A friend of mine and I went to Wimbledon last Friday. We planned ahead and decided to get there an hour and a half early. After all we did not want tickets on Centre court, we just wanted to sit on the hill in the grounds and watch. We had no idea what we were in for. What follows is what we made of the day...
Wimbledon, 2010: Would the practice and dedication pay off? People from all over the world converge on this posh corner of London. This quiet residential area is transformed into a place where the best come to prove themselves once a year. You can see the looks of concentration on their faces. Many have been working for this since childhood. Hopes and dreams ride on their performance…
Across the street from this showcase of monumental prowess, another tournament is played: the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. But is this game for women and children where the real talent actually lies? (Yeah, it probably is.) Or is it back across the street to what I was talking about earlier: the Queue for the Wimbledon Tennis Championship?!
British love to stand in line. They love it so much that they created a term for it; “queuing.” At first an explanation of the queue itself may seem as needless as the last four letters of the word ‘queue.’ However upon deeper investigation, one discovers an entire subculture; chock full of a gritty dose of patience and politeness.
“We have been coming to this queue to wait for the past ten years,” proudly exclaims one queuing supporter. “I have been queuing ever since I was a little boy!” exclaimed a pensioner who chooses to spend his free-time queuing. The diligence has paid off for him, because at 10 a.m. on Friday, he was the first person in queue for Saturday’s tennis matches. With a look of triumph, he goes back to perusing his manual on proper queue etiquette.
Over 7,000 queue enthusiasts form different sections of the queue in a field a half mile from the tennis grounds. Older queue attendants, called stewards, patrol the area and direct the slow plod of the queue. They solemnly warn stragglers that “the Wimbledon queue waits for no man.” The queue participants continue their march past posted signs that give the queue code of conduct such as: “Queue jumping is not acceptable and will not be tolerated” and “You may not reserve a place in the queue for somebody else, other than in their short term absence (eg: toilet break, purchase of refreshments etc.). If you have to leave the queue, you should negotiate your position with those around you and/or a steward.” These and other Spartan-esque guidelines are engrained into British progeny at an early age.
“We British will queue for anything,” says one waiting woman. “If we see a queue, we jump in it, afraid that we are going to miss something.”
As impressive as this display of queuemanship is, an even more elite group of queuesmiths position themselves to the side of the field in rows of tents. Not content to merely wait several hours to get into Wimbledon, these titans of timeliness are willing to wait for days. Entrenched in their nylon fortresses, the elite pass the time with conversation, tea, and a healthy helping of Pimm’s coupled with strawberries and cream (a Wimbledon tradition.) “We could have gotten tickets online, but waiting in the queue is what makes the experience what it is,” said a couple who were setting up their tent and digging in for the long haul.
The throngs of those waiting grow more and more patient as the queue snakes its way to the tennis grounds. Fueled into a frenzy of civility and politeness, the crowd patiently waits their turn for the chance… the chance to get tickets into Wimbledon grounds. As the fields are slowly evacuated, the wreckage from this proliferation of patience is all that remains; a few trash bags that the patrons have kindly stuffed their waste into. Sheer chaos…
After the smoke clears (metaphorically, of course, because the queue guidelines state that barbequing and camp fires of any type are strictly prohibited) fans make their way into the tennis grounds. They have earned a well-deserved respite of calm games of tennis after the excitement they faced outside in the queuing fields. Until next year’s showdown, Britons will be in training. One does not have to look far to see British politely queuing at restaurants, grocery stores, checkout counters, or any chance they get to display their waiting prowess. “To be British is to queue.”