Posted in Basic principles


In a densely-populated UK, the principle of queueing ~ patiently waiting in line for your turn ~ is necessary, fair and polite. For example, if there is already someone waiting at a bus stop, it is taken for granted that anyone arriving later will form an orderly queue behind, rather than push in at the front or stand at the side. Queueing became a fact of British life in the War years, when there was rationing, and it has continued to be an essential part of peaceful society in modern times.

Given a choice, we prefer to join the shortest queue, but are suspicious if it is too short. If invited to ‘avoid’ the queues, we will show an interest, but ‘jumping’ a queue, unless paid for by a special ticket, is a no-no. However, we rarely speak up when it happens, instead muttering to our companions and giving the perpetrator surreptitious looks of disgust. This, again, is to avoid confrontation.

In shops and banks there is often a single queue leading to two or more service points, thereby relieving the problem of which queue to join. Some even have an automated voice directing successive customers to the next available cashier.

(Top image: Basher Eyre at / CC BY-SA 2.0)