Why I (Happily) Waited In Lines For Hours In Kansas City

July 30, 2015
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This spring, the Twin Cities were abuzz with excitement about the impending Rolling Stones concert at TCF Stadium – it seemed everyone I knew had a ticket or was scouring Craigslist for a last-minute deal.

After learning that a work commitment would preclude my wife from catching the highly anticipated concert, we were undeterred, and committed to seeing the legendary British Invaders wherever possible. So we booked plane tickets and headed to the Kansas City stop of the Stones’ 15-city “Zip Code Tour.”

To my surprise, what transpired next was a weekend characterized by long lines – seemingly everywhere we went, we stood for extended periods in snaking queues, anxiously awaiting whatever was in store at the other end. Perhaps even more surprising, however, was that the wait was well worth it, every time.

It provided a great lesson, whether it be for brands, bands or BBQ joints: If you make a legendary product with serious staying power, people will happily wait their turn to experience it.

photo 4First came Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, which loyalists still refer to by its former name, Oklahoma Joe’s. A friend who previously lived in nearby Lawrence, Kansas, passionately recommended the place, with the forewarning that there might be a line to enter the joint, which doles out world-famous BBQ from inside a small building that doubles as a gas station.

We arrived late afternoon – surely after peak lunch time, we thought – and waited in the glaring sun for well over an hour. But from my first bite of fall-off-the-bone ribs, I was hooked. All that “wasted” time transformed into time well spent.

Soon enough, it was time for the big show, and we were picked up by a private car service, having heard that it would be nearly impossible to find a cab, and Uber’s surge pricing was astronomical. What ensued was a snail’s-pace crawl down what was apparently the only route to Arrowhead Stadium – a roughly eight-mile drive turned into a grueling hour-long slog, complete with the most talkative driver I’ve ever had. (We bailed about a half-mile from the stadium, when it became clear that walking would be faster.)

Once we finally arrived, all the frustrations of “waiting” once again melted away – the geriatric foursome absolutely crushed it, exuding more energy than most millennials as they plowed through a killer set list of rock ‘n’ roll hits. (As you’ll see above, I couldn’t help but nab a quick photo with their gear, like some wannabe roadie.)photo 1

Other long lines in Kansas City included waiting outside Boulevard Brewery, where we were among the people lined up in the parking lot before it even opened at 10 a.m., looking to nab one of the limited number of free tickets for that day’s tours. Later, we stood in line with a sweaty group of Kansas Citians at the famed Town Talk Diner, patiently awaiting our turn to order some legendarily greasy diner food. Once again, in both situations, we were pleasantly surprised: It was well worth the wait.

The point here isn’t that long lines inevitably lead to worthwhile experiences. To the contrary, I find theme parks to be a nightmare, and long lines ultimately raise your expectations and can result in a greater sense of disappointment. I’ve often waited outside acclaimed restaurants or bars, only to feel duped into having bought into the hype like the other schmucks who didn’t know better.

But each of my experiences in Kansas City spoke to the true meaning of “staying power,” to those rare things that have proven themselves to be worth the wait – whether it involved a 72-year-old rocker with a penchant for hip-shaking, or an inimitable rack of ribs that you just have to taste to believe.