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Thursday October 03, 2002, 14:17

Perhaps it is the English penchant for queuing that has gotten me looking for new and innovative ways to be that person who, with little effort and to the chagrin of all others following the queuing order, skips to the front, avoiding stagnation and an otherwise worthless time spent standing and watching someone else's back. Or maybe I'm just an impatient individual who never learned that particular virtue. In either case, I have very little tolerance for prolonged standing and have now successfully shaved, cumulatively, several hours off of the total time spent waiting on line.

The first was waiting for tickets at the BBC Proms in the Park. For those of you for whom the Proms is not part of your summer vocabulary, you can think of it as something resembling Central Park's Summer Stage, only not free. Or, if that didn't help, you can think about a concert in a park in the middle of a city. The Proms itself is a hundred year old tradition that finds people sitting in or around a concert hall, listening to classical music throughout the summer. It is also cheap for the cheap seats and, this year, also features a fully-outdoor concert in the middle of Hyde Park. Bring some cheese, bring some wine, that sort of thing. One must also remember to bring a sweater as the last Proms event of the year falls in the middle of September which is going to get quite chilly when the sun goes down. The Proms in the Park is also ridiculously disorganized as was witnessed by the not fewer that a half-dozen queues for ticket retrieval and the mob of people waiting to be searched on their way into the stage area.

Now there were two amazing things about the ticket collection procedure that was taking place. The first was that the queues were divided up by last name, but there were no signs indicating which queue was for which name, which left plenty of people in the wrong line until they discovered their mistake and were forced to the end of the correct one. The other is that the tickets were organized in what appeared to be shoe boxes and not in any discernible order, forcing the ticket distributor to rifle through the entire selection of tickets searching for the correct packet.

So what did we do? After waiting for not less than half an hour and getting nowhere at all in the queue, I headed to the front just as a massive restructuring of said queues was occurring. I wandered up to what appeared to be an open information window and, upon stating the name of the ticket holder, was handed over the three tickets for which we were waiting. Confused but grateful, I ran back to the line, collected my party and headed into the venue as the rest of the line stared and silently shook their fists.

On a more recent occasion, we were heading back into the country and, having US and not EU passports, were relegated to the "All other Passports" queue which wrapped this way and that and was progressing at a snail's pace. Noting the distinct lack of a queue at the EU gate it was decided that Karen would head over there and attempt to use her residency as a way of skipping the impending wait. I agreed to remain on the do-i-really-have-to-wait-on-this-thing line like I was supposed to. I have learned in my days of traveling that immigration officers are not to be toyed with and that I would walk the line and smell my fellow travelers for as long as necessary. Remarkably, our little ploy worked. Regrettably, we had forgotten that I was still in possession of the tickets that would carry us back to the city from the airport. Amazingly, the customs officer, upon hearing this sob story, agreed to let me through the EU line, skipping the hour-long wait and, once again, thwarting a system that would not recognize my inability to stand still for long periods of time.

Which is to say what? That the desire for instant gratification is not necessarily to be seen as a fault, but as merely a handy character trait for bypassing the rules by which other members of society must abide? Or simply that a sense of entitlement is often the best thing for personal advancement, both in queues and in life.

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