Do you ‘ache’ for these ‘cesspools?’ If so, why?


Here I go again asking whether you yearn to get out there amongst ’em — however you define “’em.”

And trying to understand it.

See the headline above. The picture — which I loved when I saw it a couple of weeks ago (the guy with his fist in the air seems to think he’s Henry V or something — once more unto the breach!) — is of a particularly silly event that many seemed to enjoy. Here’s the original story about it, from late April.

Anyway, the event and the apparent enjoyment it provided inspired one Galadriel Watson to wonder why: “What do we get out of them that’s worth exposure to hundreds or thousands of strangers?”

I read it today because I can’t imagine. I have no pacifistic objections to battling over the name “Josh,” particularly with pool noodles. I just don’t know why anyone would want to get out into any crowds, at any time, for any reason — concerts, street protests, eating out, what have you. Not that I haven’t willingly done it myself — I have no crippling fear of crowds. But when I have, the presence of the crowd is usually a strong argument against attending the event — one that must be overcome by a stack of positive considerations that overcome it — not a favorable feature.

Knowing that many people feel otherwise — and “feel” is the proper word, since I can’t imagine thought being involved in this impulse — I read it in part looking for a passage saying “not everyone feels this way,” and looking for the explanation of that, as a way of answering the subquestion, “What’s wrong with me?”

And sure enough, she mentions introverts, but the “expert” she quotes gets it wrong:

It doesn’t even seem to matter if you’re an extrovert or introvert. Tegan Cruwys is an associate professor of psychology at the Australian National University and a clinical psychologist. She said, “Personality might affect the kinds of events and social groups that appeal to you — for example, music festivals versus gaming conventions — but there is no evidence that these social phenomena only apply to extroverts. Introverts are not asocial.”

I beg to differ, based on actual, personal experience. It’s not that I’m asocial, or antisocial. I am, after all, a communitarian. At least in the abstract, I love the whole community. That doesn’t mean I want to be packed in with the whole crowd like a sardine.

I go into a crowd the way one enters a survival course — as an ordeal to get through. What is my exit strategy? Where are the bathrooms? (No, real bathrooms; not port-a-potties.) Is there food that I can eat, or will it be the usual junk one finds at such dubious gatherings? This is sort of perverse, but I’ve been known to approach some crowds willingly as a challenge, as a way of testing myself. For instance, I have this thing about liking to go shopping at Harbison on Christmas Eve, just to take pride in my ability to avoid the traffic as much as possible, walk from convenient parking rather than wait an hour to park at the mall itself, etc. And then congratulating myself upon arriving home the same day.

Yeah, I know that’s weird. But I think wanting to go into crowds in general is weird.

Anyway, this article did not reassure me about the motives for liking such gatherings being positive. It said things like:

  • “As a human, you have ‘a very primitive desire to feel like you’re a part of a larger collective’…” Yeah, I’ve noticed. That’s what gives us all this insanity of people seeing political parties or movements as their tribes. Very primitive, indeed.
  • “Large events also reinforce our sense of identity…” Yeah. Exactly. It’s so heart-warming to find yourself in a crowd of like-minded white supremacists, for instance. This is a portal into my dislike of Identity Politics, but I’ll close it and move on…
  • “This idea of ‘us’ also provides a sense of security. ‘I’d be more inclined to look out for you…'” Sure. Because you’re one of my “tribe.” To hell with those “other people…”

And so forth. None of which feels uplifting or ennobling to me, or even like fun.

Maybe y’all can give me reasons why it’s good to get out in a crowd, and make me feel like a selfish jerk who lacks something important that should connect him to other people — which is a position into which I sometimes talk myself.

But this article didn’t do it.

Anyway, have at it. Good luck…

38 thoughts on “Do you ‘ache’ for these ‘cesspools?’ If so, why?

  1. Randle

    I do not. I like people, as long as they stay in their lane. I am a swimmer, and I stay in mine. And I have noticed that Columbia drivers no longer grasp this concept. One reason I like USC football so much is it rounds up 80,000 or more of my fellow citizens and gets them off the streets. So, I encourage more of these events.

  2. Doug Ross

    CDC says today that if you are vaccinated you don’t have to wear a mask any more. This will be a great litmus test for the “trust the science” crowd. It will also be telling to see how many people think Joe Biden gets credit for this happening 14 weeks after he was elected when the vaccines were already created and the pipeline from Pfizer and Moderna was already ramping up. He gets about 10% of the credit in my book. The rest goes to the companies and scientists who created the vaccine in record time despite Fauci’s pessimism.

    1. Doug Ross

      At least the Joe Biden mask theatre should be over now. Wearing masks when outdoors and around people who were already vaccinated sent a terrible message for those who were on the fence.

      1. Barry

        I wear a face covering when I am around other people regardless. It’s incredibly easy. It’s not a big deal. I’ll continue to do it as long as there are people around me who continue to get COVID.

        Plus, in every situation I can think of, I have not been sure who has received the vaccine and who hasn’t- and I don’t go asking because it’s none of my business.

        1. Barry

          BTW- here is what President Biden said about that very issue.


          “Be patient with one another. You know, some may say, ‘I just feel more comfortable continuing to wear a mask.’ They may feel that way … please treat them with kindness and respect.” — Biden

    2. Randle

      The guidelines changed because enough people are now vaccinated and there is enough data on its effectiveness. Biden secured the vaccine needed and effectively managed the rollout to make that happen. He gets credit for that.

        1. Doug Ross

          People are on average of average intelligence and can be duped about a lot of things… including wearing a mask for no other reason than politics.

      1. Doug Ross

        What does “secured” mean? They existed long before he took office and were in trials before he won the election. Pfizer and Moderna had already established the logistics to double production before the inaugaration. All Joe did was keep wearing his mask even when he didn’t need to. His contribution was minimal.

        1. Doug Ross

          Dec 2020
          NBC News headline:
          “Biden advisers warn Trump mass vaccine timeline may be too optimistic”

          This was five months ago before Biden took office. Trump was right, Biden and Fauci were wrong. The only time Fauci has been right in the past 16 months is in hindsight. His “science” is bad forecasting and an inability to admit his mistakes. He’s a media darling but a poor spokesman.

          “The team of medical professionals advising Biden are warning internally that the program he will inherit from outgoing President Donald Trump may not live up to expectations of fast and widespread relief. Instead of mass distribution to the general population in the coming months, pandemic-fatigued Americans may find approval delays, distribution disruptions and insufficient quantities.

          Getting the vaccine to every American who wants to be vaccinated could take six months or longer, Dr. David Kessler, a former FDA commissioner who has been advising Biden, said in an interview Wednesday on MSNBC.

          It might not be until late summer or early fall before the vaccine begins to be widely available to the general public, said another physician close to the transition, who was not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on background.

          That is in contrast to the timelines being laid out by Trump administration officials, who have said the general public could start getting the vaccine in late February.”

          “Dr. Brett Giroir, who has been leading testing efforts for the Trump administration, said Wednesday that the majority of the U.S. population could be vaccinated by late spring or early summer. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease doctor, who is planning to stay on into the Biden administration, said he expects that by the end of March or the beginning of April, the general public will be able to get vaccinated, with life potentially starting to return to normal by late fall.”

          1. Doug Ross

            Anyone who can read that and still think Biden had some major part in the distribution of the vaccine is beyond hope in terms of critical unbiased thought.

            1. bud

              The initial rollout was terrible. Only 7 million doses by the end of December. Remember all the handwringing we all did trying to appointments? Trump handed Biden a mess. But Joe was up to the task. Everyone rolled up their sleeves and turned it around. Took a few months but they pulled off a near miracle. Trump gets a big fat F for his handling of COVID. Probably 300,000 dead because of his incompetence.

  3. Bryan Caskey

    I don’t ache for the cesspools, but I have been known to pine for the fjords.

    Ten points awarded to whoever gets that reference. 🙂

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    OK, 18 comments, and only two (from Randle and Bryan) touching in any way on the questions I was raising.

    So I ask again — do you feel a desire to get out into crowds again? And if you do, why? What do you get out of that?

    This is a matter that only has passing relationship to the pandemic or social distancing or any of that stuff. These are things I’ve wondered about for many years. It’s an aspect of what many would describe as “human nature” that perplexes me…

    1. Doug Ross

      Your blog is not a representative sample of the population of SC. Anyone who has been out and about for the past couple months has seen that pretty much everything is back to or close to normal. Two Notch Road area in Northeast Columbia was as busy as any weekend last week including all the sit down restaurants. Fireflies are playing ball and will likely be at full capacity in a month. Beaches and vacation spots will be packed this summer (just try and book ANYTHING) right now. The pent up demand for good times is going to be crazy.

      Bottom line – people who like to get out and enjoy life with others around them will do so. Introverts will stay home.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Uh-huh. Once again, please disregard the pandemic.

        What I want to know, from people who like to get out among crowds, is WHY?

        1. Bryan Caskey

          Leaving aside the pandemic, it’s simple. There’s a fun atmosphere of being at a big event for something you like. For people who like sports, they enjoy going to sporting events where they can be with other people who like that sports team and have shared enjoyment when the team does something great.

          If you don’t like sports, substitute something else. Most people have interests they like to share with others who also share those interests. It’s why conventions are a thing. People who like model railroading, or star wars, or cars, or whatever…go to conventions where they can talk about whatever the subject it.

          You’re a smart guy. You’re capable of understanding something you don’t personally experience, right?

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I think this and my previous response crossed paths.

            In answer to your question, I don’t think I’m THAT smart.

            I mean, I can say all the things the psychologist said in the article. But I still sort of marvel at it.

            Perhaps there IS some activity that would make me like the crowd itself. Say, if the convention center were filled with people who are as crazy about O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin universe as I am — if everyone were in Napoleonic naval dress, and we were drinking grog together and looking at the sun to see whether it was noon, I might like that. Not that it’s likely to happen.

            But I suspect I’d like it even better if, when I came out on deck, they all moved to the leeward side and left the windward side of the quarterdeck to me… 🙂

    2. Bryan Caskey

      “So I ask again — do you feel a desire to get out into crowds again? And if you do, why? What do you get out of that?”

      I would say that I feel the same amount of desire I felt pre-pandemic. I certainly don’t like heavy traffic at Christmas, or crowded malls on holidays because I don’t really like malls to begin with, so when it becomes crowded, my cost benefit analysis changes. However, on things I really enjoy (the Rosewood Crawfish Festival, or the MCAS Beaufort Air Show for instance) I would be fine to go there and go through “crowds” to the extent those qualify as “crowds”. Same for baseball, going to the beach, etc.

      I think most people will return to their pre-pandemic levels of preference. Some minority of people will have lasting changes to their preferences, and of that group, some will have logical reasons for their preference change. Some will have emotional reasons.

      I’ve been vaccinated, and I trust it works. I’m not going to let the fear of getting COVID-19 stop me from living my life any more than I’m going to stop driving my car to get places. Driving around is inherently more risky that staying home, but it’s really efficient to get places via car, so the small risk of a car accident is something I’m willing to accept in exchange for the convenience of driving. Likewise, I’m not going to stop going to Braves games with my family as the risk of us getting COVID-19 is probably less than getting into a car accident on the way to Atlanta.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Now that’s an interesting secondary issue — whether people who loved or hated crowds before will change as a result of the pandemic.

        But I thank you for addressing the initial question. It seems you’re somewhere in the middle on the issue of crowds. They’re a drawback, but not necessarily one that keeps you from doing something you want to do for other reasons. Which seems pretty healthy and normal to me. And in fact, though I’m a rather extreme introvert, I make a similar calculation myself: I don’t really mind the crowds at the State Fair, once I get in. (I can’t stand them when I’m in a line of cars trying to GET to the fairgrounds.)

        I’m still wondering about the people who really want to get out into crowds BECAUSE they are crowds. This article suggests that this is a widespread, even universal, urge, which I doubt. But I don’t deny there are SOME people who really dig it, possibly even a majority, and that still perplexes me. So I’m curious to see it addressed by people other than psychologists…

        1. Bryan Caskey

          “I’m still wondering about the people who really want to get out into crowds BECAUSE they are crowds. This article suggests that this is a widespread, even universal, urge, which I doubt. But I don’t deny there are SOME people who really dig it, possibly even a majority, and that still perplexes me. So I’m curious to see it addressed by people other than psychologists…”

          Sure. There are people who love living in the densely populated city of New York City precisely because of the population density. It’s the sort of folks that like the hustle-bustle, active energy of a major downtown city. They like living in NYC because there’s “an energy” to living in close proximity to so many others.

          On the flip side of that coin, there are folks who like living at the top of mountains so they don’t have any neighbors to bother them and would prefer to be left alone with their books and some music on the hi-fi.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              You’re welcome. FYI, Henry’s team won in the playoffs (again) so the championship hopes are still alive. We need two more wins to advance to the championship game.

        2. Doug Ross

          The big churches in this area would be considered crowds. Soda City is a crowd. Attending an event at Koger Center is a crowd. Tailgating, Darlington, Spoleto Festival.. Carowinds… the State Fair…

          I’d suggest by their very existence that most people don’t mind crowds… unless you are Yogi Berra who famously said about a restaurant “nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded”

          Maybe there’s a little elitism in the non-crowd people… not wanting to have to interact with the great masses of the unwashed.

          1. Bryan Caskey

            “…unless you are Yogi Berra who famously said about a restaurant “nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded…”

            A great line.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            Yes, that’s possible. I’ve often wondered that. Hence my joke about people moving to the other side when the captain comes onto the quarterdeck. Trying to make a little fun of myself there.

            I’d worry more about it if I didn’t mind a crowd of “elites.” But I think I would.

            That reminds me of something about crowds. Long, long ago, when I was a reporter (we’re talking the end of the ’70s here), when I had to go cover something involving a crowd — say, a sporting event (which I sometimes covered when sports needed a hand) — I used to go out of my way to sit among the crowd. I didn’t want the “privilege” of sitting in the press box. I wanted to experience the game the way the fans did — and also, to observe the fans more closely.

            Of course, maybe that was an elitist thing, too. Maybe I was keeping myself aloof from the sportswriters. 🙂

            It was the same at political gatherings or other crowd scenes. I thought it was stupid to be sequestered with the media, thereby giving myself a separate perspective. To the extent possible, I’d try to blend into the crowd. I went to some lengths to do this. Unless it was a coat-and-tie thing, I’d wear this old Navy flight jacket my Dad gave me. It was like one size too big for me, which was helpful. I’d sling a camera over my shoulder and hanging by my side, and put on the jacket over that. Then I’d put my notebook in the inside map pocket.

            Of course, the minute I actually used the camera or took out my notebook, my cover was blown. But up to that point, I could get a feel for was the crowd was experiencing…

  5. bud

    I’m mostly a stay-away-from-crowds kinda guy but sometime that energy that comes with like minded people gathered together is quite exciting. Like at a football game or in Times Square on a busy evening or at a Broadway play or a political rally. The last time I was in a big crowd was at a Pete Buttigieg rally in late February 2020. Not something I’d do often but for that night it was thrilling.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      My wife and I found ourselves in London on New Year’s Eve a decade ago. The crowds in London go to Trafalgar Square on that night, as New Yorkers go to Times Square.

      Neither of us had the slightest interest in getting caught up in that mob at Trafalgar — even though my wife is a far more normal, social person than I am.

      So instead, she and I walked to Primrose Hill, just a few blocks from our hotel. She had heard that was a good place from which to watch what happened in the heart of the city. At the top of it, you’re up high enough to see the fireworks — about three miles away.

      Of course, we weren’t the only people who knew about it. Most of the way, we were walking alone, but when we got to the park we were among many people converging on the top of the hill. At the summit, I suppose, there were several hundred. But that was OK. This was a much mellower crowd than one would find at Trafalgar. Sure there were some young people with wine bottles, but also grownups with kids in strollers. Sort of like people visiting the park on a Sunday afternoon. WAY quieter.

      It was nice. I wrote about it at the time (those horrible pictures are from my old Blackberry)…

      1. Bill

        The largest the crowd got at the Atlanta Pop Fest was when BB King played;blacks AND whites on a Sunday and its free including sex and all legal drugs:600,000 +
        and I was with the black drummer’s gf(Allman’s),Benzena…

      2. Randle

        Speaking of crowds in Europe. OMG. I tend to avoid them anywhere because, well, I generate my own energy. But it’s almost impossible there most of the time now because of the hordes of tourists. They travel in packs and will mow you down to snap a picture of something they aren’t even looking at. Forget lining up and waiting your turn, although I still do. Brits handle this the best, as they are queuers. They will scream at people who butt in line and send them to the back. And it is good.
        But, as Bryan says, if it’s some particular thing you like, it’s tolerable or even preferable to be with a lot of people, especially if what you like isn’t that widely shared. I would be concerned if I were the only one in a theater. I went to Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday celebration at what is now the Stephen Sondheim Theater (That was his birthday gift, it turned out). I am a fan since my teens, and outside of NYC, maybe some local theater people shared my enthusiasm or have any idea who he is. Having lived in NYC, I knew there would be a good audience, but I was unprepared for who would be in it— Mike Nichols behind us in line, Cornel West, two rows down, Christine Baranski and her daughter, Victor Garber, etc. etc. It was jam- packed with Broadway and literary types, and my friend and I sitting among them, with our Macy’s shopping bags. Now, that was a fun crowd. And we all loved Steve! And he was great.
        But maybe this will explain the crowd-seekers v. loners. I read an article on thrill-seekers once. They jump out of planes and ride roller coasters because they need that boost to feel good. Whereas less adventurous types are already humming along contentedly and don’t need a jolt. It’s chemistry. Crowd-seekers are probably the same — simply deficient. We should pity them and encourage them to seek each other out. In the Gobi Desert.

  6. Barry

    I don’t like crowds. Yes, a avoid them at all costs.

    Yes, I’ve much more careful now than before around anyone.

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