Friday, June 6, 2008

Fun With Spatial Awareness

Let's keep things non-gay and light today and talk about one of my pet peeves.

One of the annoyances about being in crowded places is that people tend to lack awareness of where their body is in relation to other people's bodies. I'm pretty sure that studies have shown an inverse correlation between the number of people in a crowd and the "spatial awareness" exhibited by members of that crowd.

In large cities, crowds of people are common. Thus the chances of encountering people who lack spatial awareness are much higher than, say, in the country. In fact, there are a few sure-fire metropolitan locations where you can pretty much guarantee to encounter spatially-aware-challenged persons.


When riding an escalator, you don't always know where it is leading. That's why it's necessary, when you reach the top, to orient yourself, perhaps look at a map, and then continue on your way. The very top of an escalator, however? Not the best place to stop. See, other people are behind you also riding the elevator. That means that at some point, sooner rather than later, they too will reach the top of the escalator and desire to continue on to their final destinations. If you are standing at the top deciding how to get to where you're going, you prevent other people from easily getting to where they're going or you force them to finagle a way around you.

This same concept also holds true for exiting/entering a building or an elevator. When you step out of an elevator, for instance, it's not hard to deduce that people are probably behind you who also have to get to very important places of their very own. Thus, stepping out of an elevator and immediately stopping right in front of the elevator is rude. You place your fellow elevator evacuees in the dubious position of being stuck halfway out of the elevator with the doors about to close on them.

Be aware of what's going on around you, people. It's not hard. Especially you, tourists.

Street Festivals

One of the best parts of living in Chicago is the numerous street festivals that occur during the summer. One of the not-best parts is the numerous people who attend the street festivals. Whether it's parents who insist on bringing their babies with ginormous strollers to a jam-packed street concert or gaggles of drunk gays clumsily dancing, you can pretty much guarantee that traversing a street festival is much like running the gauntlet.

See, even though in our normal everyday lives we all usually walk forwards with our heads facing in the direction we are moving, the rules at street festivals are quite different. It is not uncommon to see women walking sideways, carrying 4 beers at once, yelling over their shoulders to friends. And yet, it should be common knowledge that a crowded street festival is not the best place to not pay attention to where you are walking. Of course, that won't stop the woman above from acting surprised when she runs into someone. Like most other festival-attendees, she left her common sense at the gate.

In addition, it is human nature to want take in the all the wonderful, festive sites and sounds of the festival, but please please please stop stepping on the back of my flip-flops. Giving me a "flat tire" is really only funny the first time it happens. It's never funny if it causes me to spill beer.

Public Transportation

Another great part of city living is that public transportation is available. What is not so great about city living is that the public transportation is usually crowded with lots of spatially unaware people. Whether it's loud cell phone talkers who have clearly forgotten that they are in a small confined space with many other people or homeless people smoking in the back of the train, you can rest assured that someone is bound to invade your space in at least one sensory manner.

You sit down, for instance, and someone else sits down next to you. Fine. Yet the seat of a train is not the best place to sit with your legs wide open. I'm sure your open-legged sit is indicative of extremely large testicles or penile apparatus, but your insistence on owning our shared seat is just plain rude. Yes, men, I'm talking to you. Unless you are overweight, you don't have many good faith excuses for overflowing onto someone else's seat.

That wraps up this edition of Fun with Spatial Awareness. Perhaps as festival season wears on, more spatial awareness pet peeves will come to light.

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