Queue, definition (chiefly British): A line or sequence of people awaiting their turn to be attended to or to proceed.
Yep, Britishness defines the art of queuing, or so we like to claim. From queuing for our rations in the forties to queuing for our iPhones in the noughties, it’s been part of our cultural DNA for as long as anyone can remember. Heck, there’s even a shot of looters forming an orderly line during the London riots doing the rounds. “An Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one,” observed George Mikes. Apparently the average Brit will spend six months of their life queuing. But are we still the undisputed world champions? Let’s take a look at the evidence…
1. The Queue For The iPhone 7
The iPhone 7 hit the shelves today and Apple Stores across the country have been swamped by people keen to get their hands on one. Some queues in certain cities started a couple of days ago, with customer willing to camp overnight just to get their hands on the latest upgrade.
2. The Tube Strike Bus Queue
The video documenting one commuter’s two minute walk to the end of the tube strike-induced bus queue snaking away from Victoria station last summer went viral. The best bit? Almost everyone was standing in single file.
3. The ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ Queue
Potter fans queued outside bookshops up and down the country to compete for the honour of being the first to get their hands on the published version of the ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ play script. For hours. In full Hogwarts regalia. As the clock struck twelve (midnight), Fran Plagge, 26, became the first of 700 fans to get her hands on a copy at Waterstones Piccadilly, having won the store’s fancy dress competition with her recreation of Ron Weasley’s dress robe. It took her three weeks to make.
4. The London 2012 Queues
In a last minute bid for tickets to the 2012 Olympic Games, hundreds of Londoners slept on pavements, wrapped in quilts, sleeping bags and – yes – Union Jacks, queuing for up to 18 hours. Incredibly, some enthusiasts travelled to London to experience the once-in-a-lifetime… queues. “These are the best I’ve seen,” Roger Twidley enthused. “There’s just such a sense of organisation and everything being in its place”.
5. The Glastonbury 2016 Queue
The 12 hour traffic jams outside Glastonbury Festival this year brought out the best of British cheer, from an impromptu roadside cricket game to the lovely lady inviting those caught short in to use her loo and grab a cup of tea.
6. The Wimbledon Queues
The Wimbledon Queue (yes, it’s officially a proper noun) boasts tea, cake, camping chairs and its own full colour guide. Sample: “If you have chosen to queue overnight, in the morning (approximately 06:00) you will be woken by the Stewards, asked to dismantle any equipment, and close up into tighter formation so as to create space for those joining The Queue on the day, arriving on the first tube.” Ah, the military precision of the British Queue at its very best…
And One Time They Really Didn’t…
When Primark’s flagship Oxford Street store prepared to open its doors in 2007, queuing etiquette was thrown to the wind as 3,000 impatient shoppers managed to force the megastore’s doors open ahead of schedule, overpowering 50 security guards in the process. Rumours that everything in the shop would be on sale for £1 apiece turned out to be unfounded. Perhaps the only thing more British than the good ol’ British love of a queue is the good ol’ British inability to control ourselves in the face of a bargain.