Q is for queue

The difficulties at my polling place were replicated all over the city.

voters-brave-long-linesThe word queue has several meanings. The first I learned is “a braid of hair worn hanging down behind,” which I swear I learned in an episode of the TV western Bonanza, when someone cut off the queue of a Chinese man, bringing the victim dishonor. When I was growing up, my great aunt Deana and I used the word frequently when we played the board game SCRABBLE.

But the meaning I think of usually is “a file or line, especially of people waiting their turn.” Specifically, I think that line that feeds to several cashiers at the drug store, or clerks at the Department of Motor Vehicles, or tellers at a banker. Though it doesn’t seem to be in the definition, I’ve always distinguished it from “line”, such as what one finds at the grocery store, where I’m always in the longest one.

Generally, I prefer the queue to the line. But when the queue breaks down, I remember.

One time was in 1999 when my new bride and I were flying back from our honeymoon in Barbados (thanks, JEOPARDY!), we stopped at New York City’s JFK airport to go through customs. The queue somehow got turned into a figure eight, and we spent an inordinately long time stuck on the bottom part of the number, even as others passed us.

Another time was in 2011, at Niagara Falls when the elevators broke down while we were at the base of a boating area. Some staff tried to create a queue, but it failed miserably.

Since I’m kvetching, the worst voting line I ever experienced was on February 9 of this year. It was a revote of a proposition to renovate Albany High School, which was rejected by a few hundred votes in November. The $179.9 million request in February trimmed over $10 million from the original budget.

I got to the school, where there were three lines, one, I was told by someone in line, to check in, and two to get the ballots. This didn’t make any sense and was incorrect.

In fact, as one of the guys involved with the school district eventually explained, one line was A-G, another H-R, and a third, S-Z. Or something like that, since he said two different lines contained H. In any case, I was in the WRONG line, and had to switch to the end of another.

Halfway through this second line, they run out of ballots. So one of the workers, who worked in the school as a secretary in that school, made copies of a blank ballot. Unfortunately, the copied ballots wouldn’t run through the scanning machine, so the workers had to reconfigure the machine to take the paper ballots to be counted later.

As I was leaving, people became even testier in the queue. The guy who had made an announcement 20 minutes early got all indignant, yelling at the crowd, “I TOLD you what line to be in!” Except that about half of them would not have HEARD the announcement, since they arrived afterward. He managed to take a bad situation and make it worse.

I spent 40 minutes in the process, which should have taken less than a quarter of that. The problem of the lines would have been EASILY remedied if someone had made SIGNS indicating which queue to be in.

The difficulties at my polling place were replicated all over the city, leading to petitions to State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to throw out the results, when the referendum passed by 189 votes. However, she upheld the February vote to rebuild and renovate Albany High School, denying claims that the vote should be invalidated.

“I cannot conclude that petitioners have established that the fundamental fairness of the … bond vote was compromised and I find no basis upon which to overturn the results of the vote,” the commissioner wrote.

Now, this wasn’t nearly as bad as the fiasco that was the 2016 Arizona primary election, which involved people standing in line FIVE HOURS to exercise their franchise.

ABC Wednesday – Round 18

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

20 thoughts on “Q is for queue”

  1. Quite the experience, Roger! The last time I voted, there were 3 lines, too, but there were also signs indicating the alphabetical order. It took a while, but everyone was pretty relaxed about it all and some of us ended up chatting, which made the wait shorter. Now I have my cellphone so that should help with the wait.

    abcw team

  2. The Dutch are known to be the worst queue waiters in the world! The British are far more organized while waiting for a bus or subway. They read their newspapers if the queue is too long!
    Have a great week.
    Wil, ABCW Team

  3. The last queue I attended was for a flu shot, and chairs were put out for everyone to sit down, which was much appreciated and the whole system worked like a charm….small towns don’t usually have to contend with long line-ups.

  4. My goodness you really have some stories to tell.
    It seems I am always in the line that looks the shortest but in reality, the few in front of me have one problem after another to be solved…I guess they call it Murphy’s Law.

  5. Ooppsssss…. the word is ofcourse perfect for this weeks letter
    But the subject… i hate it ! I never stand in one, i always try (and thankfully succeed in it to) to avoid that. Due to my anxiety a queue is something i get in panic just by thinking of it…

  6. I am sorry to tell that the Dutch are known to be the worst queue waiters in the world. And the British are behaving very organized, reading the newspaper while waiting for the bus or underground.
    Have a great week, Roger,
    Wil, ABCW Team

  7. I usually learn something new when I come visit. Today I learned that a queue is synonymous with braid. I grew up watching Bonanza with my father, and remember that episode. However, I was living in Mexico at the time, so the show was dubbed in Spanish. Blessings!

  8. The first time I heard the word queue was in England in the 70’s. I’ve embraced the word since. The only time a queue really bugs me is when it’s because of bad planning.

  9. … which I swear I learned in an episode of the TV western Bonanza, when someone cut off the queue of a Chinese man, bringing the victim dishonour.

    That episode, was called “Mark of Guilt” and the Chinese man was Hop Sing (who later proved Little Joe didn’t murder the bully who cut of Hop Sing’s queue). The actor who played Hop Sing, Victor Sen Yung, also played “Number Two Son” in the “Charlie Chan” films that starred Sidney Toler as Charlie Chan.

    The more you know. 😉

  10. Queueing is a national pastime in the UK, so the meaning as in a braid of hair only came to me late in life!

    But if it’s conventional queueing you’re after, I recommend Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.

  11. The word “queueing” contains the most consecutive vowels of any word in the English language. Look at me, full of useless knowledge!!! 🙂

  12. I didn’t know the two queues were spelt the same. Its our local elections on Thursday and I am sure that there will be no queues whatsoever as there are always low turn outs.

  13. Queue means “tail” in French. That fits on the Chinese long hair but not so much for people 🙂 !

  14. The British are brilliant at queuing and woe betide anyone who dares to
    push in!
    The worse queue I was ever in was at Larnaca Airport in Cyprus.
    The queue snaked its way out into the car park, It was 95F,
    There was nowhere to sit or to be able to buy a cold drink.
    Several people passed out, they were the lucky ones,
    as an Ambulance would arrive to pick them up to take them into the
    air conditioned terminal for treatment.
    Hubby whispered to me that I should pretend to pass out so we could
    be taken into the terminal.. No sooner said than…crash…yours truly
    hit the deck in a most inelegant fashion, Himself was most impressed with
    my Cypriot acting debut and was about to congratulate me when he realised
    I was out cold…talk about ‘Don’t Panic’!
    Anyway, I was carted off in the ambulance and suitably treated.
    We were then boarded on the plane, first in the queue, if you don’t mind!
    Not only that, our seats were up-graded…Himself turned to me as we sipped our complimentary drinks and said,”You’ll have to pull that stunt again next time
    we’re stuck in a queue”….. He managed to stifle a strangulated screech as I dug my heel into his big toe!
    Best wishes,
    ABCW team.

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