Monday, September 19, 2016

The Wisdom Of Crowds

I'm told there are 1.8 million Muslims attending the Hajj this year. That makes for some big crowds, though not quite as bad as I was expecting. A little worse than we were here in December 2014 for our Umrah, but it still feels safer here than at Old Trafford when I was a kid. It's true that there are moments when you become aware of just how unreasonably packed people have become in certain locations, but the vast majority behave well with a sense of the vulnerability of many of those around.

A couple of things that have happened to me over the last two days nicely illustrate that vulnerability. Reaching the top of the escalator in the hotel the other day I was faintly irritated to find someone grasping my shoulder and then my arm. The fact that we weren't even in a real crowd made the behaviour seem even more irritating, as was the fact that the grasper was a man, Then I realised that the poor guy doing the grasping was actually terrified. He was panicking as we approached the end of the escalator, presumably because he had no idea of how to get off. Then something similar happened to me going up some crowded steps into the mosque yesterday for one of the prayers. I felt my shirt being tugged, football style, as I ascended and turned around annoyed to confront whoever was responsible. An old fellow grinned at me both ruefully and goofily and I ended up smiling back at him. I think he'd decided to hitch a ride.

I'm having to relearn the lesson I grasped on my first visit here. Being in the crowd is an  excellent way of maintaining one's sense of the varied needs of one's fellow man, and woman, and an excellent way of developing patience, of which a surplus is required here.

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