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Queuing Day

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James Reynolds | 09:41 UK time, Friday, 11 July 2008

Today is Queuing Day. (Slogan: "It's civilized to queue, it's glorious to be polite.")

On the 11th of each month, Beijing celebrates - or perhaps enforces - a city-wide Queuing Day. It's part of a campaign to promote manners in the run-up to the Olympics.

"The problem of unbecoming behavior in Beijing's social life should be resolved through the combined effect of the rule of law and moral education. Such long-time bad habits as 'Beijing-style name-calling', casual spitting, and littering should be basically eliminated before 2005" -aticle V (Urban Civility),section III (Courteous Citizens) of the Beijing Olympics Action Plan

The 11th was chosen for Queuing Day because the digits set the example the city should follow - the second '1' queues up patiently behind the first '1'. (By comparison, the 22nd is Give Up Your Seat Day - presumably because the '2' looks like a person sitting down.)

A little while ago I decided to test out the success of the queuing campaign - by queue jumping and seeing what would happen to me (I found this excruciating - since I am normally a queuing fundamentalist).

I went to a Beijing subway station. Queue monitors pointed people towards various lines on the platform. There were groups of people queuing up reasonably well (it wasn't a strict one-behind-the-other queue, more of a kind of ordered clump).

I walked straight past everybody, and stood in front. Nobody behind me said anything. I felt horrific. A few seconds later, a queuing monitor came up to me and politely asked me to get to the back of the line.

I then tried a new tactic - guerrilla queue-jumping place by place. I decided to start off at the back and get past people one by one.

"Can I go in front of you?" I asked one man.

"Why?" he asked.

"Because I just want to get ahead."

"That would be meaningless," he replied. And he held his ground.

The queue stayed in place. But the problem was this - as soon as the subway train arrived, the queue collapsed and everyone gathered around the doors to see who could get on first.


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