Long Waits: a History

1909

Danish telephone engineer Agner Erlang introduces queuing theory. In his honor, units of telecommunications traffic are called erlangs.

1943

Over 2 million New York City residents line up during World War II to register for food ration books issued by the Office of Price Administration.

1973

After OPEC imposes an oil embargo, drivers wait in lines up to half a mile long to fill their gas tanks. Some pay as much as 99 cents a gallon, equal to $4.71 in today's dollars.

1979

Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's Homemade serves up its first Free Cone Day. The annual event still draws lines of loyal fans in cities across the country.

1999

Disney institutes the Fastpass system to reduce wait times at popular rides. Thrill seekers use it to skip long lines by making appointments to ride at designated times.

2007

Muggles, wizards, and tweens sleep in front of London stores to await the final Harry Potter book. Some sit for three days to learn the fate of the series' beloved characters.

Skip the wait for a range of DMV services when you visit most AAA branches.

This article was first published in May 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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