07 Jan 2014

The Madding Crowd

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Remus hates crowds and cities, and I have trouble understanding how anyone might not agree. People are characteristically valuable as individuals, but contemptible when making up part of a crowd. Even rats grow neurotic and turn cannibal when too closely confined with other rats.

Cities are crowds with bedrooms. As bad as they are, they’re perpetually on the verge of getting worse, one dissing away from a homicidal detonation, one power outage from Mogadishu, nine meals from Sarajevo. But relax, cities are ridiculously easy to avoid. They stay in one place, they can be seen at great distances, there are warning signs on the approaches—including a countdown in miles. The escape routes are clearly marked. No one not bound and gagged is in a city accidentally. Unavoidably perhaps, but not accidentally.

All cities have absolute, no kidding no-go zones where the life expectancy of an ingenue is measured in parts of a city block. No surprise, the top three are in Detroit. These places exist because, incredibly, the “victim class” has insisted it be disarmed through force of law, to protect the “thugga class” from unconscionable risk, apparently. It’s politically incorrect to say this, but in matters of life or death, too bad: demographics are an obvious and reliable tip-off. It’s what the phrase “being in the wrong place” means. And there is no “right time” to be in the wrong place.

Trains and planes are crowds in a can, but other than subways, they’ve been somewhat sorted and vetted. Stations and airports are the real problem. They’re the knot in the bow tie, the small end of the funnel. Even here there are opportunities to stay away from crowds. Choose a lightly patronized departure time, the train or plane may be crowded but the station or airport won’t be. Some are on the schedule mainly to get equipment positioned for the next surge or the next day. It’s here you may see crews’n stews waiting with the paying customers.

Those in commuter or regional airline territory should avoid the last flight of the day though, it’s likely to be overbooked. Which means you may be bumped and double your exposure. Travel on the least patronized days of the week in the least patronized week of the month. Holidays are good too. For instance, on Thanksgiving Day staff can outnumber passengers in the terminals.

The worst of the shopping crowds are easy to avoid, they come in predictable waves, twelve to a year. The high point is typically at or near the first of the month, dropping steadily toward the last week of the month, with an uptick at mid-month perhaps. Daily peaks center on the supper hour except on weekends. Holidays and sales are the exception. Outliers include periodic traffic-drivers, some per cent off for seniors on Tuesdays, or double credit for cents-off gasoline on Thursdays, that sort of thing. Others are influenced by traffic patterns of nearby attractions. Simple observation settles these out.

Americans of merely adequate means have a “fake it ’til you make it” attitude. Unlike their counterparts in Europe and South America, they make a far better public appearance than their situation warrants. This is a mistake generally, but especially when anywhere near a crowd. Nor is it wise to be dressed as if a tourist on the beach, or as one step above homelessness, or as an escapee from a halfway house. The identity of choice is one of neither affluence nor poverty. Project nothing remarkable or memorable. Avoid “legible” clothing of any kind, including sports logos. The desired effect is one of teflon anonymity, head-to-toe.

Crime and law enforcement victims are chosen from cues the victim presents, so attention to detail is important. No specialty hiking boots reequipped with 550 cord laces for instance, no Montblanc Meisterstuk and TimeWalker ensemble, no anything a standard-issue citizen wouldn’t routinely display. The usual cautions apply: keep a Condition Orange but not obviously, identify “what if” escape routes whether inside or outside, watch for preparatory moves by potential perps, be wary of anything that looks normal but oddly so, et cetera. Above all, stay away from crowds.

Crowds are a self-assembling cancellation of personal freedom and the natural prey of a police state. Example: when football fans are marched through metal detectors and facial recognition devices, disallowed ordinary containers and transparent women’s handbags are mandatory, we’re seeing a police-state environment. Where crowds don’t exist they’re created. Notice how police states channel people into controlled crowds so they can be ordered about efficiently. That’s what barriers and checkpoints and even “walk-don’t-walk” signals are all about.

So-called “holding centers” are crowds. Depression-era resettlement co-ops were crowds. Labor and extermination camps in occupied Europe and the Soviet Union were crowds. Also notice a police state believes it’s entitled to disperse or even attack a peaceful crowd that resists “crowd control”. The constitutional guarantee of ‘freedom of assembly’ is now freedom of closely watched and supervised assembly.

The fate of a crowd is the fate of all. A self-directed person stays away from crowds, or if unavoidable, stays on the fringes and escapes unnoticed at the first clear opportunity.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

One Feedback on "The Madding Crowd"


Hey, where did you get the image in this post. I really would like to use it for a print piece I am working on.


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