A very good friend of mine has become lately one of my Indian sociology gurus.
Not only because he is Indian, but also because he is not originally from Bangalore and claims to feel like a foreigner most of the time. More important, he is a very analytical person and has his own theories about things I´m normally not able to understand on my own.
After sharing with me one of his explanations/theories on why some people tend to crowd, I developed a very simple model to picture a behavior I see very often regarding planning and the flow of a basic decision-making process. The main objective is to show the logic in following, let´s say, a path AB. The model contemplates courses 1 and 2:
Model 1: Focuses on understanding that you are currently in point A and want to reach point B. This process includes making simple planning to make sure you reduce uncertainty and potential obstacles as much as possible to make the smoothest AB transition.
Model 2: Focuses on explaining the lack of previsions of things that could go wrong in the AB path. A main reason for failing to reach the objective could be as simple as not knowing what or where point B is.
I will use the elevator example and the reasoning my friend told me to look at, since one of the first things I noticed in India was precisely that people at certain levels not very often queue. Similar behavior can be seen in my New Year´s Rickshaw Adventure where for the sake of “winning” in the short term, a problem is created in the following instance. But that second instance is, of course, something that would be taken care of later once the problem arises (lack of planning). Please note this is just a matter of perceptions and any resemblance with reality is merely a coincidence.
The question is: What do you do when you are in front of an elevator?
My answer for this was that I will come in front of it, press the button for going either up or down AND step back because there is a possibility that someone is inside when the doors open and they SHOULD walk out before anyone comes in.
This is Model 1 in action, if you thought something similar, this means that you had the prevision that someone could need space to exit and you didn´t want to create any chaos by crowding right in front of the elevator´s door. There is also the assumption that if you were the first to arrive to the elevator, anyone coming after would queue right behind you.
Model 2 infers that someone could possibly press the button in the elevator and staying right in front of the door, even if people could potentially be inside and would require space to walk out, as I discussed. But the logic here sometimes is, according to my friend, that some people would naturally want to go first and for this, they would go around people that were queuing before them, which would be considered in many parts of the world as an offensive intrusion.
Rarely people stand in front of the elevator’s doors just to watch it come up and down and see people come in and out. You most likely are standing there because you are going to make use of it, right?
So the application of Model 2 explains the lack of prevision of considering a near-future potential chaos of having a bunch of people trying to rush in at the same time that people are trying to rush out. And trust me, in India, there are lots of people, so buildings, shopping malls, offices, etc are often so crowded that a little order in the system could improve the flow of people drastically.
My ex-roommate once told me that I analyzed things too much, and maybe she is right. But sometimes when the “go with the flow” doesn´t work, you need to look deeper into understanding why certain actions are taken without considering what is coming ahead and your logic could actually be nonsense in certain contexts.
These are the times when you learn to become more tolerant to save yourself from literally going mad… (assuming, of course, that creating silly models and writing your frustrations in a blog isn´t mad enough already)…