Queuing up. Lining up. Standing in line for something free, something new or something on discount. Most of the time we’ll see quite a few Asian faces in these lines. If not a few, then a lot.
I’ve been guilty of queuing on a few occasions. At one point while living in Singapore, I joined humongous Singaporean queues at McDonalds to collect all eight stuffed monkeys that came with McValue Meals during the Chinese New Year month. I did it, sometimes waiting half an hour to buy a meal. A few weeks ago, I saw a short queue in the Emporium shopping mall in the city. I joined it and after a five minute wait, got to the front and received a free macaron. I did notice there were some elderly Asian ladies in front of me, haggling at the top of their lungs for more than one sweet treat.
Maybe for us Asians, we queue because we are curious; we genuinely want to check out what’s going on. Because we’re nosy. Many of us come from traditional Asian families that love swapping stories about the lives of their neighbours, asking how much that recent purchase cost us and where to get that branded bag. So when something out of the ordinary is around the corner, we usually go forwards and line up to see what’s going on.
Maybe we queue because we want to say we’ve been there, done that. Queuing is a pride and “face” thing. Or maybe we want to be the first to check things out. That’s what many of us are stereotypically taught from young: to be the first in class, to be at the top of the career ladder, to be the first among our cousins to get hitched. A few months ago, one of my Asian friends dragged me to wait in a half-an-hour queue for ricotta berry hotcakes at a cafe. It was something we wanted to try for a while and we did – now I can proudly say I demolished one of the most colourful hotcakes on earth.
Perhaps we line up to buy the latest gadget, try that new dish and snap up the house-with-the-view on the property front because we can afford to do so. After all, many Asians are typically wise with their money with the help of savings and investments, and so can afford a new thing or two every now and then (or maybe some of us are lucky enough to get pocket money from well-to-do parents). Having saved money in the bank, I knew I could afford the $18 ricotta berry hotcake, and so lined up for it.
If there’s a giveaway at the head of the queue, all the more reason to queue: some of us Asians are stingy with our money and love bargains. I hate parting with my money and if the McDonalds monkeys had cost more than $2 with the burger meals that they came with, I wouldn’t have collected them eventhough I love monkeys.
Queuing for freebies or some promotion comes with anticipation. Excitement. When we queue, chances are we’re looking forward to experiencing something we’ve never seen, tasted or felt before. At the same time, chances are queuing comes with boredom. Waiting. Maybe even frustration if we’re the fidgety kind. We might tap our feet on the ground or cross our arms, maybe even curse out loud.
And so queuing can bring out the best or worst in us. Queuing takes up our time, tests our patience. In a sense, it’s an endurance sport of some sort.
Lining up for something free or the latest product is different from waiting in line at the supermarket to buy groceries or post office to pay bills. This occasion is like a game of luck. There’s no guarantee we’ll get what we’ve been waiting for after lining up for hours. And so we should ask ourselves why we queue.
A year ago I joined the queue to get into dancing violinist Lindsey Stirling’s Melbourne concert. I’ve always looked up to her, someone who is very comfortable being the creative artist that she is. After three hours of waiting I got to meet her and found a spot at the very front of the stage. Watching Lindsey play the violin and jump in the air at the same time up close, I realised that anything, including being an Asian Australian writer who writes about everyday life with a dash of academic literature, is possible.
Sometimes we queue because there’s every chance it’ll lead to a once in a lifetime opportunity or experience, even for a fleeting moment. Sometimes we queue to take chances. And walk away learning a bit more about ourselves.
Have you queued for something?
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