Walking The Line

Our Features Editor returns after a very long weeks of queues!

What time was it in the U.K.? I reckoned it must have been about 2 a.m. at home when we walked into Orlando International Airport after our 9 hour flight from Gatwick.

I was here – bleary-eyed – with my wife for a long-awaited family get-together in Florida, meeting up with my eight-year-old nephew and six-year-old niece for a trip to Disney World. We couldn’t wait to catch up with them and the rest of my family, and were looking forward to seeing the place through their excited eyes.

First things first, though – we had to queue. Passport control first. Then Customs. Then car rental. All handled very professionally and by courteous staff, but I began to suspect that queuing might be a theme of this holiday. Especially as it was the tail end of the Easter hols!

Queuing time was quality time

And so it was. We queued a lot – for everything from car parks to toll booths to rollercoasters. At one ride we changed our mind when we were told the queue was 3.5 hours long, which was a little bit beyond us, but it had me thinking that somebody must have put a lot of thought into how we queue. And they have!

Apparently, the typical queue you’ll find yourself in these days is a “serpentine” queue – one long line. When space allows or customer happiness comes first, this is the method of choice for businesses. Otherwise you get that supermarket feeling of joining one queue only to see the one next to you move quicker. People who arrive after you can get served before you – the serpentine is often long, but it is fair!

And you’re far more likely to persevere with a queue once there are a few people behind you. No matter how many people are still in front, scientists have found that as long as the queue behind you is building up, you still feel like it’s worth hanging on in there. It’s also why call centres often tell you what number you are in line or how long you can expect to wait.


The masters at queueing!

Disney themselves are widely considered the masters of queuing. With distractions all the way along to keep you busy, rumour has it that they also overstate the time it’ll take when you join it so that you’ll be pleased when it’s quicker than expected!

Once we accepted that it was just going to be busy, we used the time to catch-up or make faces at the kids, while others used the complimentary wi-fi to plan the rest of their day. Plus a good long queue is an outstanding opportunity for people-watching Рor even meeting new people. Some Londoners began chatting in the queue for our return flight and realised that they had grown up within a street or two of each other!

Have you had any interesting experiences in queues?

Or did I just have too much time queuing to think about all this?!


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Alex Corlett

Alex is the "Friend's" Features Editor, working with the talented Features Team to bring you everything from cryptic crosswords to financial advice, knitting patterns to international travel and inspirational real life stories. Always on the hunt for a new feature idea, Alex also enjoys cycling and loves a good tea room.