According to a paper published by Ajay Gandhi in the South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, Standing Still and Cutting in Line, a queue "at its most elemental is the means by which access to service is regulated in time and space".
And boy, does the internet love watching people being so regulated! A video (above) of an almost never-ending two-hour-long queue at Chicago Midway Airport has got over a million views in the two days that it has been online.
Anyone who has ever waited in a queue (and who hasn't?) will know the feeling of realising that time seems to have come to a standstill, that everything is happening extremely slowly, that they're in a universe – to quote French absurdist Albert Camus – "devoid of all illusion and lights". A 2009 study of 3,000 participants revealed that Britons spend six months of their lives queueing. A spokesman for the organisation that carried out the poll said,"Queuing is seen by many as one of the classic British traits."
In his paper, Gandhi talks about India in the 1980s where "the queue to procure a telephone connection or car was so long that these took years to obtain". But despite the long months and years spent queuing, people haven't learnt to wait. There is something about getting entangled in serpentine lines that always seems to make people lose their cool.
Last year, at Mumbai's Lokmanya Tilak Terminus, some passengers got increasingly frustrated as a member of the staff at the ticket counter spent her time counting money instead of issuing tickets to the commuters. What began as a plea for a ticket escalated quickly into a full-blown argument and security had to be involved. After the video went viral, the offending employee was suspended by the Central Railway.
A similar scene took place in 2014 when passengers in a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight in Karachi were furious after Pakistan senator Rehman Malik caused a 90-minute delay in take-off, leaving the passengers stranded within the confines of the aircraft. Both PIA and Malik denied the allegation, but Arjumand Azhar Hussain, the man behind the video, was sacked by his employer Gerry's Group.
Here, in a scene from HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David provides some much-needed advice on how to "chat-and-cut" into a queue (without illegally using your VIP-status of course). Unfortunately, the mission fails on both attempts.
American comedian Louis CK provides great advice on mindfulness for those who might find themselves stuck in queues but want to stay calm. "You just need the ability to be yourself and not do anything else", he says.