Queuing: The Good, The Bad & The Fugly

Queuing: The Good, The Bad & The Fugly


After drinking tea, invading all but 22 of the world's countries and football hooliganism, there is nothing the English like more than queuing (perhaps for a spot of après-hooliganism tea). It's oft been joked that we could make queuing a competitive sport, although I’m not sure it would secure Olympic status or relevant funding... This week, Bristol has been beset by queuing – whether it be for the latest iPhone or to wave goodbye to the Gromits. Hundreds of people, standing happily in a line for hours, whilst the rest of us do Important Things like tapping away into Excel spreadsheets or doing the office tea run. It’s enough to make you cross; that is, if you’re Janet Street Porter.

There are some times where queuing is unavoidable, a necessary evil, and it is at these times that we most summon our innermost Britishness. It’s a tough maze of etiquette and tested patience, so allow me to I give you some insight in to the different types to allow you to prioritise your queuing more effectively. This is my handy guide to Queuing. I thank you.


The Good:


Theme Park rides

Exotic jungle sound effects, dramatic music pumped out overhead to cover the sounds of s a thousand screams, the waft of fresh doughnuts and the nervous anticipation of nausea via a series of blackout-inducing manoeuvres. Top queuing. Plus signs tell you that there is only a '40 mins wait from this point' - if only the rest of life was this beautifully clear and concise.


An experience to tell your grandkids about. Although, they also said that about the Blitz. The queue for Wimbledon is the embodiment of a true British day out; all the rain-sodden joy of Glastonbury without that musical racket, plus you'll inevitably be interviewed by BBC News 24 before claiming your reward of a palm-sized bowl of strawberries and cream.

I like the Wimbledon queue. I like the way that people feel the need to show self-sacrifice by camping for nights on end, avoiding attacks by urban foxes and the like just to feel like they are worthy of a seat. Even Easyjet have abandoned the seat scrabble in favour of a perfectly functional numbering system. Make us queue Easyjet, test our queuing skills, we’re bloody good.


Fast Food

I'm not sure which I enjoy more; the comforting and burning sensation of eating a huge burrito, or the anticipation and mild mental anguish caused by queuing in full view of a myriad of tasty treats. I patiently wait my turn whilst I anxiously try to decide between pinto or black beans; chipotle or habanero sauce; chicken or carnitas.

There is a danger in this case that self-doubt can creep in and you end up ordering something that you are fairly confident you can pronounce rather than what you actually wanted.  Ummm I’ll have the beef burrito please. Next time you are mine Chilaquiles. Next time…


The Bad:



I've never been a speedy adopter of technology, despite working in media for the past 7 years. So the queues that greet me on the way to work every 6 or so months as I walk past The Apple Store will continue to fill me with a sense of bemusement.

People scrabble to get a place in the line as Starbucks set up a mobile cafe to serve the dedicated queuers and hovering journalists. The only thing that is as good as queuing for a soon-to-be-obsolete handset is scrolling through hastily uploaded photos from around the country of other Apple Store queues – like some kind of inter-queue Apple fanboy contest. Bloody hell, look, they’ve got camping chairs outside the store in Barnet! Really though, you shouldn’t be queuing for something that will be readily available for the foreseeable future, and cheaper if you wait too. And I thought geeks were supposed to be clever.

Is he holding a second generation iPad there? Oh, it's a sign - I see.

The 'Next' sale

The girls from my school would boast about how they got up at 4am on Boxing Day to make sure they were at the front of the queue when the shop opened at 6am for the start of the sales. Even the naivety of youth didn't stop me from comprehending the absolute insanity these girls were indulging in. Your teens should be spent trying to quaff MD 20/20 in a park at 4am, not forming an orderly line outside Next in the freezing cold.


 The Downright Fugly:


Public Transport

Buses, trains, tubes, planes, (hovercrafts?) – none of these modes of transport are ever going to be inherently pleasant, regardless of how cheap or convenient they are; the clue’s in the first word: Public.

Be assured that no matter how long you wait at that bus stop, it’s every man for himself once the 90 to Hengrove shows up. Reserve a seat for your 4 hour train journey, did you? Oh, it looks like a sweet old man has sat there by mistake. You’re not going to make him move are you? Oh you are. Now he’s pretending to be asleep. Maybe he’s dead? Wait – he just blinked; “MOVE OLD MAN!”.

Supermarket tills

With the introduction of self service, basket only tills and we-trust-the-middle-classes scan-as-you-shop arrangements, choosing the right queue at the supermarket has never been harder.

Do you queue for the manned tills or go it alone? Yes, the queue for the former may stretch in to infinity whilst there are only 2 people waiting for self service, but look at that man slowly turning a pineapple over in his hands, scouring for a barcode; look at that student with the 40 cans of Basics Lager who is doubtlessly about to have a heated tête-à-tête with the shop worker about them bringing their ID in next time…it’s a recipe for disaster. As if shopping wasn’t stressful enough already. Stick to online browsing, friends.

So that was my handy guide to Queues. Feel free to print it out, tape one copy to your fridge and keep one laminated copy in your pocket at all times for emergencies.

If nothing else, I hope it has made you appreciate how bloody ridiculous the word ‘queue’ is, in all of its forms and variations (just as one example, AutoCorrect tried to change ‘queuer’ to ‘queer’, which isn’t entirely inaccurate I guess).


Happy queuing, queuers!


Images: Paul Townsend, elyob, Ian Muttoo 



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