The Secrets Of Making Time Fly While You Wait – an NPR story about how people hate waiting in lines and how they occupy that time to make it seem to go quicker. It also highlights how designers can play a role in relieving the accompanying boredom and/or frustration. One of the simpler methods is to pop bubble wrap, preferably the real thing (like at a bus stop) but virtual bubble wrap works, too. Some examples are more design-related. The Houston airport was besieged by complaints about the wait time for luggage, even when they decreased the actual number of minutes waited. A NYTimes article describes the solution:
So the airport decided on a new approach: instead of reducing wait times, it moved the arrival gates away from the main terminal and routed bags to the outermost carousel. Passengers now had to walk six times longer to get their bags. Complaints dropped to near zero.
The NPR interview goes on to mention mirrors by elevators, snaking wait lines for movies, and fence rails gradually placed closer together on roller coaster rides to give the illusion of going downhill faster, a Disney technique.
If you want more information on waiting in lines, check out Dr. Queue (aka Richard Larson), an MIT professor who is an expert on queueing theory and psychology. Here’s an NPR interview with him and an article about waiting in train stations.