Queen Elizabeth II: Queues run to 30 hours as people pay respects

In his essay on the British, George Orwell remarked that any foreign observer would be impressed by their orderly behavior and especially by their “willingness to line up”. It’s one of those British stereotypes that has emerged in recent days, as the mother of all long and solid queues along the south bank of the Thames.
Up to 750,000 people are expected to arrive in London ahead of the state funeral Queen Elizabeth II in Monday. Queues began forming days earlier on the opposite side of the Thames from historic Westminster Hall, where her coffin rests on a catafalque. By late Thursday afternoon, the line was nearly 4.3 miles (7 km) long.
We know all this because there is an official live queue tracker, which reports the length and average time to destination at about 0.5 mph.
Those standing in line received bracelets to mark their positions. There are “extra welfare facilities” (pronounced: toilets) and sprinklers to ease the discomfort of having to slowly crawl around the clock. There are also detailed instructions on what to bring (food, water), what not to bring (jars, camping gear, large bags) and manners. There is a lot of security, not a necessity so far, while the archive footage of Queen displayed on a large screen. Volunteer faith leaders are available to help mourners process what they are going through. Even Disneyland, with its famous queue management strategies, can’t match this.
The fact that so many people have come from afar to wait so long to catch a glimpse of the late king’s coffin will intrigue many around the world, and to some, exaggerate. People are out of work and pulling children out of school. They don’t wait for the latest iPhone but for the chance to pay their respects to someone most of them have never met.
Most Americans tend to despise long lines. “Unbelievable,” texted a friend as she returned home from a trip to London amid the travel chaos this summer. “It took me two hours to get into Heathrow and the people were very tolerant and serious. Will never happen in America. Americans will be angry and there will be chaos. ”
For brutish individualists, queuing often looks like a poor use of time, shows bad organization, and seems to be a testament to herd mentality. They can be annoying if you wear the wrong shoes or don’t have access to the bathroom. In the early 90s, I lost all feeling in my toes after standing in line in minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit) to buy a few essentials at a general grocery store in Moscow.
Yet we all line up as an inevitable means to an end – to get through airport security or board a cable car that takes guests to the top of a ski or into an exhibit in a museum. I happily queued up one February to buy a beautiful hot chocolate at a stall in Paris. But I’ve never done anything like what hundreds of thousands of Britons and tourists are doing right now. It takes a certain stoicism, humility, and determination to give up everything and be a part of that. In the never-ending debate over whether there is such a thing as society, it seems that this is the real proof of that.
Orwell was not wrong; There’s something to Britain’s reputation for not accepting queues, some dating back to the industrial revolution and others to the wartime. Properly queuing is synonymous with common sense, so much so that when the UK instituted its first citizenship test in 2010, good queuing was already there. When former Prime Minister Boris Johnson wanted to defend his policy of sending refugees to Rwanda, he accused male refugees of “paying smugglers to line up.”
But the reputation of a nation eagerly standing in line – Britons standing behind the queue before asking what it’s for – is mostly overblown. Yes, Britons wait in line overnight for Wimbledon tickets, but Americans camp out to buy tickets to a Duke University basketball game. Britons are as angry about the travel chaos as anyone, as they have made clear on social media. Even recent reports that Tesco shoppers prefer queuing to self-checkout have turned out to be overblown.
Those queuing to see the Queen described multiple motives: to be part of a unique moment in Britain’s long life, to express their gratitude and pay their respects. The deaths of other historical figures have attracted large-scale public gatherings in the past, but nothing quite quite like this.
Some 200,000 people came to pay their respects to the Queen in 2002. More than 300,000 people passed through Westminster Hall to pay their respects to George VI in 1952. A similar occasion took place in honor of the Queen. British wartime leader Winston Churchill – the wait was about three hours and the road was about a mile long. About 250,000 Americans waited up to 10 hours to see John F. Kennedy in a state of death. Around 100,000 mourners paid their respects to the late South African President, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and world changer Nelson Mandela, to much disappointment, they were prevented from doing so. I am setting aside Mao and Lenin’s communist figures.
By all accounts, the vibe among those waiting to pay their respects is solemn, neighborly, expectant, joyful, grieving and, above all, determined. People make new friends, stand in silence or chat. No one seems to doubt that the wait was worth it. Those emerging from the historic hall describe the experience as visceral.
FOMO aside, how eager would you be to join a queue that spans about 5 miles and lasts up to 30 hours? If you had asked me a few weeks ago, the answer would have been quick. Now, I’m not so sure. But I’m glad there are so many people who don’t hesitate.

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