Dictionary definitions of Order are numerous, but the one coming to mind first is that which we associate with its close counterpart Law. Another is to give an authorised instruction to do something. Interesting to consider whether it is easier to maintain the first if everyone pays attention to the next, but that fails to take account of the variables of freewill or the consequence of disobedience.
The wearing of face coverings by everyone who should be brings a sense of order and feeling of security, whether naively or scientifically proven, to those of us who are a bit nervous. Disobedience on principle or in total disregard for everyone but themselves, has meant that a few feel able to ignore the order or the significance of the consequences.
What I am saying is that I was in a small shop and the two customers ahead of me were masked and observing the well marked distance. Behind me came a young man, not a teenager, who took off his face covering as he entered the shop and stood much closer to me than the footprints indicated. I asked him politely if he would mind moving back and replacing his mask. My glower, with only my eyes visible, was a clear match to his less than polite verbal retort, because he decided it was safer to step back outside again!
This word illustrates the quirkiness of our language. It is in order for the leader of the Order to order the next in order to order something in order to keep good order within the Order. We designate some groups of people with a common purpose as The Order of … be it religious, royally conferred or kept secret from the rest of us. I don’t know, but presume allegiance provides a level of support to members while they gain benefit from supporting their own common cause. I have no insight to the real ins and outs, but question whether the common cause of some of these is directed to benefitting the common good.
During lockdown the issue of ordering and delivery has become part and parcel – pun intended – of our lives to a greater degree than it may have been previously. We have to thank the supermarkets and delivery companies, retail businesses big and small, and many volunteer groups for keeping everyone provided with the essentials when they have been unable to access requirements for themselves. Once things were more settled, ordering online for items which we might struggle to claim were essential, added a wee bit of excitement and an exercise in social distancing, when a parcel with a book or another consignment of whatever kept us going was delivered.
My Granny took delivery of many, many parcels. There was no ordering online of course, but mail order was the vogue, and she ran a clubby book. She was an agent for Kay’s Catalogue. I’m saying Kay’s because I don’t remember rightly, but I am sure the system was the same for all the mail order companies. The women selected items based on the pictures, descriptions and price of the articles, Granny placed their orders by post, took postal delivery then hand delivered their goods, collected the weekly payments and sent those by postal order to the company. For all of that she received 1/- for every £1 she collected, which she saved up to fund her own modest purchases. I spent hours pouring over the glossy pages, in awe of the choice of things I was told “They’re nae for bairns. Ye need tae wait til ye’re big.” From my perspective of big now, it is plain that small weekly payment was the only way for many to get what was needed, and I knew her well enough to be in no doubt that if a mother of a family couldn’t meet the required amount one week, my Granny would have sorted it out for her until she could manage. Such was the support of the community, the level of expectation and the lack of credit cards. Two shillings a week for school troosers or a frocky for the summer was manageable and there was no A.P.R..
Out of order has unmentionable consequences if it is written on a notice posted on the door of the only free cubicle and there is a great sense of urgency, whereas it might be just an inconvenience if it is displayed on the nearest A.T.M. and there is a shortage of cash. Then there is the judging of someone to be out of order if their behaviour or actions don’t meet with society’s acceptance of what is acceptable, like mugging old ladies or making blatant discriminatory remarks.
Commenting objectively on the implications of being under orders is a tall order. So many atrocities are being committed. Perpetrators deny any personal responsibility because they were carrying out orders. Those who issue the orders claim actions were not carried out as ordered and so claim no responsibility either. Trials in international courts may bring some to justice, but that is after the event so offer no comfort to the victims who are living through it in the now. So far removed from our part of the world that they are seldom considered newsworthy. What is relayed with alarming regularity is news of the removal of someone who might question the wisdom of a particular order and the ability of the one at the top of the chain of command to appoint people willing to acquiesce without query.
A lack of order can range from an untidy cutlery drawer to total anarchy. Most of us will have sussed out the level of order which allows us to be comfortable. My semblance of order when I tidy the kitchen might be your idea of chaos. These differences are all well and good when the consequence of me finding a half eaten biscuit behind the bread bin, or you being obsessive about lining up spice jars in alphabetical order, are of no significance except to ourselves. It is a different story when a sigh or a sneeze over my right shoulder could have consequences which might be devastating.
Oh, alright, in order to make it clear – I was in line in the best chippy in my neighbourhood for a fish and chip treat I hadn’t enjoyed in many months. The consequence to my health of their consumption may be detrimental, and I knew that, but I did not want to be subjected to any added risk from an unmasked breath. In retrospect, I was maybe at greater risk of a physical outcome to my pointing out to the culprit the proper order of things. But it was a risk worth taking. The fish and chips were delicious. Good choice.