Slow down

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The Independent Online

Blimey, this queue is slow, isn't it? Can't think what the bloke at the front is doing. Settling his will? Receiving counselling? I don't believe it! Look at the time! Ah, well, allow us to give you something to ponder on while you're waiting: two American academics have just concluded, after research, that the queue is the social achievement that separates humans from other animals. You thought you were just trying to buy some stamps, didn't you? In fact, you are demonstrating a stable, co-operative equilibrium some way beyond proceedings at the standard waterhole, where it is generally considered unwise to tap an impatient lion on the shoulder.

Blimey, this queue is slow, isn't it? Can't think what the bloke at the front is doing. Settling his will? Receiving counselling? I don't believe it! Look at the time! Ah, well, allow us to give you something to ponder on while you're waiting: two American academics have just concluded, after research, that the queue is the social achievement that separates humans from other animals. You thought you were just trying to buy some stamps, didn't you? In fact, you are demonstrating a stable, co-operative equilibrium some way beyond proceedings at the standard waterhole, where it is generally considered unwise to tap an impatient lion on the shoulder.

See, you're feeling better already; and even more superior, since the queue is an ancient British invention. Except that it isn't, as the funny foreign word may suggest. It came into custom in the égalité of revolutionary France and was popular in the US before catching on here in the late 19th century.

Only three in front now. Which leaves time for two key queue questions in need of more research. 1. Why does the queue we join always takes longer than the queue next to it? 2. Is there anything really worth queuing for?

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