Join the Queue

Join the Queue

It was the early evening of what had been a sweltering hot Saturday. The last thing that Amaziah had wanted was to come down to the city centre – especially because he had been looking forward to a weekend of blissful indolence after a hard week at work. Unfortunately, an old friend had invited him to an social engagement, and after deftly dodging previous invitations, he had finally run out of excuses.

As it turned out, the event had been a bust –  it started late, and the food ran out before Amaziah could get a serving. Even worse, he had been shaken down for cash as guests had been required to donate and donate again to the celebrants. Never again, he swore to himself, his stomach rumbling in agreement, as he left the venue in search of a bus that would carry him back to the comfort of his home.

As he paced the streets looking for the nearest bus stop, he chanced upon a queue of people that ran alongside a two storey building. It was a long queue with every kind of person in it – tall, short, young, old, male, female, stocky, thin. In fact, the queue was so long that it stretched round the building. Where to, it was impossible to say without following it all the way to the head. Amaziah’s curiosity prompted him to ask the person at the end of the queue what it was all about.

“I don’t know”, his correspondent replied. “I got here one minute ago, and I saw this queue so I decided to join in case betta dey.”

Amaziah shook his head in disbelief. “You joined a queue even though you didn’t know what was at the head of the queue?”

“Why not? Can you not see how many people are in the queue? It means that there must be something good – after all, people will not join a queue for nothing.” One or two people next to the man in the queue nodded their heads in agreement.

Amaziah’s astonishment grew. This was the height of madness. Couldn’t someone go to the head of the queue and find out what was going on?  But as he wondered, someone tapped him on the shoulder. He spun round to see a burly man in a safari suit.

“Oga, you dey for queue?”

He hesitated. Did he really want to join this queue whose purpose he didn’t know? On the other hand, what if there really was something good at the head of the queue? He decided to hedge his bets.

“Erm… yes o, I’m on the queue.” He could always decide to leave the queue if it turned out there was nothing there. Mr. Safari then stood behind him, followed in short order by several others as though joining the queue was the natural order of things.

OK o… perhaps I’m the one-eyed madman in the land of the blind, Amaziah thought to himself. Perhaps someone will come along to answer my questions, and all I should do is to exercise patience. But after five minutes of scanning the street for the approach of anyone who looked like they might have an answer, his patience gave out.

“Everyone, listen to me,” raising his voice as he addressed the other people in the queue. “It looks like nobody knows why we are waiting here.” A murmur of assent rose in response to this.

“And I’m sure that we do not want to spend valuable hours waiting for something when it is possible that the thing we are waiting for might not be worth our time.” Another murmur of assent, though not quite as loud this time.

“So this is what I propose. Let us send someone to the head of the queue and let them find out what is going on. If it is worth staying for, then we can all stay. But if it is not, then we can all go our separate ways.”

Immediately a chorus of disagreement arose from his fellow queuers. There was no point in going to the head, some said; if there was, wouldn’t other people ahead of them in the queue have gone already? Others were even more pessimistic; what if the person who went ahead returned and gave a false report to discourage others from waiting? Then they would leave, and he would jump ahead ahead in the queue. Then there was the question of who would go.

“I don’t mind going, as long as someone keeps my place for me,” volunteered Amaziah.

“Why should we reserve your place?” challenged a thin, light-skinned young woman.

Amaziah eyed her with irritation. “Have you not been listening to what I’ve been saying? I am doing a service for the rest of you – I am helping you decide whether you should waste your time here or not. And even if I wasn’t doing that, how does keeping my place affect you? It’s not as if I’m jumping the queue.”

The woman thrust her face at him with a hostile glare. “Oh, you think you are smart, eh? You think that those of us on the queue here are too stupid to say ‘please reserve my place’ so that we can go and  relax with a cold drink in the nearest Mr. Biggs while the rest of us are sweating under the hot sun?” She pointed her finger angrily. “If you want to go – just go! Don’t try and trick those of us who have spent two hours waiting here already.”

“You are talking nonsense. In fact, because I am doing you all a service, I should even go to the head of this section of the queue.”

At this, there was an unholy commotion. Virtually everyone present raised their voices to denounce this suggestion for its autocracy and unfairness. Amaziah tried several times to make his voice heard above the noise, but eventually he gave up. Finally, when the noise had died down, he said:

“All right, I won’t go anywhere. Ill just stay here. We will just wait and wonder what is going on at the head of the queue. We won’t know whether we’ll be here for another 20 minutes or 20 hours, just because everyone is too selfish to  take the risk of going to the front.’ His voice became more strident. ” This is the problem with this country – everybody wants to enjoy the benefits of someone’s action, but nobody wants to be that someone!”

At this, there was silence. Then someone added “Nobody – including you, Mr. Politician”, and the entire assembly dissolved into laughter. Amaziah allowed himself a wry smile, and soon, the acrimony of a few minutes ago was forgotten as everyone adjusted their positions and waited in the long queue that stretched all the way to a distant nowhere. Including Amaziah. In spite of his stomach’s loud and indignant protests. After all, who knew what goodies lay ahead?

24 thoughts on “Join the Queue” by Tola Odejayi (@TolaO)

  1. lol…interesting! at first, i thought it was a queue for BRT buses.
    emmm…on line three, it should be “a” social engagement and not “an”.
    asides that, this is a lovely piece and i enjoyed imagining the characters.

  2. its one hell of a funny story with funny character.
    you high lightened a crucial matter in a funny and simple way.
    speaks of typical Nigerians.
    good piece.

  3. Beautiful,

    It’s interesting what associations queues evoke in our memories. I’m old enough to remember queues being linked with ‘essenco’ during the Buhari/Idiagbon regime. Thanks for the correction, jo – that’s what excessive editing does.


    I was told by someone else who read it that the story was ‘political’. Anyway, the last time I checked, Amaziah was still on the queue…

  4. I also think the story is political but it made me laugh, maybe that is we Nigerians, shuffering and shmiling…

  5. Lol. Typical Nigerian habit.
    Abeg, where the queue? Make i join incase beta dey. Lol.
    Very nice one, Tola. Beautiful writing as always.

  6. he he he, It’s just like runing ‘cos everyone else is doing the same.
    loved this. well done here…

  7. Fredrick-chiagozie-Nwonwu (@Fredrick-chiagozie-Nwonwu)

    Life! Naija style. I like how Tola was able to capture the moment and how he still yet managed to leave it hanging without leaving us longing. I think the conclusion of the matter is anybody’s, sorry, any Nigerian’s guess, but me thinks they are sharing proceeds from Ghana-must-go politics. lol. I like

  8. I laughed through out the piece,it was wonderful, funny and it still conveyed a serious message, beautiful work, keep it up!

  9. Question: How come nobody’s seen coming back? I mean, when anyone at the head of the queue goes in, don’t they come out? Abi na ayamatanga dey carry them?

  10. Abby, come on – if you finally get attended to after five hours of being on a queue, are you going to go to the back of the queue and tell everyone what is happening at the front? Won’t your main preoccupation be to get away from the queue as fast as possible?

    What is ‘ayamatanga’? (The name is just so funny-sounding. :) )

  11. Funny story! But I’ve also noticed that this story is also a big metaphor on the Nigerian status quo. There is so much to be deduced from it – the selfishness of human beings, the follow-follow mentality of people, the fear of taking the first step of breaking a jinx, then staying hopeful that something good will come along when the queue seems endless…

    A story that revolves round a queue…Genius!

  12. Yes, i agree it does carry bear a lot of themes; good job again Tola. The name is sorta winchi, winchi.

  13. lol! very good one! nice work with the conversations too! want to be lik u wen i grow up! lol!

    1. Gosh, @yetitweets, you’re making me blush!

  14. @ Tola ayamatanga was a scary witch story that used to feature on Nta in the early 90s, back to ur this piece, i see it as a literary piece…like something Wole Soyinka would try to depict in one of his books, clearly ur style is different, but u definitely captured the spirit of an average Nigerian…i love this!

    1. Ohhh, Meena… I don’t know about the work being literary. Sometimes, I like to challenge myself by taking an ordinary theme and building a story around it, and on this occasion, the subject was queueing. But thanks so much for the compliment.

      Now I want to hear more about ayamatanga, the scary witch… :)

  15. Different and unique. Me likey.

  16. lol..nice work..keep it up!

  17. lol…so Amaziah along with everyone else just stood on the queue waiting for God knows what??? How’s the same thing we do when we see others running, we just start running without finding out what is giving them chase.. (maybe you should write one on running, will be hilarious!)..Well done!

  18. Very funny. This reminds me of Ngugi’s ‘Wizard of the crow’, with all the ququeing daemons and stuff.

  19. at least now we know what was at the end of the queue. Interesting story.

  20. Nice story, kudos

  21. Lol! Queue? You definitely could make a story out of anything.
    And it was typical of Naija- don’t be inquisitive, just follow the crowd. Superb man.

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