Sacred Pub Queues

I bet if I asked you to think of British stereotypes, a certain fondness for both pubs and queuing would come to mind.

It was a classic rainy London afternoon, and we’d been wandering the glistening streets for hours. We’d struck out block after block, trying to find a suitable place for a rain respite. Turns out there’s a pub on every corner until you actually want one.


Surprise! There's beer in Edinburgh too.

The Delightful Brewdog Edinburgh

Suddenly, in the distance, through the heavy drizzle, we could see cozy pub lights beckoning. There was a table by the entrance, an incredible stroke of luck for a Friday at five, so Chelsea sat down to defend it while I battled the crowd around the bar.

I’m used to having to work for it. In America, you have to catch the busy bartender’s eye, sometimes repeatedly, if you ever want to get anything.

But we were in Britain. Here, the bartenders kept perfect track of the group of customers. Try to catch their eyes out of turn, and you got only a blank, slightly quizzical stare.

It looks like a crowd. It’s haphazard, amorphous, not remotely linear. But it’s a queue.

And the thing is, everyone was enforcing the misshapen queue. Finance bros buying expensive champagne on the company card, skinny blondes in teetering heels seeking vodka tonics, Irish boys in furry sweaters ordering Guinness by the bucket...all took a mental snapshot of those in front of them when they joined the queue, then waited patiently. When it was obviously their turn, they’d still turn to those around them and ask, in their varied British accents, “I’m sorry, were you here first?”

When our beers & soups finally arrived (in exactly the order we deserved, I’m sure) we realized we didn’t have any spoons just a little too late. We just started laughing, unwilling to brave the perfect queue again, and tipped our bowls up to sip like the impatient, famished Americans we are.