“Organize” a “Queue” you’re having a laugh!

Queue? Don't make me laugh!
Queue? Don't make me laugh!

I don’t mind queueing, honestly, providing there are clear rules as to “who” goes in “what” order. Your expectations are then managed accordingly, as you stand and wait. Of course, someone will inevitably try to queue-jump. This is usually a little old Portuguese lady knee-high to a grasshopper, who with head down elbows her way through as she “spots” a long-lost distant cousin ten times removed at the front of the queue. It’s pointless trying to argue as she is probably also related to the receptionist.

Our local private hospital has the strangest queuing system in that although it’s electronic does not work on a first come first served basis. When you enter the hospital and you want to speak to one of the receptionists to book an appointment, check-in for appointment pay etc; you need a numbered ticket from the machine. There are three choices on the machine’s selection panel – Pagamento, Cartaõ Vida and Generalmente; you make your selection accordingly. The ticket numbers are then displayed on an electronic board.

Simple right?


Last Friday, I had to “book-in” for my appointment which was due ten minutes after my arrival, so I pressed Generalmente stood and waited for fifteen minutes, twenty minutes passed and nothing. Other patients came and went. Frustrated but more worried I was about to miss my appointment I complained to the guy sitting at the entrance reception desk. To be honest he is like a spare part – hovering with intent but about as much use as a chocolate teapot. My complaint was met with the endearing but typical “Portuguese shrug” If you have not encountered “the shrug” I will explain. The head disappears into the shoulders, the mouth turns down and the hands, remaining by the sides, turn heavenwards. I was ushered through to the doctor with a “no problem” The doctor was not happy and even less when I explained the reason why I was late.

The bizarre queueing system…

Today I returned, duly took my ticket and waited and waited….and you’ve got it…and waited. I only wanted to make another appointment after the scan on my arm. Not rocket science but after twenty minutes and counting I lost my cool. People were walking in off the street taking a ticket and were being seen immediately.

I complained to “chocolate-teapot” man who could not seem to grasp the basic fact that people were taking tickets after me and were then seen immediately!

Chocolate-teapot man responds “Ah they wanted to pay and have already seen the doctor”
“Yes” I respond “But I want to see a doctor and I’ve been standing here twenty minutes already”
Chocolate-teapot man presses the Pagemento button and gave me a new ticket. Guess what my new number came up immediately!

Chocolate-teapot man smiled and walked away! The girl on reception however, was not happy by the “trick” when she realized I did not want to pay just errrr book an appointment. I then gave the receptionist one of my “make-my-day” glares, momentarily lost my cool, and receptionist immediately backed down.

I tried once again to extract an explanation as to the logic (or lack of it) behind the queuing system and how the numbers were allocated; she could not or did not want to grasp my point. Mr. Piglet, sensing a major wobbly on the horizon, smiled and told me I was wasting my breath!

At least “Chocolate-teapot” man taught me how to beat the system.

Please be honest, was I unreasonable?

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45 thoughts on ““Organize” a “Queue” you’re having a laugh!

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  1. When I lived in Portugal I got used to their system its different but it works just a lot of waiting its like that everywhere now too many people and not enough workers they are an expensive commodity. I found the health centre people so kind I had physo for 3 months and the physio kissed me each visit here in Australian they are more likly to kick you very unsympathic medical system I waited an hour for the dr the other day with an appointment didnt wait that long in Portugal, also dont like to be rude but you really should try to speak Portuguese it makes like a lot easier and after all you are in their country it makes sense. I think your comments about the so called chocolate teapot man are a bid rude and the old ladies have to fend for themselves try to understand others culture.


    1. Hi ALisa,
      I dont want to be rude either but I do speak some Portuguese and have spent a fortune on pirvate lessons for over 3 years. Perhaps, its because I am older or I am just linguistly challenged I just don’t know. However, even the Portuguese I speak to sympathise as they say their language is very difficult to learn. Please don’t think I am a lazy brit who just shouts louder to make myself understood, I am not. Believe me when I say, I have really tried and continue to do so. However, times are hard and I can no longer afford to have lessons


  2. I find some of your experiences very similar to what I’m experiencing by the people who gang stalk me. Your experience with the bank, it’s something I experience every single day. I haven’t read all your blogs, but what’s your citizenship?


  3. I don’t know why but in a kind of way, it makes me think about the French Administration !
    You can get lost to do / get a simple formular…. Just like if your request was completely crazy ! 🙂 All you need to is to be patiente ! 🙂


  4. Ha Pip your post made me smile, so vividly put and I think I’d have done the same. I can be a little impatient and queue jumping really gets my goat, even if it is a little old lady! Well sussed and what a triumph. Fab, I love it!


  5. Hi Piglet!

    I don’t think you were unreasonable at all. But then, I come from a place where tue queueing system is based on how badly hurt you are. Unless it’s an emergency, you’ve got an appointment time and just show up for it. No tickets. No queues. And, unfortunately only too often, no service!

    Wish I knew how to make a smiley with “the shrug”. It would fit here. 🙂

    Good luck!

    – Papa Joe


  6. No you weren’t unreasonable. I’d say you were very patient considering the circumstances.

    Don’t they realize that if people can’t make appointments, there won’t be anybody to come back and make payments. 🙂


  7. now that you’ve got the shrug down perfectly, you can use it next time you grab a Pagamento ticket to make an appointment! Then just point to Chocolate Teapot man. Thanks for the smile PiP!
    ~ shell


  8. Think I’ll try that hug out next time on someone, see what happens! I think in the UK we are queue-aholics, we see a queue and go stand in it just to see what’s at the other end. Something must be going on so we queue with hope! Also I’ve noticed that people would rather queue with uncertainty, in the bank or supermarket, rather than actually ask if they are in the correct queue. One last observation about English queuer’s (that doesn’t look right) is they seldom say anything if someone jumps or butts in, they just tutt under their breath and stay quiet!


    1. Hi noobcake – absolutely adore your picture 🙂 I usually will say something when someone tries to push in…well, except in the case of the elderly Portuguese lady related to half the district!
      Talking of joining a queue ,and not knowing what you are queueing for, I did precisely that a few summers ago: got a free pair of designer flip flops and a phone condom for the beach! 8)


    2. your are so right the English get me with this queue business they are like a bunch of sheep its the tutt tutt under their breath complaining that gets me too..at least the Portuguese speak up ….


      1. Hi Alisa,

        As I said I don’t mind queuing and I did speak up. I have since been again and waited 45 mins to book in for my appointment…for which I was then late. Don’t worry I am not a tutt tutt person but the randomness of the system is stupid.When I appologized to the doctor for being late she asked me to make a formal complaint as the doctors were fed up with the system and none of the admin staff listened.



  9. Been there got the tee shirt. It is infuriating particularly if you dont realise you have to get a ticket. I used to get annoyed about the queuing but now accept it as part of life. At last I am starting to understand the Portuguese Also the Portuguese dont like to say they do not have the item. I once waited over a month for a life belt for the pool calling in every week to be told it had been ordered from Lisboa until eventually I realised he did not want to say no!!!


  10. Miss Piglet, your writing is so fabulous that it is irrelevant to me whether or not you were reasonable. I just loved reading the story, although I am sorry for all of your trouble and frustration. Since you ask, I must say that it sounds as if you handled a crazy situation with much more grace than I might have mustered.


  11. What superb writing! I love how you describe the shrug, and I think that’s the answer. Since you describe that shrug so well, practice so that it just comes naturally. I think you’ll fit right in.


  12. Oh PiP – you do make me smile! I love that story and can totally relate to your frustration. After dealing with government departments in the UAE for the best part of three years, your Portugese queing system sounds like breezein comparison – despite your frustrations. Love the story of the ‘chocolate teapot’ guy – classic!
    Juls 😮


  13. Absolutely not, at least you have the “pagamento” option. Here in Brazil if you don´t have a private health care (thank god and my job I have one) you have to stay on line forever with only one option in the machine “wait or get lost”.


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