Judging by what I saw at Bishan MRT Station, queue-jumping is alive and well.

I accompanied my father there recently. He goes there every morning to pick up his copy of the Today newspaper. After strategically placing me where he could keep an eye on me, he joined the long queue for the paper.

The position turned out…

…to be a vantage point. I could see many people beating the queue. What’s more, they made it an art.

An elderly man cycled past the long queue, parked his bicycle and stood next to a young man near the front. When the queue moved, he moved along and was rewarded with two copies of the paper, although each person is supposed to take only one copy.

Another queue-jumper came in the form of an almost perfectly groomed lady. She greeted her friend, who was waiting in the queue, spoke with her briefly and found herself in the queue. This “technique” was also employed by two others.

I was stunned to see a few walk brazenly to the front, without queuing, and practically snatch their copies from the hand of the lady distributing the paper.

She was helpless probably because she did not want to create a scene. She might have also felt there was no point admonishing the queue-jumpers as those in the queue did not protest.

Those in the line did not raise any objections probably because they did not want a confrontation. Furthermore, they could overlook the unfair behaviour because the queue was moving fast and there were enough copies for everyone.

Why was it so difficult for the queue-jumpers to toe the line? If they had queued up, it would have taken them at most three minutes to reach the front.

I have a simple answer: Why bother queuing when nobody seems to care?

Perhaps I should compliment those in the queue for tolerating the behaviour of the queue-jumpers. However, I am not too sure if they would condone it in a situation where they were lining up for something scarce and in high demand.

About five years ago, McDonald’s offered cuddly Hello Kitty dolls at a discount. The promotion drew long queues at its various outlets many hours before the doors opened. The huge number of customers just could not wait to get their hands on the toys. And pandemonium broke out. There were fights, broken glasses and disorderly behaviour.

The culprits responsible for the chaos: Queue-jumpers.

We should not allow queue-jumping under any circumstances. It is a selfish, dishonest and discourteous behaviour that should be nipped in the bud.

If you do not say anything to queue-jumpers who commit the act under your nose, it means that you are passively supporting them. You may think that it is all right as you are in no hurry. If that is what you think, then you deserve to live with them even when you are queuing for something you need urgently, if not desperately.

I must admit that it can be embarrassing to tell a queue-jumper off especially when he thinks it is nobody’s business what he does and others agree with him by keeping quiet.

Once, I witnessed a woman reprimand a queue-jumper. The latter scolded her for being a busybody as she was not affected. The rest looked on without uttering a word.

I would have supported the lady had I understood the significance then. The queue-jumper might have then asked me to mind my own business. However, if the rest also showed their displeasure, I am sure he would have walked away with his tail tucked firmly between his legs.

It is the silent majority that encourages, strengthens and emboldens the unscrupulous few. Why should it be so?

(This entry is published in TODAY of 22 December 2005)