Crowd Navigation 101

By Josh Schoenblatt

Natures calling is ringing its bell. Leg crossing is not working. Thinking about anything but the restrooms is quickly failing. What do you do? Head to the bathroom, of course. Yet what do you do when you are surrounded by hundreds of people between you and the beautiful port-o-potty’s that will allow you to relieve the pressure?

This was my case at the 2013 Inauguration of President Barack Obama. And unlike other crowds, I was told specifically that leaving my spot was a death sentence to a good view. What was worse was that I was 5 rows from the front of the section I was in. and the bathrooms were only 50 feet or so away.

Ultimately I decided  that my bladder was more important than my spot. However, I decided that I would make it back to my spot.

Leaving was easy, and I knew that. Then my challenge began.

At first all was going well. I decided in advance I would take a polite approach by saying “Excuse me please” and “Sorry” and a quick explanation if neither of those worked.

Surprisingly most people were quiet polite about it and were willing to work with me within the confines of their spot. I did hit a few rough snags, and instead of fighting, I just went in reverse and found a new route.

Then I came within 15 feet of where I had started about 30 minutes before the bathroom break. I thought I was homeward bound. All would be successful and I would have proven many wrong.

Road block. But it was funny because the people behind me wanted to help me get back to my spot. So they actually started to help me move forward. Yes, I was pushed back into my spot. It was not pretty or easy, but I accomplished it.

The lesson I learned here is that people are kinder than you might expect. As I was walking, many people would joke with me and say things like “you’ll have to pay a tax to pass” or “can you help me find my friend?” (I am over 6 feet so I could see over the crowd.) It was these simple conversations that brought happiness to myself and to the people I interacted with. The walk back became less of a death march and more of a “catching up with old friends” type of walk. Yes, there were a few that would not budge, but in life there will always be a couple of rotten apples.

I think that this is what Americans have forgotten, how to be nice. We teach it to children, but when it comes right down to it, we do not have the actions to back up what we preach. I know that in the future I will try  to be a bit more friends and polite, because a lot of small actions over time could cause a great change.

Here are a few pictures from the morning of the Inauguration:

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