A Conversation for Categorisation of Queues and a Guide to Queuing

Russian Queueing

Post 1

John Luke

I have heard that, in Russia and perhaps in other countries of the former communist bloc, people joined many queues at the same time. They did this by joining a queue and waiting for the next person to come along. Then they would leave a bag as a marker and join another queue, sometimes in a different store, where the exercise would be repeated. The people remaining in the queue would move the bags in front of them and would take their turns to move around and check the progress of their markers in other queues.

I wonder if it is or was true. It sounds almost comical.

smiley - peacedove

John Luke

Russian Queueing

Post 2

Wand'rin star

It certainly operated in Poland a dozen years ago. Four of us spent time in 8 different queues the week before Christmas and still wound up with no eggs! The situation was slightly complicated by the English boys who didn't speak Polish. They were absolutely sure that what they were being asked to do was wrong and probably illegal smiley - star

Other queue variants

Post 3

Simon Trew

I think that the categories that are in the entry are good, but there are others. A useful distinction can sometimes be made for queueing for something that is available but busy (e.g. a supermarket checkout), and queuing for something that is not yet available (e.g. a taxi at 3am), since that may affect queueing behaviour.

"Russian queuing", as mentioned, is the art of leaving a proxy in the queue. The proxy may be an inanimate object such as a shopping trolley, a subordinate (especially for telephone queueing), or, where a group of people are queueing as a single queue entry, a non-empty subset of that group. This may also be called "sparse queuing" since it makes the queue seem smaller than it actually is.

"French queuing" or "Pseudoqueuing": What appears to be a queue in fact becomes a free-for-all when the thing for which the queue is queueing becomes available.

"Dequeuing": A dequeue (pronounced "deck") is similar to a queue but the queue may grow or be processed at either end. This can happen when it is not clear which end of the queue is the front. The dequeue can be stopped in its early stages by the existing queue members pointing out which end is which, but after a while all is lost because the people who joined it don't know either, and don't want to be found in the wrong. The taxi rank at Cambridge station is a good example of a dequeue.

"Conjoined queue": This is, logically, one queue, but is paritioned into two queues, usually by some physical barrier, occasionally by bureaucracy. There is, more or less, a rule that the head of one of the queues goes to the tail of the other, one at a time. Example of this are people who leave gaps in queues so that non-queuers can get through, and NHS waiting lists for waiting lists (i.e. to reduce the size of the waiting list, you have to wait to be put on it).

A good example of a concealed queue is a barber shop.

"Funnel queue": As mentioned in the article, a single queue may disperse to several queue "sinks" (destinations). More rarely, several queues may disperse to a single "sink". An example is a busy bar. There is only one server. People will stand five deep at the bar, roughly speaking in queues (one behind the other). So if there are seven people across, there are seven queues. But since there is only one server, the queue collapses to a single queue at the head. This is really a more general case of the conjoined queue where the number of queues waiting for the front queue is greater than 1.

Other queue variants

Post 4

Simon Trew

I forgot to say -- with the conjoined queue there is the danger that new queuers will join the tail of the head partition, and not the tail of the tail partition. This can be pointed out to them only if the gap between the two partitions is within hearing range. The person who was at the tail of the head partition generally won't give a d---.

There is, of course, also the possibility of the fake queue, and a large subset of such instances must be fake conjoined queues: one joins the tail of what appears to be the tail partition, only to realise, several minutes later, that it is not in fact a conjoined queue at all.

Other queue variants

Post 5


I have become particularly concerned over the years that a solution must be sought for, what I think must now be known as;

"Asymmetrical Funnel Queuing". The best example is where the outside two lanes of a three-lane motorway are closed, and feeder queues have formed in each of the three lanes. If the inside lane is the open one then the unfortunate members of the outside lane must merge with the centre lane, and then the consolidated centre lane must re-merge with the open inside lane. If everyone obeys the common binary alternate filter technique then entry to the open lane alternates between the inside and middle lanes, but prior filtering to the middle lane from the outside lane has already taken place meaning that people in the inside lane can move twice as fast as people in the outside lane.

Knowledge of this fact does not help however for two reasons.

First the queue creators rarely give advanced warning of which lane will be the open one.

Second the whole situation is confused by early panic merging where people in the middle queue, spotting a potential gap in the inside lane, create a pre-emptive premature queue as they try and squeeze in to an already stationary inside lane queue. In this case candidates for binary filtering are no longer available at the head of the middle lane, and members of the outside lane gain unfair advantage.

Other queue variants

Post 6

Sea Change

There is another kind of covert queue that is Russian, or at least Ukrainian. Here in West Hollywood, there is the unspoken attitude 'that I own the shop and can serve whoever I want'. In this case, as an obvious American and non-heterosexual, my chances of being served in the order in which I have arrived are diminished unless I have already been in the shop and have repeatedly demonstrated both elaborate politesse, an absence or presence of Jewishness (my neighborhood heavily intersects gay and jewish and ukrainian enclaves, and some folk of each kind mysteriously refuse to get along) and (very important!) correct change. Strategically placed elbows are also a vital queueing skill.

In some stores this is to the extreme in that you cannot even enter the store to shop unless you ring and are admitted. Some apothecaries of this kind have a covert entrance queue.

Other queue variants

Post 7


Interestingly it is considered bad queue etiquette in Britian to save a space in the queue for someone else. Shopping trolleys may be left to mark a place in the queue momentarily as long as a full explanation is given to the person behind that you have forgotten the cheese and will be back in a moment. It is not acceptable to stand in more than one queue at a time by leaving your bag. Anyway, by the time you got back your bag will probably have vanished.

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