I know, we’re getting near the front of the queue and afterwards you can have something to eat.”
“What do you mean afterwards?” he asked angrily. “You mean after I get STABBED!”
“Yes, after you get stabbed, you can have crisps and a lollipop and coca cola for breakfast if only you promise to stop moaning now,” I offered.
“Nooooo!” he shouted.
People shamelessly butted in front of me left and right. Sicilians regard queueing as a sign of weakness, and when they are hungry the queue-hopping reaches new heights of outrageousness.
For years I used to stand by and get served last, weakened by hypoglycemia and dithering around in polite sinence. But now my little boy was involved. Adults were jamming themselves in front of him and, since he is small, they were literally sticking their backsides in his face.
I honed “special skills” during years of commuting on the London Underground. These bumpkins are nothing but elbow fodder for a Londoner like me.
I set to work and, like those deluded tourists who conceive the madcap idea of travelling by tube to the Tower of London at 8 a.m., I scattered them to the four corners.
Technique 1: The Elb-Boob Manoeuvre
Obviously this only works on women but, trust me, when my little boy is being menaced I can get my elbow at the height of any mammary gland and reduce it to pulp.
On men I prefer….
Technique 2: The Instep Incision
Female London commuters wear stiletto heels because they can use their entire body weight to drive them through the instep of men who grope them, tourists who stuff permed hair into their mouths, and anyone who dares to hold the overhead bars and stick an unwashed armpit in their face.
I think the Sicilians were surprised.
I had just regained my rightful place at the counter when a new arrival dashed through the doorway in a purple tracksuit and a fur coat. Her footwear was a pair of baseball boots coated entirely in gold sequins. Did that count as “dressy” to match the fur coat, or “sporty” to match the tracksuit, I wondered briefly. Perhaps they were intended to tie her whole outfit together?
Signorina Twinkle strode right in front of me and my little lad, and wedged herself into the one-inch space between ourselves and the counter. He had to step back to get the fur out of his mouth but did not manage it before she trod on his foot.
“I need to go first because I’m very ill, and I haven’t eaten anything and I’ve double parked outside,” she announced, importantly and loudly.
“I haven’t eaten anything either!” screamed my little lad. “Nobody’s eaten anything! Do you think everyone else is here because they feel very well?”
“Yeah! What he said,” I told her.
She ignored me and continued talking at the baffled lady behind the counter. I used the Elb-Boob Manoeuvre but the fur shielded her. The Instep Incision failed too: did those twinkly shoes have metal toe caps? Now it was time for….
Technique 3: The Misleading Advice Subterfuge
“Oh look,” I said, peering out through the doorway. “I’ve just seen a traffic warden going past.”
Signora Twinkle toddled off to deal with the imaginary traffic warden. Good riddance!
I got my ticket and dragged my little lad into the back room. We had already tried several times, but they could not get blood out of him. It is clearly not easy to take a blood sample from a child who is screaming “Help! Help! Call the police!” and flailing his arms like a windmill.
Eventually, after over an hour of trying, we decided to give up.
“I TOLD you I just wanted to eat breakfast,” said the little lad. “If you had taken me for brekky immediately, we wouldn’t have wasted all this time!”
You can’t argue with impeccable logic like that, can you?