Weary resignation is the most common reaction at Home Affairs, because you expect things to happen at a glacial pace anyway. In banks it?s annoying, given that you?ll doubtless have to pay for the painful privilege transacting inside the bank. More often than not the reason you?re queuing in the first place is because internet banking or the ATM outside — for which you pay to avoid standing in queues — aren?t working.
At airports it?s just plain stressful, particularly because after the check-in queue you still have to brave the security queue. Here you know that the same person or their identical twin will be trying to smuggle their keys, mobile, small change and assorted other metal items through the security checks by distributing them in numerous deep, seemingly forgotten pockets.
I?ve even seen — and I kid you not — someone having a protracted debate with a security official about why they can?t take a baggage trolley through. That?s just stupid. Everybody knows you shouldn?t argue with people who have latex gloves and lubricant.
So inevitably rather than some light duty free shopping followed by a quiet cup of coffee, or perhaps a chilled chardonnay, before a leisurely stroll to the boarding gate you arrive as a gasping, sweating, wide-eyed tangle of boarding pass, passport and cabin baggage — more Mr Bean than James Bond.
It?s bad enough when you?re travelling on business, but getting stuck behind trolley-guy or any of his many, nefarious, multi-national airport accomplices is even more fun when you?re on holiday. Arriving at a conference a day late is one thing, but missing out a moment of holiday fun is entirely another.
Or is it just me? My wife claims, and I have not yet been able to gather enough evidence to contradict her, that it?s a gift. Much like when we?re late for a dinner party and I get stuck behind an articulated flatbed truck carrying a bulldozer though a residential area, presumably for quick spot of Saturday night road-works.
You?d think that by now I?d be impervious, but when the person at the head of the queue starts digging out piles of paperwork, usually a precursor to yelling at some unfortunate check-in agent, and my wife rolls her eyes heavenwards, I?m still overcome by desperate helplessness.
That is until now, because I?ve found a way to beat the system.
Although something of a luddite, I?ve become a convert to technology. So instead of standing in queues I now check in online 24-hours before departure. British Airways has a system called Manage My Booking which not only allows you to check-in the whole family, but also choose your seats.
Then, basking in the amazed gaze of my loving wife, I print out the boarding passes from one of the self-service kiosks at the airport. I?ve not yet had to queue at one of these and better yet, even trolley man would find it hard to argue with a machine.
I?m told that once Heathrow?s new Terminal 5 got up and running after some initial splutters, these marvellous machines have helped cut the time through check-in and security to a whisker over eight minutes.
On the return flight I really excelled myself, because in the UK you can print out your boarding pass at home, so there?s no need to even use the machines. You just drop your luggage at the fast-bag drop and head straight for the security check. Unfortunately airlines still need to pick through reams of red tape before they can offer home-printed boarding passes here.
But that hasn?t stopped BA introducing mobile phone check-in. It works on exactly the same principle as online check-in except you got access it through www.ba.com/mobile. And, like online check-in you can also use it for British Airways? domestic and regional flights operated by Comair.
So these days when we travel we?ve plenty of time to pick up some duty free indulgences and relax with a glass of something nice before boarding. Or we would have if we hadn?t been stuck behind that damn truck carrying the bulldozer on the way to the airport.