Joining the Queue

“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. 

It was “the Queue” at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, more commonly known as Wimbledon, the third stop in the tennis Grand Slam.  

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.

Years ago,  I had about an hour before boarding a bus to Portland, Oregon from Seattle.  Just enough time to catch “The King Tut” exhibit currently on view. The line!  

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.

Airport security breeds its own humor. 

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.

This entry was posted in commentary, Museums, galleries, travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Joining the Queue

  1. Naomi says:

    I recently read a book, I think last year, titled The Line, by Olga Grushin. It was about how waiting on lines was part of the culture of former Soviet society. This one, based on a true story, started about a year in advance of anything happening on the line. Interesting.


    • News reports after the earthquake in Japan showed people waiting on endless lines, keeping order, calm. Amazing how different cultures react. Steve Holmes always carried something to read with him in case he got stuck on a line. That was before blackberries, etc.


  2. Pingback: Talking to Strangers: Fur Coats, Downton Abbey, & Cremation Lockets | cyclingrandma

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