The queue is made famous by Britain. Brits, specifically suburbanites, love nothing more than to stand single file in an orderly line. It’s innately ingrained within the culture. Queuing is acceptable, a shamble mess of frustrated eruptions and tut-tuts is not.
The rules of queuing are simple: stand a metre behind the last person, preferably in single-file. Rolling eyes and the occasional sigh is acceptable, verbal complaints and outbursts of frustration are sadly, not.
Now, flip, reverse and consider the opposite of this methodical arrangement and then times it by ten. The result will be this: shambles and hordes of people with oversized luggage and too many children. Someone lights up a Marlborough, an elderly couple have a domestic, a stray dog appears and proceeds to lift its leg on someone’s corduroy trousers. The air is punctuated with the smell of strong coffee, fried arancini and cigarette smoke, lots of cigarette smoke. And crucially, there’s no queue. No morsel or remnant of a queue. Rather, it’s an overgrown mess of swelling bodies.
We’re imprisoned within the confinements of Catania’s 60s style airport, where ventilation was certainly not on the architect’s agenda. The forty degree heat lingers from outside, leaving everyone salivating and smelling rancid.
The mood, albeit tired and frustrated, is vibrant. Suppressing your emotions is certainly not an Italian trait and consequently hands are gesticulated, voices are raised and people are enthusiastically arguing among each other.
Me, with my English reserve, am tutting irritably. We’re waiting for a car and at this stage in the day I would be happy with any run down, derelict of a thing.
Public transport is practically nonexistent in Sicily, leaving tourists to either book an all-inclusive or hire a car. We, fell under the latter.
As indeed did everyone else on this hot summer August Saturday morning. There were three tellers and 75 people before us. This was going to be a long wait.
While a polite but firm complaint would be deemed socially acceptable in Britain, try as you might to endeavor this to a Sicilian and the response is as follows:
“Io lavoro qui non il mio problema” This translates to: ‘I just work here, not my problem’.
No humble apology, no sympathy or offering of allegiance. This is Sicily and in Sicily sympathy is rare and empathy is nonexistent, specifically when bestowing it on tourists.
Ergo, we waited. And waited. Finally, two hours and four arancini balls later, we were presented with the paperwork to our enigmatic vehicle; a prehistorical Fiat, no less.
We left the smoke ridden airport with glee, only to be confronted with another wall of bellowing people near where we were picking up our car.
“Sorry, what are you all waiting for?” I tentatively asked in pigeon Italian.
“Darling – it’s lunch time, no car pick up for another half an hour,” a slick Mediterranean gentleman told me with perfectly raised eyebrows.
We landed / Catania Airport
We ate / Arancini balls with spinach and ragu
We waited / For three half hours in total
We drove / A prehistoric Fiat Punto