domingo, julio 25, 2010

The magic of queuing

Last sunday I went to the cinema. I booked the tickets in advance, went to the theater 10 minutes before the film started, enjoyed the film and went back home. No queues, no need to wait. Everything was perfectly optimized! Wonderful!

Or not?



Several (ca. 15) years ago, when Internet was not present in our daily lives, ticket pre-booking barely existed. Also, large cineplexes were neither as common as today and cinema theaters had typically a single room with a huge capacity and screen. Since the film was showed in only a couple of places and there was no means to reserve a seat, this implied that people had to go well in advance to the theater, make a queue to buy the tickets in the ticket office and then queue to pick a good seat. If the film was a blockbuster (I am thinking in films such as the first installments of Indiana Jones, Star Wars or the like) the queue could be really long (100m or more!).

One could look at this queue from two perspectives: a real hassle and nuance or an opportunity to talk with your friends/family about the film. During these discussions, the film would be usually speculated about and huge expectations would be made. Hopes and longing for a good film flowed through the queue. You could feel it! And you shared the same feelings with the people queuing with you. Actually these moments in the queue gained as much importance as the film itself! It was a whole afternoon spent in the event, not only the ca. 2h that takes us today (i.e. the time to pre-book the tickets, go to the closest cinema, which is typically 10minutes from home, see the film, which has an average duration of 90minutes and then come back home).

I remember when I used to go to the Sitges Cinema Festival with a friend of mine. By that time (late 90's) there was no pre-booking so we had to queue a lot and we didn't even know if we would see the film eventually. When we could, we were absolutely delighted. The strolls and wanders in the Sitges' night looking and queuing for tickets were fantastic; we chatted, laughed and bet on our chances of entering a theater. We didn't even mind which film to see, at the end it was a Cinema Festival and we were opened to all possibilities. As long as it was a film it was fine. That was, for us, the magic of the festival! I think we enjoyed more the film in those times compared with last years, when we had to have the film tickets in our hands in advance (since everyone else would have already booked all the places, our chances to get a seat would be 0, as demonstrated in Games Theory).

Another example of magic that appeared in a queue was when I was a student and I (with my girlfriend and another friend of mine) decided to go to India. We learned about this travel agency for young people that opened just one day in February with huge discounts. The queues as you can imagine were quite long. Since we were students, we did not have much money and lots of time so that was really a good opportunity. We started the queue the previous day, even before the travel agency closed! we had dinner in the street, we slept there and we chatted and chatted with other people that have our same idea (the queue was reaaaaaally long). We knew really interesting people there. The trip to India was planned for the summer, but I think that started that very night.

I fully understand those geeks that make long queues to buy the last gadget from a famous manufacturer. They are not crazy, they have hope. And they share it with their friends or the people waiting in the queue. This time is not wasted at all, it is sublimated into magic!

Into the magic of the queue.

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