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Right on Queue
"I'm British; I know how to queue."

People standing in line to do various tasks. Usually a comedy trope, the joke being one or more of the following:

  • The line is insufferably long or service slow, often to such a degree that people grow beards, raise families etc.;
  • May involve cutting or place-saving;
  • The task itself is... unorthodox;
  • "It's a queue! It must be important! Let's queue!" People see others standing in line and assume that whatever they're waiting for is important, or at the very least worth the wait;
  • Queuing for something that should be urgent, quick or will be unpleasant;
  • Spending a great deal of time (a significant part of an episode, if not its entirety) queuing for something only for it to be the wrong queue, or for the till at the end to shut just as the character(s) get to the front.

Frequent butts of this gag are banks, amusement parks, the Department of Motor Vehicles, or any similarly over-bureaucratic institution.

If people plan for a ridiculously long wait in line, it's a Ticket Line Campout. If the queue uses sequential tickets instead of simple position in line, it's Take a Number.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Axis Powers Hetalia, there's a fake ad for a Germany sim, to simulate life through a German's eyes. He's standing in a horribly long line with a slow Greek cashier making conversation with a Spaniard. The lines not moving. Italy butts in. Hilarity Ensues.

    Film 
  • As per the page quote, Arthur and co. in the film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, queuing to petition for Trillian's release from their jail.
    • In So Long and Thanks For All the Fish, Fenchurch explains that her parents named her for a railway station because they conceived her in the ticket queue. The fact that she's Arthur's Love Interest and they have lots of sex in that book actually makes the line from the movie Hilarious in Hindsight.
  • Airplane!: Passengers line up to slap/club/shoot a hysterical woman.
    • Airplane II: The Sequel: The same woman in the scene above relives her experience in a courtroom, including getting slapped by the court personnel.
  • When Jimmy is holding auditions in The Commitments, one guy sees everyone else queuing up and thinks Jimmy is selling drugs.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian has condemned prisoners standing in line waiting to be crucified:
    Nisus Wettus: Crucifixion?
    Prisoner: Yes.
    Nisus Wettus: Good. Out of the door, line on the left, one cross each.
    Nisus Wettus: Crucifixion?
    Mr. Cheeky: Er, no, freedom actually.
    Nisus Wettus: What?
    Mr. Cheeky: Yeah, they said I hadn't done anything and I could go and live on an island somewhere.
    Nisus Wettus: Oh I say, that's very nice. Well, off you go then.
    Mr. Cheeky: : No, I'm just pulling your leg, it's crucifixion really.
    Nisus Wettus: [laughing] Oh yes, very good. Well...
    Mr. Cheeky: Yes I know, out of the door, one cross each, line on the left...

    Jokes 
  • A joke recounted by Isaac Asimov and Mikhail Gorbachev, among others:
    In a Communist country, citizens are in an hours-long queue for food. One man, growing frustrated, turns to the man beside him and declares: "Comrade, the shortage is all caused by the President's corruption! I shall go home, dig up the pistol buried in my garden, go to the palace, fight my way past his guards, and kill him, or die in the attempt!" He storms off.

    An hour or so later, by which time the queue has moved forward by about half a block, he returns. "What happened?" his friend asks. The man shakes his head. "You think this is a long queue?"

    Literature 
  • In Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Inferno (and the original The Divine Comedy, though Niven plays up the humor and absurdity considerably more) people stand in long lines waiting to be judged in Hell.
  • There's a line in Orson Scott Card's Shadow Puppets, "The Dutch were trying to beat the English for queuing, but that's silly because everyone knows that standing cheerfully in line is the English national sport." (again, see the page quote).
  • Keith Laumer's short story "In the Queue". Nominated for the Hugo Award and Nebula Award. A story about a man in a society where people stand in queue for generations, with mobile "quebanas" to live in on the line.
  • On Robert A. Heinlein's utopia world of Tertius, killing someone who cuts in line is considered "justifiable homicide", or rather, "homicide in the public interest" (that is, to be encouraged), as seen in his novel The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of Will and Grace revolved around Will waiting in line for Barry Manilow tickets, and a little later waiting in line at a coffee house to get the key to the men's room. In order to do the second thing he gets Grace to hold his place in line, and for various reasons she delegates to Karen.
  • Seinfeld had an episode queueing for a table in a restaurant. And then there was the Soup Nazi episode, but that queue moved reasonably fast and efficiently; there, the joke was the abuse everyone was willing to put up with from the Soup Nazi, because his soup was just that good.
    • In Real Life, the line moved fast because the Soup Nazi yelled at people who took too long to order. Hungry people stuck at the end of a forty-person line populated by cornfed tourists probably felt he had a point.
  • The first episode of 30 Rock opened with a sequence wherein a man ignores a line at a hot dog stand. Liz bought all the hot dogs to keep him, and the people who promptly lined up behind him, from having any because It's the Principle of the Thing. Of course, then she didn't have anything to do with all those hot dogs she had bought. This is Liz's Establishing Character Moment.
    • Another good one in "Tracy Does Conan": Kenneth is sent to pick up Tracy's pills from a pharmacy to assuage the apparent psychotic break he's having in time for him to go on TV. During the frantic ramp-up to the moment Tracy has to go on, there's the expected cut to Kenneth anxiously peering over people's heads from the back of a really long line... and then an old lady comes up and he graciously lets her cut in front of him.
  • One invention exchange on Mystery Science Theater 3000 involved a fold-up mirror you could hang on someone's neck so that you can primp whilst standing in line for a movie etc. "Don't get ready to go until you're already there!"
  • Anybody remember the slow-moving queues in Kids in the Hall who were entertained by The Flying Pig? "Hey, hey, hey! Look at meeee!"
  • In Brazilian humour show TV Pirata, one sketch showed lots of people on a queue fighting fiercely, then pans to the head of the queue where we see a sign saying "Gratuituous Violence".
  • Scrubs used the gag when the hospital opened a Bland-Name Product version of Starbucks. When it's revealed that the line is so long the back end of it is in front of another coffee shop, and half the line turns around, the series Butt Monkey Ted is distraught to find out he's now at the end of both lines.
  • In Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Hilda and Zelda go to the Magical Emergency Department in order to save Harvey from the Wicked Witch only to be met with a line. They inquire an elderly woman as to how long the wait is and are told (in a rather senile tone) that the woman's son is 58 years old. When Hilda points out that doesn't answer her question, the old woman informs her that said son was born in the line. Cue various asundry waiting and bureaucratic jokes.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus - in the "New Cooker Sketch", a series of gas men arrive outside Mrs. Pinnet's flat, eventually forming a huge line that stretches down the street.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Gridlock" people were in their "cars" for years and decades on end, but that was because the entire city above them had died
  • There was an episode of Drake & Josh where most of the episode is about the brothers (and Megan) waiting in line for a rollercoaster. They finally get to ride, but beforehand, they are sent to the back of the line (if memory serves, twice - once for cutting in line, once for fighting), get into a fight with the mascot, and get stuck by a bratty kid with a mom who won't do anything about her child's behavior.
  • On Supernatural, when Crowley becomes the new King of Hell, he dispenses with the traditional tortures and instead turns Hell into an endless queue where condemned souls wait in line for eternity. Fire and Brimstone Hell doesn't work on the sadomasochists, but no-one likes standing in line.
    Castiel: What happens when they reach the front?
    Crowley: Nothing. They go right back to the end again. That's efficiency.
  • An episode of Dead Like Me showed Rube in a queue at the Post Office when a woman cut in front of him because she had seen her friend there. Rube called her out for it, especially after she tried to excuse her behaviour by claiming her kids were waiting in the car. When he sent her to the end of the queue everybody gave him a round of applause.
  • On How I Met Your Mother, Ted and Marshall go to a concert and get high on... sandwiches, then leave their seats to go buy nachos. They get lost, and keep mistaking the line to the women's restroom for the nacho line.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • One Calvin and Hobbes strip used several of these at once, with Mom running errands:
    Mom: Fifteen people in line and the teller goes on break without a replacement... After I wait ten minutes, they open a new line for all the people behind me who have waited two minutes... I'm waiting to pay, and the cashier puts me on hold instead of the person on the telephone.
    Cashier: (eventually) Have a nice day.
    Mom: Too late.
  • A classic Peanuts strip shows Charlie Brown waiting in line at the theater, hoping to be one of the first 1,500 children to get free candy bars. He lets Lucy go in front of him, and she becomes the 1,500th candy bar winner. According to Charles Schultz, this really happened to him.
  • Monty - Moondoggie gets a job in a bank (temporarily) - he amuses himself by moving the velvet ropes around to get the customers to line up to a blank wall, creating "the Twilight Zone bank".
  • A FoxTrot Sunday strip had the majority of the strip devoted to a ridiculously long airline check-in queue, with the final panel having Andy remark that she thinks she has forgotten the tickets.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A regular part of player missions in the RPG Paranoia is battling your way through the queue (sometimes literally) to pick up the useless equipment you have been assigned.
    • If. You're Lucky. Paranoia GMs can use the line for much deviltry. Such as: A Troubleshooter is in line at PLC waiting for a piece of equipment. At the desk (eventually) the clerk asks for the Troubleshooter's 386-XM-16 properly filled out. Troubleshooter does not have said form. Back to the end of the line. He gets to the desk again, only to hear that the form is correct, but they don't have the item and to come back the next Daycycle. He returns via the long line, to hear that the equipment is not at his security clearance level and he can't have it without committing treason. Now, the Troubleshooter may do one of two things: 1) the sensible and less-fun alternative, incurring the wrath of Friend Computer by going out unequipped, or 2) the much more fun and interesting way — sparking a riot in the PLC facility to sneak in and steal or otherwise obtain the item.

    Video Games 
  • League of Legends PvP matchmaking queue times can get pretty lengthy sometimes, especially once you reach the higher echelons of the ranked tier system and the pool of available competition dwindles to a small bunch of familiar faces. Lengthy log-in queues can form at times as well, especially just after a patch or a technical hickup.
  • In Mass Effect 1, on Feros you encounter an enemy Krogan attempting to access restricted information, whose rant on how stupid the machine is gets interrupted when the computer warns him that there is a queue forming for the use of the console. Said queue, of course, being composed of the most badass person in the galaxy and two compatriots.
  • Papers, Please: Every in-game day a huge queue forms of citizens eager to gain access to Arstotzka and it's up to the player to sort through them.
  • In Postal 2 there is a queue at the bank when you go to cash your pay check on Day 1. Being Postal, you don't have to wait, then again, you don't have to grenade the line from the roof either. How's that for moral choice in games?
  • There was a whole subsection in the original RollerCoaster Tycoon manual to discuss the word "queue" to any American who doesn't know what it means.
  • The World of Warcraft Looking For Dungeon system. Introduced in patch 3.3, the system guarantees anyone a group with a dungeon cross server. At level 80 during Wrath of the Lich King, it rarely took 20 minutes to find a group, even for DPS during off peak, but during 85, the DPS roles had to wait for upwards of an hour. No wonder why the term "Queue Queue" could describe those many players' reactions.
    • In addition to your chosen role, the time you have to wait can depend on the time of the day, when in the week you were doing it, and sometimes, when in an expansion (queue times for DPS were twice as long at the beginning of Mists of Pandaria as they are now).
  • In Illusion of Gaia, a store in Euro has a queue, which you must wait in to gain entry.

    Web Animation 
  • In one Homestar Runner cartoon, we see Homestar, Marzipan, and the King of Town standing in line at Bubs' Concession Stand... in front of a sign that says "Wait In Line: $5". Homestar turns to Marzipan and remarks "Best five bucks I ever spent."

    Web Comics 
  • The El Goonish Shive side-story "EGS-Con 2006" starts with one, and includes a second.
  • Schlock Mercenary based a whole story arc around this. Luna's bureaucracy was so slow, and the queue so immensely long, only the oldest people in line remembered it ever moving. There were religions dedicated to the idea of reaching the front. The Toughs thought they'd been hired to disperse a crowd of rioters, but found that it was just the line for the bureaucracy.
  • In Sluggy Freelance, Zoe gets kidnapped by evil cloners, and Torg and Riff go through a Lock and Load Montage and go after her. Zoe survives through a whole nerd-zombie outbreak and finally escapes from the cloning facility. Where were Torg and Riff? They were patiently waiting on line to file a formal complaint about their friend getting kidnapped.
  • Waiting for Frodo is all about how a group of friends queue up months in advance to watch the The Lord of the Rings movies. A Waiting for Bilbo comic was also started but the queue seems to be moving veeeery slowly.
  • S.S.D.D: Norman refers to queuing as [England's] favorite pastime.
    Nathan: "Right now every fibre of me as an Englishman is writhing in disgust."
  • Conventional Wisdom is about anime conventions. Long lines are a fact of life.

    Web Original 
  • The Onion plays with this from time to time:
    "Clinton takes leave of office to wait in line for Star Wars Episode 1"
    "Frugal Star Wars fan already waiting outside second-run theater."

    Western Animation 
  • Appears several times in The Simpsons as well:
    • Moe goes to register as a sex offender and complains "There's always a line."
    • Patty and Selma work at the DMV and comment, "Some days, we don't let the line move at all. We call those weekdays."
    • Also used in "Selma's Choice"; Bart tells Lisa a mammoth Duff Gardens queue has to be for something fun. It's actually for the complaints department.
    • In "Brush with Greatness", there's a long line for the H2Whoa water slide. Bart and Lisa cut to the front by claiming she's a lost child and he's helping her; Homer cuts by claiming to be a "line inspector".
    • There's yet another, from one of the latest season's episodes: Marge and Homer are waiting in line for a new marriage certificate, when they both decide to get married properly, they both go to leave, when they're accosted by a security guard, telling them that that's the line to leave (cut to a line as long as the rest).
  • Futurama played with this one with the queue for the Central Bureaucracy, which got longer every time someone had a baby in it and had an old man still waiting in line for his birth certificate.
    • The first episode had people waiting in line for a Suicide Booth.
  • An episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, "Rock Bottom", had Spongebob in line at the bus station in Rock Bottom, when one of the locals spits out an egg onto his head, which quickly hatches three little critters that cut ahead of him in line.
  • One of the first episodes of Chowder involved Shnitzel and Chowder spending nearly the entire episode waiting on line at the bank. Not only did poor Shnitzel have to deal with long, slow-moving lines and customers who were depositing huge amounts of change, he also had to put up with Chowder's shenanigans.
  • The South Park episode "Cow Days" has the boys wait in line for an interminable length of time to go on a ride of an unidentified nature. They finally make it to the head of the line to discover no ride waiting for them; it turns out that the line itself was the "ride".
  • One episode of King of the Hill is about Lucky and Luanne waiting in line for several days to get the first tickets to see Brownsville Station (of "Smokin in the Boy's Room" fame.) When the box office opens, not a single person has gotten in line behind them. Then Lucky starts waiting at the door.
    Lucky: "I want to be sure they don't run out of my shirt size, Women's Medium."
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "The House Of Tomorrow", has a seemingly short line for a rollercoaster, but it turns out that's the line you have to wait on to get on line for the rollercoaster.
    • And apparently, somebody died on the line and a baby was born on it.
  • In the Adventure Time episode "Return to the Nightosphere", the Nightosphere has a lot of lines. Finn and Jake wait in one line for 13 days.
    • Also, it turns out that Princess Bubblegum has a lengthy line of suitors. One of them, Braco, apparently took his father's place in line when the older man died.
  • In the Wander over Yonder episode "The Nice Guy", Wander goes into a convenience store to buy Sylvia a drink, but everytime he turns to the register to pay, there is a long line waiting for him. This becomes a Running Gag throughout the episode, to the point where Wander is reluctant to turn around and face yet another queue. He does, and finds that the way is clear for once, only for him to trip over the mat in front and spill the drink.
  • In one episode of Camp Lazlo, there's not only a very long line to the bathroom, there's a long line to get into that line. (And unfortunately for Lazlo, right at the time he really has to go.)

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television: These are, of course, endemic at theme parks. The Disney Theme Parks handle them the best; a lot of effort goes into making the lines entertaining (because, of course, Disney knows you're going to be there for an hour or so). Short movies to explain the plot are common. Other examples include Grave Humor at The Haunted Mansion, decodable hieroglyphs at the Indiana Jones stunt show, and Twilight Zone memorabilia at Tower of Terror. And the queue for Expedition Everest is a startlingly realistic Himalayan base camp.
    • The real standout is Star Tours (a Star Wars themed simulator type ride) with animatronic Droids putting on little shows all throughout the building. The line for that ride is so entertaining it actually could be its own walk-through attraction.
      • They also handle being moved through the line if you're handicapped the best.
      • Fast Pass is a bit of a zig-zagged example. On the one hand, it gives a specific time to get in a much shorter line. On the other hand, you ARE essentially standing in line for the right to stand in line. On a THIRD hand, certain rides are not connected to the rest of the Fast Pass system and do not keep track of the "one pending Fast Pass at a time" rule; with inside knowledge of which ones and enough Loophole Abuse, you can have two or three Fast Passes going on at all times.
  • At the 2010 Nuit Blanche Art Festival in Toronto, there was an exhibit consisting of a sign encouraging people to "line up here!". What people didn't realize unless they read the guidebook was that the line itself was the art piece, and in reality it led nowhere.
  • Queueing Theory deals with the mathematics of how queues operate and how they can be optimized.
  • Also endemic at major shopping centers around Christmastime.
  • Alton Towers offers fastpasses which let you jump to the front of the line, which unlike Disney Theme Parks's, can be used at any time, and also unlike Disney fastpasses, which you have to pay for.
  • In his 1975 book The Russians, based on his service as New York Times Moscow correspondent, Headrick Smith noted that the "It's a queue! It must be important!" version was very common behavior of Muscovites during his stay in Moscow. Basically, Muscovites had to line up to buy anything worth having, and the very sight of a line of their fellow citizens would cause them to assume that something worth buying would be found at the business end of the queue.

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