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Zen & the Art of Gibraltar border queuing
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DON’T get me wrong. It will never catch on as a tourist attraction. No one’s going to get themselves trapped in a traffic jam for 6 hours 20 minutes and 14 seconds just to visit Gibraltar’s equivalent of the Elgin Marbles or touch a lucky lump of limestone shaped like a woman’s boob. After all, you could drive the 569 kilometres to Madrid in that time, and visit The Prado.
But if you have to get stuck somewhere, there are worse places than the Gibraltar border queue.
The East Side of town isn’t on the main tourist drag but it has its attractions (Titty Rock and the marvellous marble mausoleums at North Point Cemetry are just two of them). As my partner Dave discovered when he and 9,999 other motorists (Source figures: Daily Mail) were caught in what’s become known as The Great Queue by those who patiently waited in it.
In years to come, people’s kids could be asking them “What did you do in the Great Queue Daddy?” The answers will surprise you!
The date – Saturday July 27th 2013 – is already written into the annals of Gibraltar’s history for producing one of the longest waits on record. Six hours, officially, in 30 Sizzling Degrees of Centigrade. But Dave fired up his engine at 15.30 and passed through Checkpoint Carlos at 21.50.14. Do the math!
Dave’s among the one in six residents of the Campo Gibraltar (Spain) who commute to a different country (Gibraltar) five days a week (what we locals call being stuck between a Rock and a hard-up place). When he finally tottered through the door six hours, 20 minutes and 14 seconds behind schedule I wasn’t expecting him to be a picture of Zen-like calm. Me? I’d be pouring out a large Larios & Tonic along with a stream of vitriol containing the words Treaty of Utrecht and Cordoba Agreement.
Dave was exhibiting a cool that would put cucumbers to shame. Here’s why. He got out of his van and went walkabout. You can do that if you’re at the back of the queue in what’s quaintly called the East Side Holding Area, as you’re generally guaranteed a two-hour wait (and sometimes more).
Everyone else did too and, the way Dave describes the scene that day, it sounded like an American tailgate party.
People were sharing paper cups and hanging out around the GibAqua tanker, laid on by the government to dispense free water, like it was their local bar. Some people picnicked on their Morrisons shopping, laid out like a smorgasbord in their car boots (Q-Tip: a bag of frozen peas makes a great cold compress). Others nipped off to the beach for a quick dip; or photographed the monkeys that colonise the East Side. A few sporty types played tennis in a neighbouring car park! Dave discovered Titty Rock and some other interesting sights that helped to pass the time quite pleasantly.
In short, people gave up tooting their horns and raining down curses on El Presidente Rajoy and all his government and a spirit of camaraderie prevailed. Weren’t you surprised to notice there were no incidents of road rage that day, and no arrests?
One man who wouldn’t be surprised is Dr Queue, aka Professor Richard Larson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to his 30-year study on queue psychology, Theory of Waiting Lines, “People in a queue find the time flies by much quicker when they’re destracted or engaged. You can actually change a queuing experience into a very positive experience.”
It’s not rocket science. So check out our map of Things To Do in the Gibraltar Queue. You know it makes sense!
1. Go Italian in Little Genoa: This cute fishing village is as Italian in flavor as its crescent of Neapolitan ice cream-coloured houses. Just one cornetto and you’ll be singing the song.
2. Cool off in Caleta Bay. This secluded cove is a favourite with sun-worshipping Gibraltarians.
3. Touch Titty Rock for luck (Mamela Rock in Genoese). This boob-shaped boulder fell from the east face of Gibraltar in the 18th century and landed tit up in the sand.
4. Meet the East Side Monkey Troupe The Barbary macaques around here love to monkey around on the beach. I wonder if they’ve tried ‘mono’ skiing?
5. Look up to your left to see the cliff-face openings to the Great Siege and World War II tunnels that riddle the rock like holes in a gruyere cheese.
6. Stroll around North Front Cemetery. The magnificent marble mausoleums owned by some of Gibraltar’s wealthiest families make the Elgin Marbles look tame!
7. Cool off in the airport and fill out your official complaints form at the Frontier Help Desk while you’re there.
8. Reward yourself with a 99 at the border: The Mr Whippy-style ice cream van in the airport car park has doubled its takings since the border shenanigans began.
Stay informed and entertained with the following indispensable online services:
- Check out the state of play at the border live via the handy online webcam at www.frontierqueue.gi
- Get regular queue updates from the Twitter account of the Royal Gibraltar Police, @RG Police
- Download a free app on what else to see in Gibraltar at www.key2Gib.com
- Tune into Gibraltar Radio for traffic reports and chilled music on 91.3FM , 92.6FM , 100.5FM & 1458AM.
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