The Joy of Waiting in Line

Dec. 20, 2010
As a regular traveler, I find myself standing in a lot of lines- or queues- as the rest of the world calls them. When I was a younger man, I would get frustrated easily about having to queue-up to board my flight, check-in to my hotel, or pretty much ...

As a regular traveler, I find myself standing in a lot of lines- or queues- as the rest of the world calls them.

When I was a younger man, I would get frustrated easily about having to queue-up to board my flight, check-in to my hotel, or pretty much anything else.

Now I enjoy it.

I've found that waiting in lines tells us a lot about the places we are visiting - often more than checking out the popular tourist attractions.

Having just left Moldova, I was surprised to find respect for the queue. Maybe it is because of the entrenched communist rule which, until very recently, dominated the country. People stand quietly and uncomplaining- one right behind another.

Next door in Romania, lines ebb and flow with no pattern except the lack of one. It could be the thick Latin blood, where, like South America, queue roughly translates as "a minor obstruction to my being first."

The Germans and Japanese seem to be some of the best queue participants: dignified and organized, even in the face of stress and strain.

Certainly surprising to some, the French tend to behave well in queues. The revolutionary notion about "egalitee" appears to be alive and well, at least as they wait in line.

In China and India, the sheer volume of humanity makes queues nearly impossible. If Social Darwinism does exist, surviving an onslaught at a train station in Mumbai or Shenzen could be its testament.

Across most of Africa, queues tend to have a fatalistic streak. While waiting for an Air Afrique flight after it had been delayed two days for no explicable reason, I was shocked by the lack of any emotion by my African co-passengers. A gentleman from Mali explained it this way: "There isn't enough food, or water, or medicine here. The only thing that we have a surplus of is time."

Not to forget my compatriots, Americans do a pretty good job lining up, especially when facing the humiliation of present day airport security. It could be American pragmatism that focuses on the bigger picture which allows us to handle this short-term headache.

In any case, as we head out for the holidays, Merry Queuing!

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