The 'fun' queue

« Faire la queue », la nou­velle ten­dance !

Vocable (Anglais) - - Sommaire - MORWENNA FER­RIER

Si faire la queue est de­ve­nu un far­deau quo­ti­dien pour la plu­part d’entre nous, nos voi­sins bri­tan­niques sont eux ré­pu­tés pour être de grands ex­perts dans ce do­maine. C’est pen­dant la Se­conde Guerre Mon­diale qu’ils ont ac­quis cette ré­pu­ta­tion. Ils étaient alors en­cou­ra­gés par le mi­nis­tère de l'In­for­ma­tion à faire la queue de ma­nière or­don­née pour faire leurs achats. Au­jourd’hui, la file d’at­tente est même de­ve­nue bran­chée au Royaume-Uni...

From John McEn­roe’s views on the gen­der pay gap to who’s who in the royal box and how they have done their hair, the va­riables at Wim­ble­don are end­less. But at one of the few spor­ting events that sells ti­ckets to spec­ta­tors on the day, there will al­ways be one cer­tain­ty: the Wim­ble­don queues.

2. Men­tion the word queue and most people balk. Be­cause queues are bo­ring – or, worse, pun­chlines, sy­no­ny­mous with eti­quette and Bri­ti­sh­ness. They are sur­roun­ded by rules (don’t push in, one in one out, and so on) and so­me­times more ri­go­rous sys­tems – some ska­te­wear brands have em­bra­ced ti­cke­ting. One in­volves hea­ding to a lo­ca­tion on a Mon­day and put­ting your name down sim­ply to get a queue spot se­ve­ral days in ad­vance of an item going on sale. If, as Har­vard aca­de­mic Leo Mann ex­plai­ned in his 1962 es­say Queue Culture, queues work best when they mi­mic a nor­mal so­cial sys­tem, im­po­sing “cultu­ral va­lues of ega­li­ta­ria­nism and or­der­li­ness”, then this so­cial sys­tem feels bor­der­line Gi­lead.

3. And yet, through choice or other­wise, we spend around 52 days of our life in line. These queues range from pro­saic ones at the bank, in the su­per­mar­ket or at air­port se­cu­ri­ty to sexier ite­ra­tions for gig ti­ckets, book si­gnings, PlayS­ta­tions, a new Wa­rham­mer piece,

the la­test iP­hone re­lease or, in­deed, grass­court ten­nis’s ul­ti­mate cham­pion­ship. In the last de­cade, ano­ther sort of queue has emer­ged; one that is less about the end re­sult and more about the act it­self. Queues to make friends in, and queues to be seen in.


4. The “fun” queue has long had a place in po­pu­lar culture. Ac­cor­ding to Sex and the Ci­ty, it’s where girls meet guys. In The Full Mon­ty you can dance in them, even if you’re si­gning on. Fa­shion has co-op­ted this sort of line par­ti­cu­lar­ly well. At Guc­ci on Bond Street, there is of­ten a six-deep queue out­side their flag­ship store du­ring bu­sy times (the idea is to create a more one-on-one ser­vice, al­though in­si­ders say ha­ving people out­side has hel­ped culti­vate the brand’s cult sta­tus).

5. Just as a lo­go on a T-shirt se­ma­phores your al­le­giance with a par­ti­cu­lar brand or mo­ve­ment, joi­ning the right queue si­gnals you know that, say, Thurs­day is drop day (the day some la­bels choose to re­lease new stock) or that Vir­gil Abloh is going to be in town. It’s a tac­tic bor­ro­wed from the world of street­wear. Long be­fore the much-do­cu­ment- ed drops at Su­preme and Pa­lace, skate shops dou­bled up as so­cial spaces for young people. “The queue be­comes an of­fline com­mu­nal ex­pe­rience sha­red with fel­low fans,” says Lau­ra Saun­ter, in­sights edi­tor with trend fo­re­cas­ters WGSN. “The pro­cess of ac­qui­ring the item re­quires a cer­tain amount of emo­tio­nal in­vest­ment, so wai­ting in lines all day can be a re­war­ding ex­pe­rience – even if they don’t buy any­thing.”


6. A New Yor­ker short sto­ry from 1974 en­tit­led “Come Down to Queue” sums up the so­cial as­pect neat­ly, fol­lo­wing two friends who bump in­to each other in a queue wai­ting to see The Exor­cist. “Why do people do it?” asks one, re­fer­ring to the act of wat­ching such a film. Mi­sun­ders­tan­ding the ques­tion, the other re­plies with a quote from US so­cio­lo­gist Da­vid Ries­man: “People stan­ding around all day to­ge­ther get to meet each other and that way com­mu­ni­cate.” Some queues will fo­re­ver be dull. But others have the po­ten­tial to be so­cial, fun, quixo­tic, ripe with ener­gy and at­mos­phere – and in 2018 to be do­cu­men­ted on so­cial me­dia.

7. Eve­ryone has queued for so­me­thing for a lau­gha­bly large amount of time. Among my so­cial circle, there’s the guy who queued for 12 hours for a Nin­ten­do 64, a friend who queued for eight hours to see Du­ran Du­ran at Wem­bley Are­na in 2004, ano­ther who queued for a bur­ger at a new ope­ning for four hours in the rain, and ano­ther who has queued for eve­ry single Har­ry Pot­ter book. One friend in Ja­pan ad­mit­ted to queueing for two hours for ice-cream, ad­ding: “I so­me­times think the queue it­self is the main event.”


8. Much of the mo­dern queue’s re­bran­ding can be cre­di­ted to the res­tau­rant scene, its de­ri­ded “no-boo­kings” po­li­cy and the en­suing lines out­side. For over eight years, says Rus­sell Nor­man, the res­tau­ra­teur be­hind queue-friend­ly res­tau­rants Pol­po and Spun­ti­no, “I have ta­ken the flak for res­tau­rants and queues.” Ini­tial­ly they took re­ser­va­tions but it got bu­sy qui­ck­ly, “and people’s ex­pec­ta­tions were sky high”. So they got rid of eve­ning boo­kings, at­trac­ting lo­cals and pas­sers­by who came kno­wing full well they would have to wait but were ca­te­red for as they did so.

9. “I un­ders­tand why people as­so­ciate it with me, but wai­ting for a table is not new,” he says, ci­ting the ar­ri­val of Bar­ra­fi­na in Soho in ear­ly 2007 and Wa­ga­ma­ma in 1992. Trat­to­ria Da Nen­nel­la, a po­pu­lar lo­cal/tou­rist haunt in the back al­leys of Naples, has be­come world fa­mous for its so­cial queueing sys­tem. The maitre’d takes your name, you wait in the street with the other pun­ters ma­king small talk per­haps with a spritz from the bar two doors down, and he shouts your name when the table is rea­dy. In the ca­te­ring world, drin­king in queues is en­cou­ra­ged. Queues may be a new so­cial cur­ren­cy, but how heal­thy any of this is re­mains open to ques­tion.

Eve­ryone has queued for so­me­thing for a lau­gha­bly large amount of time.

(Jane Min­gay/SI­PA)

Fans of the Har­ry Pot­ter se­ries queuing out­side Wa­ters­tone's book­shop in Lon­don's Ox­ford Street for the re­lease of the book Har­ry Pot­ter and The Half Blood Prince, Ju­ly 2005.

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