“For nearly two weeks, tens of thousand of people have taken numbers, formed lines, roasted in the sun, pitched tents, taken cover form lightning and rain, slept sparingly, rarely showered, packed up their tents, joined new lines and done it all over again…”
This was not an outdoor rock concert. It was not the royal wedding. It was not Obama’s inauguration. It was not the day after Thanksgiving when shoppers camp out in front of stores for early bargains.
I laughed reading novelist Tom Perrotta’s account of how the British and tennis -loving tourists endure this annual ritual for two weeks to snag a ticket to Centre Court (WSJ, 7/2/11) On some days, 20,000 people are in the Queue. He calls the fine art of queuing “quintessentially English.”
I won’t go into the psychology of what makes us want to join a queue, or line, and then wait, and wait and wait. I’m sure there are many theories devoted to this purely human phenomenon.
And I’ve had some experiences with queues, or lines myself.
Knowing there was no way I’d get a glimpse of the boy wonder and all his gold trinkets, I told a museum staffer my predicament.
She asked me: “Do you have a plane to catch?”
Puzzled, because I’m sure I told her a bus, I responded “no… but..”
She repeated her request, probably wondering why I was so dense.
Then I got it.
“Oh, yes. I have a 3 pm flight.”
For some reason air travel trumped bus rides; she moved me to the front of the line.
The British aren’t the only ones patient with queuing. In Japan, long queues at train stations are the norm. We experienced this first-hand as tourists. In Tokyo during rush hour, we waited our turn to buy tickets from the automatic dispensers. Clumsily fumbling with our yen, counting, dropping coins, arguing about how much we needed, causing a scene. The queue behind us waited without a word. Thankfully one commuter finally assisted us.
I marvel at what others will queue for:
While waiting for a doctor’s appointment, I heard a woman describe how she surprised her 10 year old daughter with a trip to a popular bakery in a nearby city. This bakery, known for its spectacular cakes featured on its own television show, attracts hoards of fans. She waited more than 5 hours to buy a cupcake. Lydia and me outside of Carlos’ Bake Shop, Hoboken, NJ; we didn’t wait in line.
I remember a friend waking at the crack of dawn to wait on line for the “Coach” sale. This was before reduced merchandise was available at outlet stores.
In Summit, NJ, where I live, there’s an ice cream store where patrons line up for hours. There are others nearby, much better in my opinion.
Amusement parks. Enough said.
Sometimes we can’t help waiting on line. So we make the best of it. We joke, we read, we talk on the phone.
Waiting to go through the metal detector, I heard a woman say, “I don’t care if they search me. It’s been a long time since someone felt me up.”
Queuing could have its benefits. You never know.