Wednesday, 19 September 2007

I Got a Line on You, Babe

How does the world end? In a supernova? In a nuclear conflagration? In the frigid embrace of a second ice age? Or does it end in a queue?

The TV news and the front pages in Britain over the last few days have featured stories about Northern Rock, a bank that has suffered financial woes. You don’t like to hear the words “bank” and “financial woes” in the same sentence; you especially don’t like it if it’s your bank. And so account holders at Northern Rock have been lining up to get their money out.

You only need to have seen “It’s a Wonderful Life” once to know that this is Not Good. If you’re one of those people who can’t be bothered to take your money out, if you believe it’s safe there and you refuse to be cajoled into acting like a lemming--or if you simply hate queues--you might end up losing your life savings.

But apparently no one in Britain hates queues. In fact, they love them. Will Pavia has a lovely little story in the Times today about the scene outside a North London branch of Northern Rock yesterday. “Everyone agreed that it was a perfect day for [lining up outside Northern Rock]. Barry Finer, 59, the director of a fashion wholesaler, said: ‘It’s been a bit cold but it’s been lovely. There’s a been a lot of Dunkirk spirit. I have to admit I rather like queueing.’ ”

Who doesn’t? I’ve always thought you could have an amusement park ride called the Mighty Inchworm that was simply a humongous queue. There’d be notices that read: “Two hours from this sign,” “One hour from this sign,” etc. You’d shuffle slowly along, your sense of anticipation growing (“Five minutes from this sign”!), and then you’d round a corner and...the line would just end.

Tell me real life isn’t like that.

Speaking of real life: All this bank-going-bust stuff doesn’t seem like real life. It reminds me of one of those movies where there’s a creeping global meltdown, where a fake newscaster announces a “Cross-border incursion by rebel forces in Africa” and a “drop in shares in America’s largest manufacturer” and “mysterious livestock die-offs across large parts of the Midlands.” They seem unconnected but before you know it, zombies are walking the Earth.

Or queuing up for their turn to walk the Earth.

1 comment:

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