Monday, December 29, 2008

The Dynamics of Walking through Crowds 3

Exiting elevators is an interesting experience for the dynamics of crowds. As weird as it may seem I just ride in elevators. Up then down, especially when it is busy because that is when the most crowd watching can happen.

You can find out who the polite people are and who the uninterested are. I still find a lot of chivalry within elevator etiquette. Men will still put their hand in front of the door so women and children can enter or exit. All will move around to make room for more if possible and someone will ALWAYS push the floor button when asked by someone buried in the crowd.

The Venetian Hotel and Casino is the world’s largest hotel/entertainment complex. It has over 8000 rooms which are all suites, millions of square feet in conventions space, more than twenty restaurants, a shopping mall, 5 major theaters for shows, a dozen small ones, and hundreds of thousands of square feet dedicated to slot machines. The problem is that it was built in three separate sections and is extremely confusing if you don’t know where you are going. Who would guess that the canal with gondola rides is ABOVE the casino or that they swimming pool is on the 10th floor and the main entrance is on the 3rd floor from the parking ramp. All this makes for great crowd watching.

I stand in the back of the elevator listening to some Phantom of the Opera music playing when people enter the elevator and see that the 3rd floor is pushed and I listen as they debate whether they need to go to the 1st or not to get to the casino. The push the 1st just in case. The doors open on the 3rd but it just looks like another parking floor. They ignore the signs that say “Hotel and Casino” with an arrow pointing the way and go down to the 1st floor and find another parking garage. Frustrated now they exit and disappear and I don’t know if they ever find what they are looking for.

OR: I stand in the back of a FULL elevator and wait. The 3rd floor opens up to the crowd and those in front exit, take a quick look right at the parking ramp and immediately turn left and the crowd follows them to the left as they exit the elevator. I follow too until they reach the dead end with more elevators. They all turn around en masse and look like lost sheep without a shepherd. The signs are everywhere pointing them to the hotel/casino but they just don’t trust them because they lead to the parking ramp. One adventurous couple will walk out of the elevator hallway and see a carpeted entrance and head up the ramp to the entrance. Soon the rest follow after they see the adventurous ones don’t come back. The crowd moves again.

I look at the signs again and wonder how they could be any clearer than they are. Crowds are crowds and they will blindly follow the one in front of them even though it ends in a dead end. You probably see where I am going here don’t you? I want to know if you just follow the crowds or if you actually pause and read the signs?

As the elevator door opens to this New Year and everything in front of you is new again I want to challenge you to read the signs and not just follow the crowd. I want to challenge you to be different and to make a difference. BE THE ONE people will watch to see if it works instead of being the one of many. Step out, step apart, step forward and make a difference.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Dynamics of Walking through Crowds 2

I pull off into a dead corner and watch the people streaming through each other. The personalities come through in this seemingly simple, but complicated interaction.

I see some people who are VERY aware of everything going on around them. They are VERY careful to keep to the far right side of the slow lane and never venture into the middle of the road for fear of having to touch or, God forbid, interact with these strangers. They are shy, self-conscious, and usually have a thinly veiled fear which I can see without even seeing their face. The mix with the older and frailer with a fear that is totally different.

In the middle of the stream, sometimes fighting oncoming traffic I see totally different temperaments. Some are fearless only to prove they are fearless to cover up their fear. They are the Bangers who will not care about pushing their way through the crown. They are dressed differently but are really the same. Some are dressed in baggy clothes and sideways hats clinging to a belt loop and walking wide to keep only a planned view of boxer shorts in view. The same people are in extremely tight shirts and pants which closely resemble another skin to show their bulging muscles and tattoos. There are female versions of these two but more often I see the prowling female in Las Vegas. You can tell a lot about women just by the way she turns when she makes her way through a crowd. Will she turn away and protect herself as she brushes by you or turn and face you daring you to excuse yourself by her. Sometimes I even get a wink from “ladies” I am forced to get too close to. As I watched I saw a man turn around and pursue a wink but I never saw if he caught up with her or not.

The rest of us flow with the crowd, not faster, not slower, just with it. Calmly, patiently getting to where we are going with a pocket full of “excuse me” and “sorry” ready to doll out.

While in that corner I experience an anomaly: the traffic clears. As if a stop light clicked on around the corner the hall becomes empty. One at a time people come through and they seem lost. They don’t know how to relate without the crowd. The fearful stand more upright and confident as they make their way. The Bangers slow down because they have no competitors to be faster than. The “ladies” cover up and seem to shrink. And the normal people, well, we simply straighten out the corners and make it a little faster than normal.

I come away from this experience realizing that we NEED each other. Even those defiant and ornery would have no one to be defiant and ornery to, if not for the rest of us. Our trip through the mall hallway is a microcosm of our lives and interactions with each other. We need each other to survive and to move forward in life.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Dynamics of Walking through Crowds 1

It is the holiday season and I find myself walking through a lot of crowds. My mind makes the move into the express lane as I begin to notice the flow of people and crowd MOVEMENT dynamics.

Most of the time you don’t notice the dynamics unless something happens to interrupt the flow: like chatters to stop the flow and gather in a lane blocking circle to look into a store window; like the young or the elderly who cannot keep up with the flow and feel the fear of bodies passing them on all sides; like some daring thrill-seeker who attempts to work his way against the flow; or, like the occasional face to face with someone coming in the opposite direction where you mirror each other when you sidestep until one of you finally stops and the other makes their way around you.

Most of the time it is simply amazing to me that we actually MISS each other in all the hustle and bustle of people. Without even consciously thinking about it we can weave our way through a crowd without touching a person, while talking on a cell phone or with a friend next to you, making your way around the slow ones, avoiding the oncoming ones, and kicking it into gear to make a corner on the inside.

I have been observing this walking through crowd dynamics for a while now and I think I am ready for my Master’s Thesis on the personalities involved. Let me give you a few and next time you are in the crowd see if you can pick them out.

The Floater. The Floater floats through the crowd seeming to flit from one small gap to another just in time to push ahead before that gap closes. They seem to be unimpeded by the number of people. You try to follow them but you seem to reach the gap in people just as it closes behind them.

The Brute. The Brute is usually a guy but I have seen female brutes as well. This is the person who makes it through crowds by simple, brute force. Instead of floating through open gaps like the Floater, the Brute busts through small gaps making them wider by shoulder banging the people on each side of it. Rarely do you hear an “excuse me” even though you and he might make eye contact and you end up rubbing your shoulder.

The Gabber. The Gabber gabs. Usually a group of three or more friends who spend their time talking, laughing and looking. Often the Gabbers stop at a store window oblivious to the crowd around them. Or they may simply stop in the middle of the expressway, forcing all the traffic around them as they laugh and gab. Sometimes a Gabber can be a single person who may be on a cell phone that needs to make an important point to the person at the other end of the call and so needs to stop walking and make powerful expressions with the free hand.

The Clueless. The Clueless crowd walkers are the ones who gum up the works by simply disobeying the rules of the road. The rules are similar to driving rules. You MUST walk on the right side of the hallway or mallway. The faster walkers MUST pass closer to the middle but MUST NOT venture into oncoming traffic. If you stop you MUST get out of the way of both oncoming traffic and same lane traffic by going into a store entryway or a dead corner. The Clueless will stop and any time, will drive through oncoming traffic, will pass on the wrong side, or go slow on the wrong side. The Clueless just don’t follow the rules and believe they have no responsibility for the flow of the crowd.

There are more, like the Brood: the mom with kids trying to stick close, speeding up and slowing down depending on the temperament of kids and parents. The Entourage: with one leader and others hanging on his or her every word and comment and struggling to be the one closest to the leader. The Accessorized: Usually women with handbags like suitcases that can take out a whole row of the passing crowd or perfume that causes crowds to push AWAY from her. And many more.

Then there are the rest of us. Sometimes I experiment by being the Brute or the Clueless and just do things wrong to stir of the mix of the dynamic. Most often I walk amazed that things actually happen, that people actually move and that we don’t stand like sheep wondering why we don’t get anywhere. I think that might be part of what it means to be made in God’s image, that built-into-us-ness of progressing through crowds.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Achievement: We acquire strength in what we overcome.

Challenge: The greater the difficulty the more glory in surmounting it.

One of the things that drove me crazy at work was those corny motivational statements plastered all over the break room walls at the factory or office. You know the ones with the great pictures and the inspirational statements below them, meant to get you into a positive attitude about your work. If I was still in the corporate world I would go to this website I’ve found and substitute a few of the corny ones for these from

Cluelessness: There are no stupid questions, but there are a LOT of inquisitive idiots.

Consulting: If you’re not part of the solution, there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem.

Effort: Hard work never killed anybody, but it is illegal in some places.

Laziness: Success is a journey not a destinations, so stop running.

Tradition: Just because you’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean that it’s not incredibly stupid.

Sanity: Minds are like parachutes. Just because you’ve lost yours doesn’t mean you can borrow mine.

The TV show Office and the cartoon Dilbert are full of quotes and that is what makes them so appealing. It is the anti-motivational message that resonates with people, not the motivational ones. The majority of people relate to failure, while only a few relate to success and a manager standing in front of a cadre of employees spouting clichés becomes the opposite of motivation. At best they become the butt of jokes and youtube videos.

Motivation doesn’t come from outside sources. At best they are reminders of what we have inside but the switch is not going to come from a frequency of posters and clichés. Motivation, the opposite of despair, comes from considering yourself in a constant state of indebtedness. Most people don’t do that. Most people believe the world OWES THEM and doesn’t believe they OWE anything to the world or their God. Second, motivation comes from family. A supportive nurturing family breeds motivated people. And finally, motivation is a decision, not a feeling. Just because you don’t FEEL motivated doesn’t mean you can’t be. DECIDE to be motivated for whatever task you have and you will be motivated.

Motivation: Giving thanks for all, feeling family vibes, and choosing it.