Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Maddening Crowds - 10 Rules for Crowded Aisle Etiquette

I am a regular visitor to Lancaster, PA's Central Market, the country's oldest indoor farmer's market. It's a great place with great food: fresh, homegrown produce, any kind of meats or cheeses your heart desires, and stands presenting cuisine from places as far abroad as Greece, Thailand, and the Middle East.

It also has crowds. Locals like myself come here as part of our regular grocery shopping. Tourists come here because of it's historic value. Amateur musicians, pamphlet-wielding religious freaks, and sidewalk saviors come here to reach the wide and varied audience found here.

And, like anywhere else large numbers of people gather, no one seems to understand the most basic rules of how to move through crowded aisles. It being the last week or so before Christmas, I have no doubt you will find yourself to be part of similar crowds somewhere. So, although my list of rules below has been written specifically after seeing all ten violated at Central Market this morning, no doubt you will find that you are able to apply them in other locales:

1. You are not alone. You are not living in a vacuum. The person towards whom you are directly walking (me) is real, and you will not be able to miraculously walk through me. Do not register surprise or annoyance at this fact. Don't give me the "where'd you come from can't you see I'm walking here" glare when you made eye contact with me from ten yards away.

2. Do not push an empty double-stroller around while your demon children run about screaming like banshees. You are in the way. Yes, YOU are the one in the way. Don't give me that look because you can't maneuver that hulking stroller and herd your vile spawn at the same time.

3. Yes, your children are demon spawn. They are horribly misbehaved. They may be the loves of your life, but they are knocking stuff over, having a sword fight with loaves of Italian bread, and kicking me in the shin. While you're beaming with parental pride, they are spewing out language that would make Sarah Silverman blush. Just leave them at home. Trust me, everyone will be better off.

4. Do not suddenly stop and stare slackjawed into space. Keep moving! If you've momentarily forgotten where you are and why you're there, or if you're scanning your memory banks for the next item on your to-buy list, smack in the middle of the traffic flow is not the place to regain your bearings. You wouldn't pull out into the middle of an intersection and then stop and decide which way to turn, would you? (Oh wait...I've seen that happen too many times as well.)

5. Put the cell phone away. NOW! If you don't have the authority to decide what kind of lunchmeat to bring home without consulting someone who's not here, maybe THAT person should be here instead of you.

6. It's wonderful that you have run into an old friend. The place to stop and catch up on each other's adventures over the past twenty years is not in the middle of a traffic aisle! I'm only saying "Excuse me," once, then I'm pushing through. Don't give me that "how dare you interrupt our conversation" glare. Again, YOU are the one in the way!

7. At most stands or counters, there is a line. Wait in it! Do not push up past everyone and lean on the counter hoping you'll get served sooner. Yes, I know you're in hurry. So am I. So are the other ten people in line. I don't care if you're the President of the United States - get to the back of the line!

8. Before you even head out the door of your home, ask yourself this question: is it really necessary for my entire extended family to join me? Getting out of the house may be good for Grandma and Grandpa, but they move really slow - a bad thing in a crowd. They also have the strongest tendency to violate Rule #4.

9. If you are bringing your entire family, or every friend and neighbor you know, do not walk three or more abreast, chatting like you're having afternoon tea. You're moving way too slowly, and you're taking up the aisle for BOTH directions of traffic. Congratulations, you're now in EVERYONE'S way!

10. It's a freaking market, and you are not blind. Why in the name of all that is holy do you have your dog with you?!? Your misbehaving kids, doddering grandparents, and chatty friends are bad enough, but now I can't get through the aisle because Rover wants to get to know me better. Your rights to go out of your house should be immediately and indefinitely revoked!

Keep these rules in mind the next time you're out and about. Or, if you want to have fun, keep score of how many of these rule violations you see. Make "Idiots in the Crowd" bingo cards. Just, whatever you do, stay out of my way. I'm busy and have places to get to!


  1. love the rules!! I am going to make some bingo cards for next time I go out!

  2. Yes, your children are demon spawn.

    Glad to see someone pointing out the obvious.

    Children's behavior improves with distance. My son, of whom I am very proud, lives in Indiana. I have a granddaughter in Iowa with a couple of children who are absolute darlings because I've never been there, and they've never been here.