Exploring the Cityscape, part II

Part 2: The Crowded Areas

In this part I’ll deal with the crowdiness of a city, as compared to where I used to live. In Northern Norway, more exactly the county of Salangen, we’re short of jobs, short of schools, short of short distances and short of people. We’re also, philosophically speaking, generally short.

In Sjøvegan, a little village by a beautiful fjord, we had approximately 1,500 people living in or around the area. In the scattered center of it all, where I used to work and live, there were about 800 people. It all meant that you knew everybody (either by face, family relations or drinking habits) and everybody knew you. For some people, mostly families with young children, this is very reassuring. For a youth or young adult, it’s undoubtedly a good cause of general paranoia. I now live in Oslo, the greatest city and the capital of Norway, which still is referred to as "the greatest village in the world".

One interesting phenomena I picked up here and during my travels to larger cities (as London, Berlin, Habana, Beijing) was the way people move in crowded streets. It’s all pretty queue-based, but still there are some elementary differences. First of all: it is not a queue qua queue, but more of an infinite numbers of queues running parallells up or down the given street. As we only have a couple of long streets here in Oslo, I’ll speak about our "parade street", Karl Johans gate, which runs from the central trainstation at Oslo S up to the royal castle.

During our national holiday at the 17th of May, Oslo is filled to the brim with people. If you were to walk from Oslo S up to the castle, you could face an hour and a half of walking! And it usually takes maximum twelve minutes. Luckily I know my way around and can get from one part of the city to another using public transportation or my own two feet in a lot less time. This is because I’ve learned what it means to be a part of the stream.

The way people move up Karl Johan on a regular Saturday is based on divisions of several "walking-classes". Examples of these are: a) Tall, fast-walking people, b) Short, fast-walking people, c) Old people or people with families, d) handicapped people in wheelchairs and whatnot, e) fat people, etc. etc. Unless you know an alternative route from point A to point B you stick to a more or less direct line, right? In order to acchieve the highest possible velocity during transit you need to find your walking-class. Since I’m short and prefer to move quickly in crowded streets (because I get stressful and am vulnerable to pick-pockets) I usually go within the a) or b) class, but sometimes you’ll encounter a fat guy in a hurry, which opens up an undertow-gap you can easily take advantage of.

When you’ve found your preferred walking-class, and it may take a few tries, hang on to the leader or be the leader of it, moving in this way; you behave to your environments as you would if you were driving a car. Treat people as objects since you generally have no interest in them, but in reaching point B. Since there are no rules to this traffic, you can conduct a safe passing on either side of the obstacle. Measure immediate distances and regulate your speed thereby. As while driving, look out for surprises. That’s more or less it!

I was astounded by the psychology of this phenomena previously unfamiliar with me, especially after my first 17th of May down here, and I thought it worthy an own part in my series Exploring the Cityscape. If you found it boring, feel free to e-mail someone else, but stay tuned for more. You should also check out:

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