Musings of a programmer, musician, photographer, and Christian.

Oct 15, 2013 - 5 minute read - Comments

Navigating The Crowds

categories: [crowds, dbtg, navigating] GCT on a Friday PM Rush

I’ve had a lot of experience dealing with walking through and around crowded areas, having commuted to Manhattan for over a decade in total and having to navigate crowded subway stations (like Union Square, Times Square, etc.), as well as travelling in crowded areas (think Disney World), and wanted to pass along the wisdom and advice I’ve learned the hard way.

Look Where You’re Going

Of course you need to look where you’re going! But that’s not what I’m talking about here. When walking through a crowd, when there are people that look like they’re going to get in your way, people tend to look at them. This isn’t your best bet as that tends towards the awkward dance where you try to get out of each other’s way. Keep your eyes pointed at where you want to go, by looking past the crowd not at any person in particular. In many cases, this is almost as good as a force field, where people will just get out of your way. Some people don’t notice until fairly late, so just because they’re only about 10ft (3m) away, doesn’t mean they won’t catch on, but you do need to prepare for evasive manuvers just in case.

Using A Linebacker

In football, in a ground play, you look for the holes, or you have a linebacker to make one. In a crowded area, it’s not a lot different: you look for holes, and if you’re lucky a linebacker will appear and be going where you want to go. A linebacker can work wonders in a crowd. Find someone who’s going in the same general direction that you want to and keep close behind them. Let them make the path, and you get to follow in their wake. In one particular instance in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the family and I got about halfway across the park by following a vendor cart. If you’ve seen Die Hard With A Vengeance, there’s a scene where John McClane uses an ambulance as a linebacker to get through traffic. Same basic idea here.

Don’t Back Up

You don’t have eyes behind you. Just don’t.

Look Out For People Who Don’t Know What They’re Doing

These people everywhere. They’re the ones who clearly don’t know where they’re going, or they are lollygagging around. Steer clear of them whenever possible. They can move unpredicably, but if you must pass near them, pass to their rear side as they tend to turn right or left, but not a full 180 – unless they are operating a camera, in which case they may back up unexpectedly. If you’re in a tight walkway where it’s about two people wide and the person is walking down the middle of it (almost always slowly), pull up close, on the left hand side and mumble to yourself or cough loudly. Oftentimes that will clue them in.

Don’t Be That Guy

Now, it’s one thing to try to navigate around other people, but there will be times when you are the one to be navigated around. So don’t be the guy that people will be silently planning your murder for the following offenses.


While there is no issue with dragging a large suitcase behind you, dragging a carry-on sized bag will can definitely make you that guy, because when dragged behind you, it’s very easy for people to trip on.


Best just to carry it if you can. If you cannot, you can be better by dragging it next to you. Spinner bags work best for this, but for regular rollaboards, you can hold the handle in front and to the side, and people will at least hate you less.

Good Luggage Handling


For the love of everything good, do not stop at the top, bottom or anywhere on a stairway. They are choke points in any busy area, especially train stations, and people will be planning your untimely demise.


Please! Stand aside and let people off trains before trying to board them. Also stand at the side of the doors, not in front of them as you block the flow of debarking passengers who will being to wonder how big the gap between the platform and train is and if you’ll fit in it.

Train Doors

Be wary of narrow walkways and walk to one side If you need to stop, go to the side If you’re going down stairs to a train platform, step lively, it may not be your train, but it may be that of the person behind you!


When carrying a largish umbrella, especially with a point, use good common sense and carry it like this:

Umbrella Correct

Do not carry it like this:

Umbrella Incorrect

Why? Two words: arm swing. One word: impale. The people behind you, especially if on the stairs, will feel like this is going to happen to them:

Umbrella Impale

So carry them point down!

It’s Going To Happen

Something will happen where you need to stop. Go to the side before stopping. But sooner or later, you’ll be That Guy. Just try to be heads up and notice when you’re the one gumming up the works, and when you realize it, ungum things and be apologetic.

Hat tip and apologies to Randall Monroe for drawing using his style, but I can’t draw especially well, so this is what I wind up with.

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