Big Crowds, what do you hate about them (or Notes from a fireworks show)

OK. So tonight I went down to Grant Park in Chicago for the big fireworks show (Chicago has their fireworks a night early so the suburbs can go on the Fourth) and I certainly saw a bunch of pointless stuff I felt like sharing. Beyond being the big Independence Day festivities, Chicago is also hosting “The Taste;” a big food festival with hundreds of booths from various city restaurants. So, by the time we got there at 7:30, it was PACKED. Being there, I was reminded of why I truly hate being in big crowds (A GQ within a MPSIMS: Is there a name for a phobia of large, close gatherings? I’m fairly certain that agorophobia doesn’t cover it, since I generally don’t mind leaving my house, but is there a name for the intense fear of pressing crowds? Cuz I think I have it.) So here are some mundane, pointless stuff I noticed from from the big day at Grant Park:

** 1) Minor Annoyances **

These are things I classify as stuff I get annoyed by anyways, but are magnified by being in a big crowd. The major catagory here is prosteltyzers. I was mildly (and equally) peeved by the large number of people pushing their cause on the Jackson Street bridge into the park (For people unfamiliar with Grant Park, its sort of the “Central Park” of Chicago; except to get in or out its is only accessable by about 4 bridges over the Illinois Central Train Tracks. You should see it when the crowds leave after the show). It didn’t matter what the causeheads were advocating, I found it all equally annoying. Everything from things I supported (the Legalize Pot chick) to things I could care less about (the Mumia Abu Jamal guy) to things I don’t really support (the religious people) all annoyed me equally. It wasn’t what they were saying, it was the way they were choosing to spread their message. Do people REALLY hope to obtain converts to their causes in this manner? The only people whom I see take an interest in this sort of prostelytizing are people whom already agree with the speakers.

** 2) Willful Indifference **

On the next magnitude of the annoyance scale today were people who showed a general ignorance of the fact that YES they were in a huge crowd and that NO this did not mean they could act in any manner they wished. Number one on this list were people who insisted on smoking. Now, normally smokers don’t bother me THAT much. I would usually put them into the “minor annoyance” catagory, but the people bothering me were the ones who were smoking in the MIDST of a pressing crowd. OK, why do people feel the need to smoke when you have dozens of bodies pressed up against you? Under normal circumstances smoking in public is somewhat rude, but tolerable. This is unforgivable. Certainly you can wait until you can actually have space to smoke the cigarettes?!?

The other people in this catagory are the people with baby strollers. At least every 5 minutes, I was bashed in the heels by some impatient mother trying to get out of the crowd. What does having a child in a stroller give you more rights to clear through a crowd than anyone else does? It was aggrivating. Plus, on several specific occasions, the strollers THEMSELVES were the cause of the pushing crowds, as being less mobil they would often get stuck on curbs, cracks in pavement, etc. Oh, and don’t get me started on pushing children in a stroller when they are old enough to walk. The main problem, however, I see with bringing small children to an event like this is the potential harm to the child. It’s just neglectful and selfish of the parents to drag their young ones through opressive and tight crowds. Guess what… part of having a child means having to make sacrifices for the safety of your child. Bring them too the fireworks, but sit down on the blanket and keep them out of the crowds where they are an annoyance to others and a danger to themselves.

Add to this the “excuse me” people. Trust me, I would LOVE to be able to let you by. Really. But in order to do so, I would have to actually be able to physically move. But I can’t, so shut the f^(k up and go with the flow.

**3) Deliberate antisocial behavior **

Ok, these are the people doing stuff with the intent of pissing people off. It’s one step up from the people doing otherwise rude stuff that shows willful indifference. These are people trying to take advantage of the large crowds to be general assholes. This includes people SHOUTING shit for no apparent reason at the top of their lungs, people lighting off fireworks in large crowds (didn;t see any of this last year. Was a rash of it this year), people lighting off fireworks in tight spaces, so they get DEAFENINGLY loud (like under the “El”), annoying fratboy ya-yas kicking a soccerball in the middle of a pedestrian thoroughfare, plus the sundry of theives, looters, and pickpocketers, and litterers that ones finds in these crowds.

But one guy takes the cake. I actually couldn’t look at him, because I spent the whole time in his presence visuallizing pushing my fingers into his eyesockets. I could actually feel the juice of his eyeballs on my fingers, I could hear the pop of each let go. Now, what could inspire an otherwise rational person to this level of rage? Well, it started on the Jackson Street Blue Line subway stop. There was this asshole, big fat loud fucker who was standing on the platform not letting the doors close. Everytime they were about to close, he’d lean on them so to prevent them from closing. We were waiting for another, less full train, and standing on the platform watching this tool. He’d stop the doors, laugh real loudly, and if anyone looked at him he’d start posturing like he wanted to kick their ass. He was having a grand time enjoying himself. Then 4 cops came by and we all thought it was over. But no, the cops spoke to him, but much to everyone elses dismay, he wasn’t carted off and beaten with billy clubs. He started off a ways down from us, but as time progressed, he kept getting closer. As the next train arrived, he actually came down to get in the same doors we did. Great, thought I. It wasn’t over. He had a bunch of firecrackers and a lighter. He started posturing like he was going to light one off in the train (well, after another ten minutes of holding the doors open. He only stopped because he missed his one opportunity and they snuck shut on him. He bitched for a while about this). 5 stops until my stop (Polk). Between Jackson and the next stop (LaSalle) a college age chick took vocal umbridge to his threats to light off his firecrackers. So he kept lighting his lighter and holding it to her hair. Then, we get to LaSalle, and he lights a firecracker and throws it off the train just before the doors close, right near an big Indian family with little kids. This amused him to no end. Next stop, Clinton. At Clinton he was distracted by his “hold the door” game long enough for the chick to grab the firecrackers and throw them on the floor. She pushed them over to my wife, who stepped on them so he couldn’t see them; he never noticed her (Thankfully. If he had it would have DEFINATELY been the end of his vision, and his testicles quite possibly as well. I’d have made sure of it.). Little did we know that he had more firecrackers, because between Clinton and Halsted he lit one off on the train (LOUD bang), and demanded the rest back. It was at this point that I started to go blind with rage. I gripped the metal bar I was holding on to so tight that later I was sure I hurt myself. My arm still aches. I had to close my eyes and hum quietly to myself so as to prevent myself from going insane. It is quite possible that I would have gnawed his throat off with my teeth. He was fairly quiet from Halsted to Racine (despite constantly badgering everyone for his firecrackers, threatening various people, holding his lighter flame up to various people, etc.) Finally Polk came, and we were able to get off. Man, was that guy pissing me off. I was so enraged, I actually lost control of my right hand (probably also had something to do with the deathgrip I had on the bar). My hand kept seizing up like Rutger Hauer’s in the final sequence of blade runner. I kept having muscles spasms and adenaline rushes for an hour after I got home.

SO that was my MPSIMS for the day. WHat about everyone else. How were your 4th of July celebrations? Any other annoying crowd stories out there?

Oh, jayron, that’s awful. Props to you for your self-control.

I don’t have much to add, except that I love when people leave a cup of pop or whatever on the ground so I can hit it with my foot and slosh it all over my leg.

I was at the fireworks display in Chicago in '89. Thought I saw my high-school BF, with whom I’d lost touch, in the crush, but couldn’t go after him to be sure or I’d have lost the people I came with.