I think I've discovered the exact opposite to perpetual motion !

This morning I had to go to the mail depot to pick up a couple of parcels that nobody was home to receive (don't even get me started on how much I love the Royal Mail…), and on the way from the train station to the post depot, I witnessed what could only be called a “British Standoff”.

The traffic lights had stopped working at a t-junction, and all was fine until a car approached from each direction. I may have mentioned before, but a fascia of politeness is the British way, and you can seriously lose a lot of time waiting to work out who should walk through a door first. Apparently to take the initiative and just walk through is a breach of manners or etiquette, as it doesn't involve a lot of apologising and lowering one's self importance before the other person… I might add, the one circumstance where this ISN'T the case it on the tube in the morning, where it's fangs bared, survival at it's most raw – this morning a guy actually walked in, stood in front of me, and then started backing out so as to push me out of the way. Catching the tube can be a competetive business, and so long as you don't make eye contact I believe people think they can be excused for completely prickish behaviour.

There again, half of them are probably Australians…

But that's not what I came here to talk about ! Right, these three cars had stopped, the drivers had all made eye contact, and suddenly it turned into…

“No no, after you.”

“No, I insist, you were here first.”

“No, look, it's really no trouble.”

(3rd car arrives) “Oh I'm terribly sorry – after you chaps.”

“I absolutely insist that you go through the intersection first!”

“Oh no, I couldn't – you chaps go first.”

…and so on. The problem arose when the 4th car arrived on the scene, because then the queueing began.

I honestly don't know how it ended, because I went into the postal depot, and when I came out traffic was on the move again. Maybe it's some weird ritual that can't be viewed by the eyes of a foreigner ?

Anyway, I just thought it was interesting. Clearly I was mistaken.

2004-10-30 : Scientific breakthrough !
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