Crowds are annoying. We know this. We want to get out of them, or get through them, or at least get to a more comfortable area of the crowd we’re already in. These are the methods we use, and why they don’t work — at least, not in the way we want them to.
1. The Ghost
This is me, actually. The most common method I use, anyway. The ghost attempts to weave unnoticed through the crowd, leaving nothing but footprints and confused stoners wondering if we are from The Matrix. Daintily side-stepping everyone, we gently accelerate through the crowd, disturbing no-one but getting to our destination kempt, shevelled and on time.
Get to the bar? Yup, looks do-able.
We are the most annoying members of any crowd. In reality, a crowd in the street, or especially in a licensed establishment, is a sort of terribly dis-organised, massive, queue. We are effectively queue-jumpers, and chances are that you’re not nearly as subtle about it as you like to think. I know I’m not. You are stepping on toes, whacking people as you pass them with your bag, your elbows stick out about half a metre from your body, and worst of all, you’re obviously not even acknowledging that you’re causing a problem. You genuinely believe that you’re slipping harmlessly through the packed crowd of sweaty people like a fading dream. As you move off into the distance, however, all they can do about it is mutter passive-aggressively to themselves and give you lame nicknames they just thought of on the spur of the moment. This method actually sort of works. It’s just that you fail in your goal of “not angering the entire rest of the crowd”.
Other People Call You:
Elbows McGee, Mumble Mutter Mumble Arsehole Mumble Mutter, Bigfoot.
2. The Juggernaut
This’ll show coach for knocking you off the ‘A’ Team all those years ago! Show some hustle, knock these nerds out the damn way. Anyone hassles you, give them your best, toothy, “I don’t need to give a shit, I’m an athlete,” smile. You might be pushing forty now, and all the alcohol and cocaine is taking its toll, but damn, you still play weekends, and you’re going to get through this crowd your way or no way. What’s the point in waiting around, when you can just take what’s yours?
This is probably the least effective way of pushing through crowds, but a surprising number of people try it. Sometimes they employ cunning distraction techniques, in an attempt to (a) disguise the fact that they’re trying to shoulder-barge you into a wall/off a bridge/off the train station platform by diverting your attention elsewhere, (b) make themselves appear too important to be bothered with this ‘crowd’ nonsense, and (c) pre-emptively deflect confrontation by making it seem difficult to grab their attention. These distraction techniques include talking on mobile phones, checking watches, adjusting clothing, lighting cigarettes, all while continuing to ford through the human cattle in their way.
I actually have a certain level of respect for the unashamed bastardry involved in this method of crowd-travel. It doesn’t muck about. With the Juggernaut, women are more rare than men, for obvious reasons, but almost anyone can surprise you with a quick break for freedom. Racial and class barriers are no obstacle to making a spirited attempt at it. Unfortunately, there is always someone stronger in the crowd, or at least strong enough so that when they body check you you will spin off into somebody else, who will also instinctively body check you. There’s also the very real risk of getting into a fight, which is extremely difficult to escape when you’re being crammed into a tight space with your opponent by about a thousand people on all sides, all of whom now hate you.
Other People Call You:
Goddamn Jock Failure, That Guy Who Just Tried To Push Twenty People Out The Way At Once And Fell Down.
3. The Persuader
Similar to the Ghost in their nervous disposition and desire to be liked but simultaneously get to their destination before everyone else, the Persuader deals in worried, anxious smiles and squeaked apologies and excuses. The Persuader doesn’t stop if people don’t step out of the way in response to their pleas, though; he or she pulls lightly on peoples’ arms, flutters their hands down strangers’ backs, and generally inveigles their way through the masses by physical distractions and gentle but relentless application of pressure. Attempting to get past the Persuader once they’re in front of you is impossible, as their arms suddenly jut out and become made of iron.
This is the creepiest way you can possibly move through a crowd. There is nothing more disturbing than the gentle touch and soft voice of a stranger. Sooner or later you are going to get mace to the eye and a very loud whistle in the ear. Until then, you’re not actually going to get anywhere, in any case. People simply do not respond to the gentle pressure, partly because it’s disturbing, partly because they, believe it or not, are aware of your plan to become an instant and insufferable obstruction as soon as you get past them.
Other People Call You:
The Creep, The Groper, The Stroker.
4. “The Foreigner”
Contrary to what you might think, “The Foreigner” isn’t carried out by actual foreigners. It refers to the deeply held belief by certain individuals (usually high-powered investment bankers, CEOs, or members of the upper classes) that this whole “crowd” thing is some sort of awkward misunderstanding, and if you only speak clearly, brusquely and loudly enough, the whole issue will sort itself out, and probably wander off and get you a cocktail of some sort.
Although knowing your luck, they'll use yellow chartreuse in your bijou, and then you'll have to shoot a gamekeeper.
This method is named “The Foreigner” because it is the exact same method which the exact same people use to address foreigners, the profoundly deaf and buses (there is nothing in this life I have seen that is more amusing than the sight of a respectable and extraordinarily posh-sounding lady saying, in a startled tone of voice, “I say, you there! The bus! Slow down, I say!”).
If you really are one of the people who expects this to work, then I…I just don’t know. Yet people seem to genuinely believe it does work. The reality is no-one cares about your important stuff that you have to get to, because (I know, bizarre), we all have that stuff too. Raising your voice and shouting “Excuse me! Excuse me! Excuse me!” only results in the entire crowd looking around to play a game of “spot-the-entitled-arsehole”, and shortly thereafter, “subtly-but-remorselessly-crush-the-entitled-arsehole-to-death”.
Other People Call You:
Entitled Arsehole. Was this not clear?
5. The Prop
This guy has a ridiculously outsized instrument, medical equipment, hadron collider, whatever. The point isn’t what they have, it’s the way they use it. Haha. Sorry. The Prop is used to gently lever vast quantities of people out of the way. Pushing back, the primary defence against the Juggernaut or the Persuader, is out of the question for most people, because your prop looks like it is fragile and likely costs more than they do. The important thing here is choosing an appropriate prop that strikes a careful balance between five factors; looking expensive, looking fragile, not actually being fragile, not taking the piss, and immense size.
The Stradivarius, for instance, fails on count three, four and five. A Double Bass fails on count four. A Cello is ideal, being equipped with a big fancy spike and all.
A suitcase fails on counts one, two and five. A big box marked “caution, fragile” fails on count four. A glass-topped coffee table might just work.
You get the idea.
There are all kinds of practical problems with this method. It is incongruous to bring an end table or gamba di viola to a football match, for instance. Crossing traffic-filled streets becomes a minor nightmare once equipped with a suitable Prop. Someone might actually break your expensive item. The most significant problem with this idea, however, is quite simple, and reads as follows:
expensive, bulky, awkwardly-shaped items and public transport.
Other People Call You:
They don’t need to call you anything. You understand their contempt, a contempt so deep it will stay with you forever, from the look in their eyes as they sit comfortably in the back of the bus while you argue with the driver. “You may have reached the bus ten minutes sooner,” their expressions say, “but I am given to believe that it is faster to travel fifty miles on public transport than on foot, carrying an antique medicine cabinet.”
In the end, crowds are just terrible, terrible places. Nothing you can do will make them better, and everything you do will make them worse, either for you or for other people. Just give up. Stay where you are. The crowd might move, it might not, there’s nothing much you can do about it. Adopt a foetal position. Start to cry softly to yourself. There. Doesn’t that feel so much safer?
Hey there good friend why not check out this post I wrote for my girlfriend’s blog yes yes why not. And check out my girlfriend’s blog anyway. It suddenly strikes me that this post would be more appropriate around Christmas time. OH WELL. This Christmas shopping season, why not try: staying at home and eating your weight in suet instead?
What the whatting what.