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The New Queue

The New Queue 

I have been shooting images in the UK for nearly fifty years and one topic that keeps coming up is the humble queue. In Britain we excel in this simple exercise; we do it very well. British queues are orderly, good mannered and woe betide anyone who considers barging in. They would be given short shrift.  Some queues are easy to decipher, but not always. Think of the queue as you approach a busy bar, where do you go and who do you acknowledge as you move forward towards that elusive bar person and getting your order taken? It’s not really a queue in the old fashioned sense, just a slowly moving mass of thirsty clients.

We are now ten weeks into the lockdown of 2020 and one aspect of life that has been re-defined is the simple British queue. Because of social distancing queues have become more extended and ubiquitous. It may indeed be the case that, in the years ahead as the lockdown relaxes, we’ll have to queue for everything, a bit like shoppers in the old Communist countries.  In my past, a queue was regarded as a badge of honour as it demonstrated that other people were after what you wanted, thereby affirming your good taste. Now however it is an imposed way of life and I have noted a degree of anarchy creeping in too. Outside a supermarket it is pretty straightforward as they have people supervising the queue. But queues for an ice cream van, or even the rare public toilet, can very easily break down into a non socially-distanced melee. 

This new type of queuing is here to stay and will become the new norm. No doubt our in-built queueing etiquette will accommodate social distancing and longer shopping times. We will still experience irritation, not when someone tries to barge in – that is increasingly unlikely – but when a person, busy with their phone, doesn’t move on promptly to the next available line on the pavement.

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