I’m not sure what it is about large numbers of people, but it seems like for every person who gets added to a crowd, the collective IQ drops by a point. I don’t know if pushiness was once selected for (the Permian mass extinction was actually a Black Friday sale?) or if everyone just gives up in despair when they see other versions of themselves close by (when will my reflection shoooow, the tool I am, insiiiiiiide…), but there’s got to be something about both being close to people and forced to wait for something that freaks errybody out. There are types.
1. Waiting in line to order food.
Two summers ago, my sister and I had gone to an ice cream place by the Jersey Shore. She’s generally a pretty hilarious person, but I was almost on the floor laughing at her descriptions of people who wait in line for fifteen minutes, get to the counter, and have NO clue what they want. Her faves are the sneaky ones: you don’t realize that they have no decision-making capacity, because they start the sentence with “Can I get…” but then follow it up with a distinctly bovine “uuuhhhhh…” as if startled to find out they’ve reached a point in the line which requires participation. My personal favorites are the ones who want a sample of things and can’t even decide on that. There is NO risk there, and yet they react like this has become Sophie’s Choice or Who Gets That Piece of Wood After the Titanic Goes Down…Choice. (you’re so STOOPID, Rose, you’re so STOOPID.) God forbid there is a parent in line with children who didn’t question them while in line about what they want, because the process is then one hundred percent longer for each additional child. If I am behind you and Timmy and Susie and Barkley and Cartwright (or whatever other strange, old-timey trade genre you’ve decided to name your child…Tanner? Blacksmith?) and Timmy is giving you a look like he’s seriously considering jamming his Transformer toy into MY femoral artery because they don’t have Lime Berry Marshmallow Cotton Candy Rainbow as a flavor (Timmy has made this name up out of a collection of words he’s learned from TV today), I will not only take Bumblebee from him and make him Go Long, I will also bury your largest child in coffee-flavored ice cream and tell your other spawn that they must eat their way to their sibling or Santa dies.
Here, I do not mean times when there are cars, and lots of them, but there still is some hope of movement. No, here I speak of F*** All times when no one can do anything. Instead of patiently waiting, or using the time to throw your car in park and accomplish something (making new friends with the equally screwed people next to you is my dad’s preferred cocktail, but there are plenty of options: getting your tan on; cranking the No Strings Attached CD you’re listening to, admit it; reconnecting with your brother; going back to school; pouring yourself a Maker’s, neat, because by the time you move the alcohol will have been out of your system for about 6 hours; reading Hunger Games fanfic (notthatI’vedoneit); opportunities are endless. Just try not to be one of these guys:
· This is TOTALLY a lane – when everyone is required to merge due to construction or an engineering prank (dude, dude, DUDE: if we just cut down on a lane here for no reason how funny would that be?), this person decides the lane about to end, or even better, the shoulder, is a shortcut to be the grand marshal in the Parade of the Damned we are all a part of. Sir, EVERYONE sees you sneaking up on the side and NO ONE is going to let you in unless your wife is in labor, and only if her contractions are less than five minutes apart and she’s having at least two babies at once. We all have ultrasound equipment so we will know if you are lying.
· This lane is betterOHWAIT – if one lane momentarily lurches forward 4 feet, you can bet this broski will be in that new lane: even if it is two or even three lanes over because it’s CLEARLY the best lane. I’m sure when I eventually receive my license to practice law that will be more satisfying, but at this moment I can think of no other experience better than passing the person who cut you off to get into a “better lane.”
· I’ma lean on mah horn, kay? – This person, when seeing all of the people in front of him, comes to the conclusion that instead of some outside force keeping all these cars from moving, that all of I-95 has decided to play Red Light, Green Light, 1,2,3; that our last command was Red Light; and that the person running the game was subsequently hit in the temple and lost consciousness, leaving us confused as to what to do. He’s a conspiracy theorist with a Twitter account named TruthPatriot3790 which he updates twice an hour. He has an open can of Redbull in his cupholder and is listening to a death metal band called Sponge 4 Blood (title track: This Weeping Wound). “Wake up, sheeple!” he bleats from his sedan. “You can move if you want! We are the only things in our own way, so MOVE, dammit!” This person makes you wish you could turn your ears into hands: you would no longer have to listen to him throwing his tribal-tattooed weight into his horn, but you would also have additional middle fingers with which to flip him off, and additional hands for belting him across the face with a copy of Idiocracy (which will be located in his front seat).
Champski, there is NOTHING any of us can do, so just sit tight and ease up on the caffeine. And maybe switch out the CD? No, Eminem is not a good substitute. No, not even his new album. Yes, sweetie, I know he’s said he’s clean now. Here’s some Jack Johnson: there’s a song about banana pancakes that I’m sure you’ll like.
I generally don’t like to be touched, especially by strangers (worse than most people, it’s pretty bad), but I try to suck it up when it comes to events that naturally draw crowds. We also learned last semester in Torts about the “crowded world” rule, and to summarize: if you’re on a crowded subway and somebody brushes past you, you can’t sue them for battery. Basically? S*** happens, sorry, and I get this, I really do. I’m not going to start making a shiv out of my mailbox key so I can get your kidney the next time around. The people in crowds that make me want to set myself on fire rather than be near them are the pedestrian version of “I’ma lean on my horn, kay?” and “That lane is betterOHWAIT.” You give them an inch and they take a yard. They IMAGINE you’ve given them an inch and they take 20 feet. They scoot forward until their noses are buried in between your shoulder blades and you start contemplating faking leprosy or Christian fundamentalism to get them away from you.
They push into you, and you know it’s not the people behind them, because the people behind them have left a space, an actual space. They often wear backpacks and whip around, turning their travel gear into the equivalent of a spiked mace. They shout things like “what’s the hold up?!” and “let’s keep it moving, people!” and then snort to themselves or their friends. If there are several members to the party, they will link arms, the leader stating “follow me, everybody!” and muscle their way through the crowd like a conga line from hell. My personal favorite exclamation is when they are rudely PUSHING you forward and stating “I don’t have to deal with this!” I always wonder what led you to that conclusion: why not? Are you armed? Are you here under duress? Are you the monarch of a tiny but plucky country (major exports: a sour kind of citrus fruit and handguns) and have diplomatic immunity from crowds?
My ability to even form words, much less sentences, shuts down around these people due to a combination of hate and discomfort. It’s mostly “eeeeeee!” with a little “AHHHGGGHH!” thrown it at low moments. I just want to squirm and scream. To disappear and take them out as I go with a garrote. To Apparate out and elbow each one in the sternum. Seriously, lady, I was not aware I signed up for a colonoscopy with you and your fanny pack, and I don’t know how you did this but your voice seems to trigger an adverse, sciatica-esque reaction in my vagus nerve (who are we kidding, you touched all twelve of those bad boys.) The fact that you announced to the crowd that you need to pee only makes me want to dump my Nalgene on your head and start singing “Don’t go chasin’ waterfaaaalls…” And seriously, it’s okay to want a piece, but f’reals, if your hand gets anywhere near my butt again, I’m going to travel forward or backwards in time, disguise myself as your wedding planner for 12 hours, and as you’re about to make your entrance, inform you that there was a little problem with the orchestra due to flight delays, and the only band available on such short notice is a Baha Men cover band. You’re okay walking down the aisle to Who Let the Dogs Out, right? They’ll be doing the reception as well.
In slow-moving crowds, please remember you are a human, and remember others are too. Best scenario for everyone: you get to live, and I get to pass the character part of the bar.