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    Posted November 26, 2011 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Cultural census: Get around

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    Crowd Out Loud: Avoiding Anxiety in the Face of Overpopulation


    Ignoring the exasperated groans of the man walking behind me on the Soho escalators is impossible, even with music blasting through my earbuds.
    We arrive at the end; I walk off easily and the man appears in a flash, passing me sharply. He looks sweaty. Speed-walking off, I see him shake his head and mouth, “Come ON!” targeted at the next person ambling obliviously ahead of him.

    Cities are always overcrowded with people and there is no exception here; one of the first remarks people make about Hong Kong is how noticeably overpopulated it is.

    Everyone is in a state of go—going to work, going to class, going to lunch, going out—nonstop day and night GO! The frenetic vibe is unmistakably familiar for some. Others are always lamenting about this aspect of their love-hate relationship with Hong Kong. But imagine if that vibe suddenly ceased to exist – the city's legitimacy and substance would simply evaporate.

    Crowdedness = Popularity

    The fact that Hong Kong is so crowded means that it is the place to be. The same goes for other highly populated cities around the globe – New York City, Tokyo, Beijing. These and other metropolises are exciting, always full of things to do, see, and experience. Those that come and go to these places are aware of that. Perhaps it’s not something that you would read as an attraction in your guidebook – “enjoy the overpopulated streets of (name of city)”—but people instantly merge with the highly charged environments whether they want to or not.

    Consider zebra crossings. It is somewhat of a life/death situation when you find yourself scurrying across the street on the last few green blinks. Look at it this way – aren’t those few seconds exhilarating? Will you make it to the other side? Will you survive this time? Picture yourself being in a video game. (We can just hope that you or I never reach the Game Over stage.)

    If you’re not the risky type, you can always wait for the next light to indicate your safe journey across the street. And while you’re waiting, it’s always fun to observe your surroundings.

    What’s the rush?

    Being part of the crowd is actually an opportunity for you to relax a little bit. More specifically, if you are sitting in a bus, a car, or a tram amidst a traffic stalemate, it’s a good opportunity to relax a bit, take it easy, listen to the radio, your iPod, reflect on your day, or people watch.

    Someone is always picking their nose and failing to be discreet; showy couples are having nauseating public displays of affection, (or overly-dramatic breakups); Canon/ Nikon DSLRs are weighing down the necks of bewildered tourists; high school girls are V-signing/ peace-signing their way in front of absolutely everything; queues of people are winding around corners to try the self-proclaimed best bowl of “niu rou la mian,” (a.k.a. ramen beef noodles). The next time you find yourself bored, agitated, or even hyperventilating trying to get somewhere in a hurry, stop and take a look at everyone around you. You might happen to find something beautiful or interesting in the most unlikely places.

    You pushed me...but I’ll say “sorry.”

    When people get you all worked up, either by shoving you out of the way, stepping on your heels, or anything else, it’s not always good to ignore it. I’m a personal fan of giving the “death stare” which often effectively elicits an apologetic sorry (and a daily tribute to Pavlov’s classical conditioning). We've all been on both sides of the equation and we are well aware that these situations are by no means avoidable. Whether you are the perpetrator or the victim, be the bigger person, smile, and apologize first. You will be in both positions at one point or another… don’t dwell on it. Let it pass / let them pass you. You’ll reach your desired endpoint soon enough.
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