Thursday, July 5, 2018

wimbledon day 1

I once said that if the business of america is business, the business of England is tradition.

On the first day of the tournament, we started out at 415 in the morning. Our uber driver, who had driven around the block looking for us, was not especially jolly when he picked us up. In short time, however, he got us to the Wimbledon queue line.

We followed the directions of the many stewards already there at that hour of the young day. They told us, as they told us yesterday they would, to line up and follow another steward's yellow flag with a large Q on it.  When we arrived at the end of the line we were given a card with a number on it.  Our number, at 440 in the morning or thereabouts was in the 2000s. That means, for those not certain, that 2000 people had already lined up waiting for tickets before 5 am.

The people in front of us, a couple from Australia, set up with their chairs. Gary and I got our blanket and chairs out as well. Immediately behind us, two women unfurled a blanket and pillows. Within minutes these strangers were sound asleep inches from us.  It was not easy for them to become sound asleep, because beyond them a group of about eight chums, were chatting noisily next in line. These buddies who looked like tennis players themselves, and I kid you not, opened up a bottle of champagne, and started knocking it back nearly as soon as they got settled. This, I found out-- the sound of popping champagne corks--and various types of imbibing before the sun came up was not especially unusual.

We chatted with the folks from Australia. Their son lived in London and they were visiting. We exchanged names and in short time became as friendly as one can be with strangers with whom you have had not much more than thirty minutes of kinship.  Several entrepreneurs had set up portable coffee stands beyond where the last queue line would be. They were doing terrific business.  I was on a line for about a half hour which only got bigger as the sun came up.

It was not until about 8 oclock when the queue started to move.  So, we waited over three hours before anything happened. When instructed by the officials, up we went and began to follow the 2000 people in front of us. We waited another half hour at one junction, and then proceeded on.  On the queue, we got to meet the previously sleeping women. They were both from the US, friends from high school in Idaho.  One was a sports enthusiast who traveled the US to watch baseball games.  She wanted to check off her to-do list going to Wimbledon on the first day of the tournament.  Her buddy now living in Seattle, was just tagging along. The two had left from San Francisco, flown to New York, and then to London. There were other stops on their UK itinerary but this they did not want to miss.

The queue trudged on. At one point, people who had pitched tents, or we, who had chairs, stored our luggage at a spot for such storage. Then eventually we went through security. Then another long line to where we bought our tickets. We got into the Wimbledon grounds at about 1045, having been nearly six hours on the queue.

And, as I had been told, it was not an ordeal but rather an interesting experience.  Gary's assertion that we had to leave at 4 was not quite so. We could have arrived at 530 and still been okay. But I did not mind the wait. Got to meet our new Australian friends, the women from Idaho. We got to observe people drinking champagne before the sun came up in the east. We were able to see people emerge from their tents, like you might see at a national park, roll up their sleeping bags, march to the temporary rest rooms, and return with steaming coffee.

We arrived at the arena and watched several matches in much the same way we watch when we have gone to the USOPEN as we have for the past two decades.  For the USOPEN you just buy your tickets in advance. You bring your tickets. You go in.  You do not have to get up at 4 am to get in for an 11 am match. Why they do the queue thing in England is, I imagine, because they have always done the queue thing in England.  And it was kind of fun.

I would have been pleased to arrive a little later for the second day, but Gary felt that we had gotten in the 4 am groove.  Next blog will describe day two, on the queue.

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