Jumping the Line in CambodiaJuly 17, 2012
Cambodia is larded with queuejumpers and they are never the source of much merriment amongst the expat community: white knuckles, clenched fists and gritted teeth are my usual response as the local man, and it’s always a man, muscles his arrogant way to the way to the front of the line and bangs his items on the counter in front of yours, not as if his life depended on it or because there’s some kind of emergency, but simply because he considers himself more important than you.
What if I recklessly succumbed to temptation and confronted one of these strutting poltroons? Well, I finally did.
Here’s what happened. I’ve been unwell recently and following a doctor’s visit needed to acquire a large bag of different medicines. As a rule, I’d travel out to the swish and Western style Ucare some distance away, but feeling a trifle frail and in rather a hurry to grab the medicine and retire to the comfort of my sickbed, I took my chances at one of the larger corner pharmacies near Psah Kapko.
At first sight things did not look good. A pudgy-faced woman in her 30s was on the floor behind the colorful and over laden counter squatting on her haunches and spooning watermelon into the mouths of two diaper-clad toddlers. However, she did eventually turn her attention to me and seemed to be pulling the correct boxes from the shelves after being given my lengthy prescription.
At this point in proceedings, a massive ‘just-look-at-me’ SUV pulled up on the sidewalk and I inwardly groaned being reminded of my K440 colleague Alex Watts’ theory that ‘the bigger the SUV, the smaller the Khmer man driving it.’
The theory, as usual, ran true and a short, ghastly little man with grey slacks, a yellow shirt a side parting and three visible mobile phones marched into the pharmacy and thinking himself the most important person in the store, began barking jump-to-it requests.
Unsurprisingly, Pudgy face instantly started meeting his needs although to give her some credit, she did try to finish my order after catching a glimpse of my ashen-faced expression while she was half way up a ladder reaching for yet another box of pills for the foul interloper.
Nonetheless, by this time he’d got into the swing of things and was eyeing ever more brightly colored medicines so she briefly turned looked back in my direction and handed me a $20 bill and my order.
My response? I simply told her that I had no wish to do business with sellers who appeased queue jumpers and she could put everything back on the shelves as I wouldn’t be spending a cent in her store until hell freezes over. She turned white, poor woman, and her mouth fell agape; three-phone man looked suddenly sheepish and I was reminded that locals can be such sensitive flowers when challenged.
Then I turned once more to the bumptious little fellow and said, ”Look at her face. She’s just lost a $20 sale and all because of your selfish behavior,” And with that, I walked out, hailed a tuk tuk and got everything I needed at Ucare where I was wonderfully looked after by young female pharmacist with the face of Zhang Zilin and the body of Silvia Saint.
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