Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How to Deal with Humans

I traveled to Chicago this weekend to visit my mother. She lives there part-time because her company’s headquarters is there. This time around she invited me and my stepsister to come with her.

Coincidentally, they were shooting a scene for Transformers III just blocks from the apartment. It was an action scene, so it took up the entire Michigan Avenue bridge as well as several blocks surrounding it. As you can imagined, crowds swarmed in many areas, not only to see the action, but also because of the detours in several areas surrounding the scene, being that it was blocking one of the most major arteries in the city. There were several crowd control agents at many of the major intersections. These people had probably the worst job imaginable. They were yelling at people not to stop in the roadways, not to wait in stairwells, basically doing everything to keep traffic flowing. Because people, especially tourists, are stupid, a lot of them were getting yelled at. These crowd control agents had the worst job because their job is vital to keeping people safe but they are hated for it.

I was walking down a stairwell to get to the Chicago Riverwalk, and one the people in front of me stopped to answer a text. The crowd control agent yelled at him to keep walking. As he started walking again, he said “Jeez, what a bitch. Why did she have to yell at me?” As we reached the end of the stairwell, I said “Look behind you, and then look up.” He looked behind him and then looked up. “When you stopped, we all stopped. That’s why she yelled at you.” I pointed out how some of the people caught at the top of the stairwell were stopped in the street, and how that could cause accidents. It’s amazing how defensive people can get when the perceived to be threaten by authority.

A similar incident happened later after my family and I had just finished an architectural river boat cruise. The whole cruise of about 200 people had to exit off of this one platform. One of the geriatrics stopped to talk to one of the crewman, effectively blocking THE REST OF THE PASSENGERS from exiting. The crew member did nothing to move this person out of the way, they just stood there and answered her inane questions. After about ten seconds, I asked the woman kindly but forcefully to move out of the way so that the rest of us could exit. She looked at me as if I had asked her how much she would charge for a hand job. Her icy demeanor didn’t bother me though, because it was effectively melted by the gratitude of the HUNDREDS of people behind me.

We are social creatures, yet we do not understand our own social hierarchies. We don’t know how crowds work, we either defy authority completely or follow it blindly, and we seem to favor emotion over logic. All of these situations are dangerous for both personal and societal well-being, especially the part on authority. We will gladly defy our doctors, teachers, career mentors and other figures of personal authority, but then we will blindly follow figures of societal authority, as seen with the Nazi regime. I think the crux of this problem is that people do not bother to make themselves aware of themselves, their environment, and their situations. Some people just sleepwalk through their lives. I’m guilty of this every now and then. Sometimes I’ll be deep in thought, or just too tired to concentrate. However, when someone wakes me from this mental slumber, I am grateful. Unfortunately, most others react with defensiveness or disgust.

This problem can be solved if people accept the following truths/life lessons:

1) There is a big world around you, and there are billions of other people in it. This can be explained by this Venn diagram.
2) You are not the smartest person in the world. In fact, you are probably not even in the 80th percentile. However, the more you come to grips with this fact, the smarter you will become. A model or method might seem illogical to you, but you should accept the idea that maybe it works for reasons you can’t understand. Because I love making graphs, here is one that represents IQ distribution:
3) Question everything, but question it without bias.
4) No one is out to get you, or purposefully trying to piss you off. In a crowd of strangers, no one cares about you enough to try to get under your skin. Sure, some things people do may seem illogical, but no one is doing just to piss you off.
5) You will find that you will be a lot happier if you live by The Golden Rule. I know this seems cliché, but there’s a reason why some things are cliché.
6) When you are caught in a mass of people that needs to be managed, do what you can to help. For instance, on airplanes. Whenever I get the aisle seat, I always unload my rowmates luggage from the overhead compartment while we are waiting to exit. This saves time and minimizes blocking the line to exit. Let me see if I can illustrate this one:

I believe that if one person starts following these rules, then their effect will spread. One will find that they are happier, smarter, and more connected with the world. As a good friend of mine once said “We are all connected by a web. If one of us pulls just a little, we all move.”


sheribomb said...

Awesome post, Heather. I totally agree -- we can all get smarter just by trying to be a little smarter, and we can all make the world a better place by just being a little more considerate. And I love the charts!! :)

sandra said...

OMG.......that was so good and I would bet that you
are the first to say it, even write it, in this world that
SO needs to hear it......I will make sure lots of people see this as you say it so well, not to mention the awesome and entertaining charts!