“I love mankind … it’s people I can’t stand!!” ― Charles M. Schulz
As funny as it may sound, this quote from Charles Schulz [spoken VIA his character Linus] says it all about us. Yes, we just love the company of each other but yet there are certain habits for which we hate [well… almost] one another. Habits that are so simple to avoid, but unsurprisingly present everywhere like an endemic. Here is my collection of popular observations which I find very amusing, if not frustrating.
One thing which humans fail at, where insects and animals fare far better is standing a queue. It is as simple as standing a feet or two away from the person in front. But have you seen humans line up in a perfect queue anywhere? It is just not possible. We either end up being close enough to breath down the neck of the person in front of us. Or stand huddled with our friends, family, pets, etc; Or be left so far behind, since we are busy on our phones, that unless we are yelled at we do not move. Or we decide not to stand in line, but just slightly away… many people doing this means that the queues naturally meander before ending up in a delta of sorts.
Another familiar sight which I really find amusing is passengers alighting from an airplane. It does not matter whether the journey was for thirty minutes or a few hours or a red-eye. The airplane lands, taxies and reaches the gate. It could be a good half hour before the doors to the plane are opened. But as soon as the seat belt signs are switched off, all the passengers who were patiently seated all along the journey stand in unison. Everyone knows that there is not enough real estate and head room to stand comfortably inside the plane. But it just does not matter. Almost everyone stands hunched and brushing against each other. I have travelled a bit in my life and can vouch for the fact that this sight is as predictable as ever in all parts of the world.
Let us now move onto some rituals and biases in everyday traffic. Zebra-crossing at traffic signals are meant for a purpose. Vehicles are supposed to stop just before the line allowing pedestrians to safely cross the road. Have you ever seen such discipline in this part of the world? The vehicles can be all over the lines, leaving the pedestrians to twist and squirm between the vehicles to reach the other side of the road. Another observation is how vehicles, yes indeed vehicles, communicate with each other. Vehicles now come equipped with powerful honks. This is because, it is not only meant to be used for emergency, rather it is a mode of communication between vehicles. If one feels happy honk your favourite tune; if one is angry take it out on your honk; if one needs to abuse another vehicle on the street… just honk. Given all this cacophony, accidents are bound to occur on our infamous streets. In all such accidents the vehicle that is more costly and bigger is to be blamed. Period.
Haggling over prices is an enviable skill, since I really struggle at it. Well not really since I do not make any attempt at it. I just pay whatever the vendor asks me to. Hence, I render my respect to all folks who can snatch a good bargain. All these skills, however, are put to good use only with the vendors in the unorganized sector. The same folks undergo a complete metamorphosis when they enter shopping malls or even when they shop online. Here they just do not have any choice but to cough up the price that has been quoted. Why beat up someone who is struggling to make ends meet and give up on folks who have deep pockets? Well, I do not have an answer to this. Just calling it human psych is an easier way out of this conundrum.
The COVID crisis brought to light another such behaviour which appeared all over the world. My friend coined an apt name for this. Chin Diapers!!! Face masks were recommended as a safety measure to prevent contacting the virus and also to prevent spreading the virus. Masks had to be worn to cover the mouth and the nose. Within no time the masks slipped from the nose to just the mouth. And very soon it further slipped from the mouth the chin. The mask, once converted to a chin diaper, served no purpose thereafter. Everyone, starting from a tea seller to famous world renowned politicians were doing this. At one point I felt embarrassed and foolish to wear the mask appropriately when almost everyone around me was absolutely nonchalant about it.
Next comes social distancing. Remember the term? Whenever and wherever I followed it, a couple of folks used to come and stand between me and the person who was in front of me. They always seemed to think that I never existed in the queue. With time, sadly this discipline was killed even at the liquor stores. It was unbelievable to see that we like to stick to each other even in times of despair and desperation.
The last one I would like to call out is how mobile phones have started controlling us. It is a rare sight to see an adult without at least one mobile phone. Gone are the days when it was said that this gadget has invaded our private space. Now most humans feel incomplete without their mobile phone. It is an extension, sorry, it is another part of our body now. When people fight or argue with each other, they do not point their fingers anymore. Rather they point their phones at each other as they engage themselves in the verbal duel. Many a time it is difficult to find out if a person is talking on the phone or not. I have made an fool of myself a few times returning smiles and gestures of strangers, only to realize that it was meant for the person on the other end of the call. Indeed there is a long list of features that mobile phones come with. Yet, there is one thing I miss in the telephone of yore. And that is banging the phone real hard to end a call and make my intent clear. It is a pity that the modern phones do not have anything to mimic this feature. However hard you may press the button which ends the call, the effect still remains muted.