Jane Merrick: The Emperor's New Clothes (06/05/12)

The British love queuing do they? Our writer knows the truth

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I don't have tickets to the Olympic Games. This is not because I tried and failed, but because I didn't apply for any. Don't get me wrong, I'm delighted that the Games are happening in the city where I live, and I love athletics, but I'll be happily watching them on TV. Why? Because the thought of joining a queue with thousands of other spectators, "shepherded" by a combination of jumpy security staff and overly helpful volunteers, fills me with horror.

The British are supposed to love a spot of queuing – they say that if a Brit sees a queue, he joins it – but this is a myth. Maybe we used to, back in the Fifties, but not in 2012. Why is online grocery shopping so popular? Because people hate queuing at supermarket check-outs.

Every time I join a queue, people either complain about waiting so long, or start pushing in. There are two types of queue in Britain, at opposite extremes, with no happy medium. The first set includes the immigration fiasco at Heathrow and what we can expect at the Olympic Park, where zealous security means you are standing for ages, storing up rage for the official at the end.

The second involves us Brits keeping order ourselves. The worst example of this type is the taxi queue at London's Victoria Station. It would be easier to make it a free-for-all, because that's basically what it is.

There are barriers to guide people into a queue, which splits into three clearly identified bays, but because the barrier is open at the other side of the first bay, everyone thinks that's where the queue starts, and jumps to the front. It is always chaos, and arguments frequently break out (not always involving me). There can be a queue of both taxis and people at the same time, so something must be going wrong.

So when Usain Bolt crosses the finishing line in the 100m final this summer, I'll be forming a queue of one on my sofa in front of the TV.

I have spent far too much time waiting in line to have anything good to say about a queue. Even the word is four vowels too long.

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