“There’s a significant amount of math and formulas that has been written about this over the years,” Still says, “but that doesn’t take psychology into account.” There are both positive and negative elements at play when it comes to the psyche of this particular queue. Almost no one within him will ever have waited so long for something in his life, which means he could quickly become frustrated.
But for die-hard royal fans determined to pay their respects, there is another risk. “One of the concerns that’s always been the biggest is that if people stay on their feet for 20 hours, they can push themselves beyond their limits,” Still says. Three hundred people in line received medical assistance, including 17 taken to nearby hospitals, according to the London Ambulance Service.
While Kant says queuing cannot, by definition, be described as perfect, 14-hour wait times aren’t as bad as one might think. The government’s queue tracking live feed, which gives the estimated physical and temporal length of the line, provides transparency on how long people have been waiting. That means anyone can keep their eyes peeled for the challenge ahead, even if they’ve had some hiccups, including getting people to line up in North Carolina. Queue tracking is complemented by regular social media updates that tell people where to start queuing, or even do not disturb when the queue reaches its capacity.
The queue is also an infrastructure challenge, with more than 1,000 people, including 779 stewards and 100 volunteer marshals, ensuring no one interferes. Along the queue, 500 portable toilets have been installed, while a wristband system is in operation allowing people to leave the line to pick up food and drinks and not lose their place. A separate, shorter disabled queue has stewards who check anyone who signals in the main line and then siphons them off to the shorter one.
For the accessible queue, the UK government has borrowed a model from theme parks, many of which offer timed return slots and priority access for paying customers, with a limited number of slots available each day. They also borrowed another element from the likes of Disney: entertainment. BFI Southbank, a cinema run by the British Film Institute on the last mile of the line before arriving at the Palace of Westminster, is showing archive footage of the Queen on giant screens outside its building.
Setting expectations is also key, and another lesson learned from theme parks. Estimated wait times make all the difference, Still says. “Queuing systems like Disney, Universal and Six Flags all take this into account,” he says. “It’s about entertaining, informing and distracting the crowd.”
Another concept borrowed from theme parks are the snake-like sections that fold in on themselves to allow more people to be crammed into less space, which are seen not only at Southwark Park but also at Potters. Fields Park, about a third of the line. , and closer to the end of the queue. These need barriers and staff to help them function.
“It’s just luck that it happened now, after the summer,” Collinson says. “In the middle of the festival season, when it was in full swing, it was perhaps even more difficult to get the infrastructure and the stewards.” Such ways of lining people up make the queue seem shorter than it is – a clever psychological trick to try to alleviate frustrations.
But a surprise was the relative lack of concern about queuing for so long. The rebellion did not materialize in the form of interventions or complaints about delays. On the contrary, people were more annoyed that they couldn’t join the line in the first place. The Queue for the Queue is proof of that. “I just call it determination,” says Kant.