Issue 19 / 8 November 2010

THE editor of a medical newspaper once told me she first met the paper’s star GP columnist in a loo queue.

Most women are familiar with the queue for the ladies loo (QLL), which, we hope, is not too familiar to men.

It’s where women who have never met will generally freely compliment each other on their hair and make-up or inquire where they bought their dress, shoes or handbag.

Other conversation may relate to the QLL locale: what time does this game end? (Friday or Saturday night at the footy); what did you think of the Van Goghs? (last summer, National Art Gallery); what did you think of the first speaker? (a medical conference).

Wherever the QLL may be, the unspoken etiquette requires that notice of paperless loos be broadcast to all in the QLL and those accompanied by children (“I need to go NOW”) be allowed to pass to the front of the aforementioned queue.

I used to think that the best thing about any queue, especially the QLL, was getting to the end of it.

But having considered the matter, I’ve decided to reposition my stance.

I’ve met many doctors at various venues lined up in a queue of some kind — registering for conferences, waiting for a taxi, checking in or out of a hotel and, yes, in the QLL.

As well as meeting each other, we’ve answered tricky questions, solved each other’s problems and changed lifestyles, even careers.

I remember a story I was told by a primary care researcher when I was a much younger (and single) woman. I’d asked her for some relationship advice. She told me that she’d met her husband in a food queue and, apparently, he’d been confusing food with sex ever since.

A respected GP I’d chatted with in a food queue at a medical conference bounded up to me at a later time to thank me — apparently for helping him to make a challenging career decision. I’d simply shared the advice of mythologist Joseph Campbell: “Follow your bliss”.

So, a queue is far more than just a line where people wait. It’s a place where people meet and life happens.

Meanwhile, the GP–columnist that the editor met in her loo queue remains a star to this day.

Dr Ann Gregory is a Deputy Editor of the MJA.

Do you have insights on life and work that you would like to share with fellow MJA InSight readers? Submissions of up 500 words can be sent to Please include your name and a phone number. Anonymous submissions will not be accepted.

Posted 8 November 2010

One thought on “Ann Gregory: All the world’s a queue

  1. RayT says:

    Very interesting! I’ve never stood in a queue anywhere for more that about 5 minutes. Once my tolerance of slow progress is reached I simply leave and try some other time or some other place.
    It may be a male thing. (I am very grateful we blokes are saved from the loo queue by different plumbing!)

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