Commerce Although I don't drive (and possibly because) I actually quite like the idea of the M6 toll road. Not the environmental concerns of course -- it opens up a whole raft of issues when you consider the possibility that the scheme could be extended to other congested areas, but the idea that you can pay so that you don't have to wait. It's something I'm used to because a similar system has been in place in the WH Smith in Liverpool for some months, and it's all because of the National Lottery. But lately things have been getting a bit hair raising, today for example.

It's 1:30 and I've got half an hour to get to work and I want to buy a magazine. Only then do I notice the queue. It's ten(ish) days before christmas and there are four hundred people piled up in the twisty-turny system and two people serving. I glance over. Presumably so that the shop can cosy up to Camelot, there is a separate queuing bit and till for people to buy their lottery tickets and as usual it's empty.

So I walk up to the till, which is right next to the four hundred people waiting. I know that the British at times have a reputation for waiting, and forming orderly queues when need be. But looking at this lot, it's almost like they were enjoying the experience.

Eight hundred eyes watch what I'm doing. Some of them narrow. I plonk the magazine on the counter. I look around. They are still looking at me. I know what they're all thinking. Then a mountain of a man puts it into words, as though telepathically he's their mouth piece, booming:
"Err ... excuse me."
I keep my back to him.
"That young man," (young man?) "Has jumped the queue."
I don't say anything. The clerk looks over.
"It's OK ... if you're buying a lottery ticket."
"WHAT?"
"You can use this queue to get a lottery."
I look at the INSTANTS.
"Can I have a 'Jump the Shark?' " I ask.
The man mountain gets the kind of frustrated look that Victor Meldrew would have if someone stole his tortoise.
The clerk is keep is head down. I'm keeping my head down.
"This is like a toll queue." I smile.
The clerk grunts. I don't think he's amused. I take the magazine and lottery instant and walk away. An extra pound lighter.

Now would someone like to explain to me why anyone (and looking into those eight hundred eyes there must have been someone) would spend twenty minutes of their lunch hour waiting in one queue when they can go to another till, get served in seconds, pay a whole £1, be giving to a good cause and have the possibility of winning a fortune. I know this isn't the image that Camelot are looking for but there must be some milage in it.

But what I really want to understand was why they looked at me as though I was doing something wrong. I was taking advantage of a system which was in place, doing something they all could do. I'm not sure if this is a trend or something which has always been the case, but we seem to be losing the capacity for reason. Rather like those people who stand at the front of an empty bus and make it impossible for passengers to get on they hadn't really looked at the information in front of them, and in this case asked the right questions. I was the one being looked upon by four hundred people as somehow cheating on them, breaking some sacred human bond, because I'd actually thought something through. It took the buying of a magazine to make me feel like I was outside the social norms. How did that happen?

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