I recently met up with a friend to catch up over coffee. As we sat by the window in a local beanery on Yonge street talking about the challenges to mindful meditation, I couldn’t help notice a lineup that had formed across the street from us.
In what seemed to be an eternity before the line moved, more individuals continued to feed the growing queue, now extending all the way around the corner. It was hard to not be captivated by this congregation of adults relentless in their pursuit of being among the first to get their hands on New York’s best Shawarma.
It turns out that the line belonged to ‘The Halal Guys‘, and it’s opening week in Toronto. The Halal Guys started out as a food cart in New York City back in 1990. Now, the American company has locations around the world.
According to one Instagram post, some folks waited for over an hour to sink their teeth into the famous Mediterranean fare dosed in the Guys’ secret white sauce. Online reports stated that the lineup started at 8:30 a.m., and eventually wrapped around the corner from Yonge onto Wellesley late into the day.
This isn’t the first time Toronto locals are known to sacrifice a sizeable part of their day to get their hands on imported international fare. In late 2014, Uncle Tetsu set up its modest Japanese cheesecake shop to very little fanfare on an unsuspecting part of Bay street. Soon thereafter, swathes of individuals from all over the city flocked to line up outside the Asian bakery to get their hands on its sole dessert offering.
The bakery shot up to instant fame, with ever-present 1-2 hour lineups quickly becoming part of everyday life at the corner of Bay and Dundas. A twitter account was even set up and regularly maintained to track lineup length throughout the day. Some entrepreneurial individuals would even charge a stand-in service for those with less patience to wait in line.
Lineups have become a part of everyday life, whether you’re at an amusement park, wanting to get your hands on the latest in handheld tech, looking to check out the latest movie premiere, catching a taxi at the airport, or even just at the DMV getting your license renewed. Some might even feel compelled to join a lineup without fully knowing what they’re lining up for; a sense of wanting to mimic another’s behavior tends to take over conventional thinking.
Luckily, help is here. For better or for worse, we live in a world where technology now allows us to bask in the sensation of exclusivity without experiencing the annoyances of waiting. Enter the likes of Uber, Foodora, OpenTable, Ritual, Dinr, and their contemporaries. While they deliver a useful service through the provision of goods and services at the tap of a fingertip, some argue that they create a sense of entitlement through a desire for instant gratification.
That being said, the lineup obsession is far from going away, and we’ll continue to see people of all walks of life partake in this activity for years to come. What makes it worthwhile waiting in line is a subjective assessment that differs from person to person. Maybe that soup really IS just worth it!