Call me Russ L

I have a Queue-estion

Posted in Modern Living by Russ L on 2 August, 2011

I write not to judge, but to express my confusion and – perhaps, even – to seek some enlightenment. I genuinely do not have the first idea what goes through the minds of the people of whom I will now speak.

Consider, if you will, a bus stop. Study the diagram, Dougal:

I’m not thinking of any specific place – I illustrate a generic bus stop for the sake of example. This could be Birmingham, or anywhere, Liverpool, or Frome. You can replace it with a bus shelter if you like, or scrap the road-side scenario and situate the entire lark in a bus station. The principle ideas will remain the same.

Imagine that a queue of people has formed, waiting (as you will not be surprised to learn) for the bus. The scene will probably look something like this:

What’s wrong with this picture? Nothing so far as I can tell, at the moment. Consider, though, This Other Character Who Walks Along The Entire Length Of The Already-Formed Queue And Then Goes And Stands At The Far End (or “TOCWWATELOTA-FQATGASATFE”, for short):

So, erm… why? I perhaps should specify that I’m not talking about the queue-jumping son-of-a-hooligan who does this to barge straight in and get on the bus first, before those who’ve been waiting longer. Utter swinefaces though these individuals may be, I understand their (contemptible) intentions. They are not part of this enquiry.

I want to know about those folk who walk past a bus queue, stand at the other end, and then attempt to memorise who was there before them to cut in at the appropriate moment.

This happens all the bleeding time, but I genuinely don’t have the first idea why Johnny or Jane Bus-Rider would do this rather than just stand in the line. I don’t want to condemn before I understand the situation a bit more. Why in the world do would a motherfunker do this?

I know you can’t ascribe a single motive to a disparate group of people doing the same thing (although The Good Lord knows that many will try, particularly regarding bus-related behaviour. A pop-sociological industry appears to have grown around publicly pronouncing the One Sole Reason for ‘sodcasting’ and pretending that this applies to everyone that does it, for example), but I can’t work out a single reason for anyone (not ‘everyone’) to engage in this particular bit of confusing hoopla. This is not to say there aren’t any reasons. Really, though… what are the reasons?

I suspect I shall never find out.

(EDIT: All that nonsense aside, seems to be back in action. I condone this).


11 Responses

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  1. Pete Ashton said, on 2 August, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    I do this. Sort of. Being a grumpy, antisocial type I like my own space so don’t tend to stand in the queue. If there’s a shelter I tend to stand outside it and lean on the advertising board. Then, when the bus arrives, being a well brought up young man I wait for those who were there before me to board, frequently blocking the swinefaces who have gathered at my end.

    I hope this helps.

  2. Fionac said, on 3 August, 2011 at 12:29 am

    It’s one small moment of non-conformity in an otherwise ceaseless day of conformity?

    I think that’s why I do it though I’m surprised that I’m not sure – so thanks for making me think.

    Although I do also have a bugbear about queues blocking the way. People in long queues seem to have no sense en masse forcing others to negotiate a way through. Better to stand apart.

  3. Pete Ashton said, on 3 August, 2011 at 12:39 am

    @Fionac Oh, honey, we have so much in common!

  4. Russ L said, on 3 August, 2011 at 1:40 pm


    “Being a grumpy, antisocial type I like my own space so don’t tend to stand in the queue.”

    If we ignore the fact that you know full well that I’m clearly a million billion times more antisocial than you are, this makes a sort of sense (and is one of the answers I’d have guessed at if I’d been forced to guess). The obvious question then, though, is “Why at bus stops and nowhere else?” Presumably (and maybe I am making a huge presumption, I don’t know) you wouldn’t try to pull this little flexi-swerve at the Post Office, or in Pets At Home, or wherever-else-have-you.

    Maybe that’s where…

    “It’s one small moment of non-conformity in an otherwise ceaseless day of conformity?”

    …comes in.

    Meanwhile: A queue can definitely be a hazard to navigation in a small space, but I’m not sure how standing at the other end helps that. Unless you just mean “Well, at least I’m not getting in the way”, which seems like a good example as any of “it’ll work as long as no-one else does as I do”.

    It’s not even as though that’s universal, either. Sometimes the queue will run along a wall and not block anyone’s way to anywhere, but people still choose to do the same thing and waltz past it to stand at t’other end.

  5. Pete Ashton said, on 3 August, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    A post office queue is in a formal, ordered environment where you can imagine being “punished” (in the loosest sense of the word) for doing it wrong. The bus queue is more chaotic and no-one is really in charge, especially when the swineface behaviour is so prevalent. Let’s face it, busses are as close to anarchy as it gets. Smoking has been banned for a good 20 years but still happens, usually of contraband substances. So fucking with the queue isn’t really a big deal in that context.

    Also add in the complexity of some stops used by numerous busses to different destinations. At these the simple queue is not a suitable model and so it can break down.

    Basically, the robustness of the bus queue in British society is vastly overrated. Poor thing is barely alive.

  6. Russ L said, on 3 August, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Let us dispense immediately with this strange thought that we might be listing all possible bus-related ills in the order of their importance, and then never bring it up again. I haven’t for a moment attempted to suggest that this is a ‘big deal’ in any context that we might choose to imagine – it’s just a specific thing I’ve asked about the reasons for. “Whether any other given article of public-transport-devilment is better or worse than this” is something that can be discussed underneath other more apposite blog posts.

    Outside of that, there seem to be two things in the last comment:

    1) ‘Because I can’. Well, so be it.

    2) The fact that a queue doesn’t work so well for multiple buses – As a statement, this is absolutely true and can really be a pain sometimes. I don’t think you’re seriously trying to tell me that this is why you’ve stood at the other end, though. Or are you?

    I’ve no doubt that someone out there thinks “Most of these folk will want the 404, and so since I want the 205 I’ll get out of the way over here in order to keep things simple”, because basically there will always be someone out there who thinks anything that you can possibly imagine, but I genuinely don’t imagine that this would be frequent.

    Perhaps I am wrong about this. Perhaps I think too little of people in general.

    Whichever way up, though, it’s much like “Queues blocking the path” in terms of being a limited example. There are plenty of single-service bus stops where the same things happen with the same frequency.

    I nevertheless suspect that’s all irrelevant and that we’ve already got to the most frequent reasons, though.

  7. Pete Ashton said, on 3 August, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    It’s more “queueing for busses is broken, so I might as well make my own rules”. Albeit subconsciously.

  8. Pete Ashton said, on 3 August, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    And then having made a rule, I shall stick to it regardless of the actual situation at that moment, because it’s a subconscious habit thing.

  9. Russ L said, on 4 August, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Well this has all been very interesting (and unexpectedly so, given that I hadn’t actually thought I’d get any replies). I do feel like I now know a bit more about why people might actually do this baffling thing.

    Nevertheless, Pete: I don’t believe that the queue is as borked as you believe, and your system relies on other people co-operating with the other system that you despise. Fear the day that they stop, fear it. If everyone behaved as you do, there’d be mass swinefaceification.

    (EDIT: Also why would the spam filter take exception to my own comment on my own blog, I mean really now).

  10. Fionac said, on 4 August, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    There is also the compulsion to spot the next bus coming at the first possible moment. Standing behind people may impair this view hence shifting to a more suitable position.

    Then there is also the anticipatory and efficiency angle. As several buses arrive at once, it’ll be the second one which is less crowded or on dome other way the correct bus. Standing at the front of the queue allows for swift manoeuvring that may be down to the selfish gene and general Darwinism.

  11. Russ L said, on 5 August, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Your former thing is again only going to be a benefit in the right circumstances/at certain bus stops. It may actually be harder to see where the bus is coming from from a spot at the far end, depending on how people, objects and angles are disposed.

    I was determined not to make value judgements about it in the initial post but I must say I’ve definitely come to think less of all this since then. I’m glad to understand a little more, though.


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