The sign of a healthy society? Its queues | Howard Jacobson

An irritable queue would once have been the clue to a post office’s whereabouts, but queues are universal now

The gauge of a healthy society is how long you have to queue in a post office to buy a stamp. There will be societies in which people forced to wait more than five minutes machete their way through the queue and demand a second-class stamp at gunpoint. Such, we can agree, are unhealthy societies. At the other extreme are Australian post offices, which make a point of having more than one person serving, sell an attractive range of mail boxes, don’t double as social security advice centres and aren’t located in the back room of a convenience store. Somewhere in between, but closer to the bottom than the top, is this country – assuming you can find a post office to buy a stamp from.

An irritable queue would once ...