Litera Q


The explanatory dictionary of the Romanian language defines the queue in the primary sense of the word: ?terminal appendix of the hind part of the vertebrates? body?. Figuratively, by ?queue?, we understand a row of people who are waiting. The queue presupposes a head, namely the desired object that is at the other end of the row. It became a habit during the war, in times of economic crises; the queue grew to be in the ?80s a fundamental institution of socialist Romania. It fortified the general feeling of passive waiting and made people believe that things ?come?, they come from somewhere above, in an unpredictable way. The queue becomes a permanent occupation of the retired people especially. It is a productive activity. The desired thing can be obtained only with patience, with power of endurance. An extremely tiring day would often end with a feeling of ?victory over socialism?: anemic chicks, rotten potatoes, toilet paper, fish skeletons, beer, cigarettes, etc. The queues were very rarely ordered, they surged periodically so an ad-hoc police was in charge of maintaining order. One or more men would place themselves near the counter or office and prevented the ones who wanted to rapidly get in front of everybody else. If you left your place temporarily, because the queue might very well form itself on two rows, you had to be recognized by your neighbors or else endless scandals would spring out of thin air. A single man could keep the place for more, and hence this was another source of conflict, the places could be sold, women would turn up with children in their arms, children that were borrowed sometimes just to arouse the pity of the queue. Often, during the night, people would doze off in front of the stores on chairs or on the sidewalk, surrounded by empty bags, the first in the queue. While queuing, people would get cozy with one another: jokes, rumors, legends, biographic stories, gossip, economic and food information. Obviously, there was some kind of ephemeral or long-lasting solidarity of the members of the queue that accepted a superficial and rapid communication. At the sight of a queue, the ordinary man would hurry to queue first, assure himself, and only then would he ask ?what product they wanted to buy?. Sometimes, one had to walked across the whole deserted town at night in order to be able to get to the far-off place one hoped to get meat or eggs from. (7)

This officially called ?popular line? was formed by a (long) line of comrades that were waiting in front of the food stores to ?supply? or to ?give? something to the starving population. The stores that had no queue in front of them were empty. The most important queues started to form at night or at the break of dawn, especially for ?chicken? (claws, neck, head and wings) or cheese and eggs. The maximum quantity that a buyer could ask for was one kg of cheese and thirty eggs. (51)

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