Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Perfect Way to Queue Jump?

I like observing human behaviour. Occasionally, I will do little experiments just to test a prediction or see what happens.

These little experiments are in no way scientific because they are done 'on the hop' and not under laboratory conditions.

In this post, I would like to share an observation from this morning.

Every Sunday morning, we go for a stroll around the local carboot sale. (For my American readers, a car boot sale is something of a national sport in Britain where individuals bring their unwanted items from home (most of it utter junk), park their cars on a field and sell their stuff from tables next to their parked cars.  Consider it a synchronised and mobile yard sale.)

The sale we go to takes place in the countryside and the stalls are well spaced out so it is really quite relaxing. Except when you want to leave. You see, there is only one exit route and on the days where a lot of buyers turn up, it takes absolutely ages to get out of the car park because the queue exits onto a busy road. On the busiest days, it can take over half an hour.

The ways the cars are parked means it is not easy to join the back of the queue as the queue snakes between rows of parked cars. Depending on where you have parked, you just have to join the queue where you can and wait for some kind soul to let you in.

Anyway, as the weather has got warmer, and the number of the buyers has increased, we find ourselves stuck in the exit queue almost every week. On hot days, you can see people's tempers getting frayed whilst waiting in the queue.

About six weeks back, we had the first queue of the year. We tried to join the exit queue at approximately the half way point - which just happened to be near where we were parked. We didn't try to queue jump or get ahead - we just found the nearest joining spot available. Much as we tried with the friendly smiles, the drivers in the queue avoided eye contact and wouldn't let us enter. It took a good 5-7 minutes to get into the queue. This timeframe to gain entry repeated itself for the next couple of weeks.

Last week, for the sake of 'science', I suggested we do something that was not in tune with our normal polite and considerate manner. I suggested we should drive right to the head of the queue and wait until someone let us in. I thought we would be waiting for ages.

Much to my surprise, it took less than a minute for a smiling gent to allow us into the queue in front of him. Today we repeated the experiment and we were waved permission to join the line within 30 seconds.

I can only theorise that people feel a whole lot better and generous when they know their queuing hell is nearly at an end.

I'm still undecided as to how to use my new found knowledge.