June 26, 2011 -- The English queue up for everything from the mundane to the extraordinary. Their civility is admirable. When a Tube train comes to a stop, those on the platform stand aside as riders disembark. Everything seems so orderly to those of us more accustomed to a me-first attitude.
Order is the name of the game, too, as tennis fans join The Queue along Church Road and wind their way toward the Gate 3 turnstiles to eventually buy an entry ticket to the grounds of Wimbledon. You should note that there is one and only one queue, and it's called "The Queue."
Thousands wait, some having camped out for two or three days at Wimbledon Park. They bring tents, food, flashlights ... you know, camping gear. Those that join The Queue the day of tote folding chairs, picnics, and books for those occasional periods when the line slows and feet get weary.
On Friday The Queue was completely shut down for forty-five minutes by security police as a small band of Spaniards from a little known group, Democracy Campaigners 15M London, attempted a demonstration on the grounds. As the area went on lockdown, helicopters hovered above The Queue.
Since then, security at The All England Club (AEC) has been increased. "We have service stewards from the armed forces," Ian Ritchie, chief executive of the AEC said to reporters from The London Evening Standard.
Honorary Stewards, not military service stewards, are an essential part of The Queue. They work in conjunction with local police to ensure an orderly environment, as excited fans await their chance for a ticket. The Honorary Stewards have authored a Code of Conduct for The Queue, too, which seems natural if people must act respectfully.
As with any line, there is a front and a back. As you join the end of The Queue, Wimbledon's stewards present you with a Queue Card. The card is numbered and dated, showing your spot in The Queue. At 7:30 AM, the stewards are at the front of the line. They give those desiring tickets for the show courts a wristband. The number of wristbands issued exactly matches the number of tickets available that day for the three show courts.
The Honorary Stewards are also the ones that awaken campers at 6:30 AM, politely asking them to pack up their gear, fold up their tents, toss their trash in the marked receptacles, and make their way to The Queue.
The Queue first became a part of The Championships in 1927 when some 27,000 appeared for entry to the grounds. The system has become such a time-honored experience that the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum established a special exhibition to trace the history of The Queue.
The Code of Conduct for The Queue details everything from what is The Queue to the 10 PM cutoff time for music and game playing at the campsite, plus the maximum number of people allowed in a tent -- 2. Alcohol is limited to one bottle of wine. People are allowed to bring it onto the grounds, too. Perhaps this is akin to letting the French smoke cigarettes in the stands of Roland Garros.
But be prepared for conflict if you jump in line. It's totally unacceptable and could result in the loss of your Queue Card. If it's confiscated, you won't be allowed to enter the tournament grounds.
You aren't allowed start up a barbecue, either. And if you're planning to indulge in pizza while you camp for one, two, or three nights, your 'take-away' order can only be delivered to the Wimbledon Park Road gate.
Aside from all the guidelines and the seemingly regimented atmosphere, some fans make The Queue an annual celebration. They like camping with relatives who live in Wimbledon or nearby. They like the party atmosphere of the campsite, which can draw musicians, jugglers, and hacky-sack players.
The Queue is just one method to obtain tickets for The Championships. If you would like to invest in the All England Club and its plans for maintaining an outstanding environment for the matches, then you could buy Wimbledon Debentures.
They were initialed issued in 1920 to finance expansion. Today, Wimbledon Debentures are issued in 5-year increments, something like a certificate of deposit. Buyers receive interest on their investment, plus one ticket for each of the first ten days of the tournament. If you've purchased a debenture for Court One, let's say, your ticket allows entry into that stadium only.
Buying Wimbledon Debentures confers on owners the ultimate sense of collective heritage that is The Championships Wimbledon. These investors probably wouldn't like to camp and queue up for tickets. But their financial commitments provides them another avenue to witness the one Grand Slam that ultimately presides over the other three as the crown jewel of tennis.