I've been seeing a lot of angry people the last couple days over the new "no phones in the queue line" policy for Steel Vengeance. There are similar policies for some other really popular rides as well and most of the discussion has been around money (the parks' potential loss of a lawsuit versus their potential profits from locker rentals).
Let's put aside that particular topic for a minute and have a conversation about having a "queue line conversation." This is something that those of us that grew up without cell phones (especially smart phones) are probably used to. In fact, it's often how I made new friends in the park and found my "riding buddy" for the day or at least for a couple hours.
For some backstory, I grew up in the 80's and was the youngest of three kids. My parents were older when I was going to Cedar Point and Geauga Lake and other random parks as we traveled the country. Most of this time, my parents had issues with arthritic knees or back issues and didn't want to ride many of the more extreme coasters, so if my sisters didn't want to ride with me, I'd have to ride as a "single rider" and hope to meet someone in the queue line that was also a single rider and wanted to ride together.
It can sometimes be tricky to start a conversation with a random stranger, so start with something you have in common...you're both there to ride the ride that you're in line for. Start by asking the person if they've ever ridden the ride before. If they have not, don't ruin anything for them or scare them to death or lie to them, but assure them that there's nothing to worry about and that it's perfectly safe if you've ridden it before. If neither of you have ridden it before, then you already instantly have a bond and you can say something like, It's my first time too, I'd love to hear what you think about it after we've ridden it."
If you find that the person is knowledgeable about the current ride, you may want to start talking to them about the park that you're in and see how much of an "expert" they are (you never know, you may have just run into someone like Andy or Danny, or even Devin Olson, the founder of COASTER-net and Devin Olson Media). From there you may be able to start a conversation about how well-traveled they are and compare and contrast favorites...this might be a great time to invite such a person to our COASTER-net Poll and Thrilling 32 Bracket Challenge. More information about this can be found at ridewarriorchoiceawards.weebly.com.
The conversation then may switch to what communities you are a part of. Exchange information about what clubs or forums you are a part of and encourage them to check out our YouTube channel, Facebook, and/or Twitter to connect with us. I know this is usually easier if they can have their phone with them. As an admin for the site, I usually carry business cards around with me that have this information on them to easily share with people in the queue line. We also sell T-shirts with some of this information on them and these too are great conversation starters, especially if people are already familiar with the site or our YouTube shows.
Now, if you're already in a group of friends, you may not be extremely interested in meeting new friends, but you still may need some ideas on how to pass the time. Hopefully you feel comfortable enough to talk to your friends in person, but sometimes it may be the first time meeting someone in-person--especially if you're at some kind of meet-up or club event. Here are some ideas on "ice breakers" that work in theme parks just as well as they work at any party:
1) Ask everyone to tell their name and something about themselves that they think people don't know. Be careful to not "over-share" here.
2) Play a game like "Never Have I Ever" or "Two Truths and a Lie" where you have to guess from what you know about the person whether the person is telling the truth or faking it.
3) If you're really bored in a line because of something like a mechanical failure, you might want to try a game with the people around you like getting people to name a coaster that starts with the letter 'A,' then the next person has to pick a coaster starting with the letter 'B' and so on. People will learn of how many coasters the other people know about that they don't even know.. It's not a bad idea to say where the coaster is located in case it's one you've never been on. I try to stick with coasters that are operational when I play this game because I feel like the point of it is to encourage people to go new places and try out rides they've never experienced, not to tell people how much more I know about coaster history.
These are just a few ideas that I've learned from my friend Devin Olson who was the founder of COASTER-net.com and my best friend while I was at college at Liberty University. I hope some of these ideas are valuable to you as you visit your favorite amusement parks, theme parks, and water parks, and maybe even some of your favorite theme park haunts this fall (I hear the lines for the houses can get pretty long there too). If you have other ideas that you'd like to share with others, feel free to look for this post on our Facebook or Twitter pages and share your thoughts there.