Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Milk Queue

I must confess that there is a somewhat awkward feeling of timid pride about being born on the other side of the wall, the uncivilized, perpetually superseded, 50-years-behind one. It means growing up in a world where you can appreciate small things, and being apprehensive at the thought that perhaps you enthuse over events otherwise trite for the progressed world.

My childhood memories, such as those of millions of other twenty-some eastern Europeans, would undoubtedly sound strange to the western-born ear. Few of them would understand what special celebration it was for us the day when chocolate or oranges arrived. Word would spread contagiously around the neighborhood: "They've brought oranges at the corner-shop". Few minutes, and a mass of people would gather in front of the blessed cornucopia donor, where a benevolent divine figure masked as a vendor would begin bawling orders: "All in line!", "Only five per person!". Being a rare merchandise, chocolate, milk, oranges would have to be rationalized, so even if you queued the whole day, you would eventually take home only your due ratio.

The milk day, people would get in line at five or six a.m., so that they wouldn't lose priority. Never was a better time for us to understand the importance of a family such as in those protracted, anxiety replete hours. Family meant kids, and a kid meant one more person, therefore an extra bottle of milk to bring home. "Give away only one, so that all of us can have one!" was amongst the main leitmotifs of the era. Friendships and marriages would blossom at the queue, for it certainly was the ideal environment to socialize and love thy neighbor.

Nowadays, when the long longed-for capitalist economy has finally arrived with its shiny armor and you can buy whatever you want in whatever quantity, people still have the queue instinct. Whenever there's a line of more than five, a passer-by joins the row and asks in a half-concerned, half-curious tone "what is it that they give here?" as if afraid that he might miss something, that the others are lining up for some extraordinary gimmick that capitalism has brought, a true happiness provider. Sell it by piece, so that all can have some!

1 comment:

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