A unified theory of shoving

After Nicole’s paean to online shopping, as distinguished from the madness that seems to overtake people actually shopping in person this time of year — I riffed on it here — Lynn comes up with a thought experiment of sorts:

I do not loathe the rest of humanity, at least not most of the time. I even sort of like the idea of shopping in actual stores. But then there’s Walmart. And I don’t think it’s actually Walmart per se that’s the problem. It’s just what happens when you get a large number of people in one space who independently have the same goal: to buy stuff and get out as quickly as possible. Seriously, have you ever been in Bass Pro Shop in December?

Such observations over the years have prompted one of our resident scientists to formulate a hypothesis:

I have a hypothesis that between five and ten percent of the population is just going to behave in really annoying ways to everyone else. If you’re in a store with 20 people that’s not a big deal because that’s only one or two people. But if you cram 500 people in the store, you could be looking at 50 Special Snowflakes.

Perish the thought.



  1. Nicole »

    30 October 2013 · 7:42 pm

    An excellent point. My husband is fond of reminding me that 50% of the population is below average…

  2. McGehee »

    30 October 2013 · 9:44 pm

    Actually, I think there’s something about density of human population in any confined environs that increases the proportion thereof that is particularly … dense.

  3. fillyjonk »

    31 October 2013 · 7:22 am

    It’s a known phenomenon in the animal world that if you increase density, competition and aggression also increase. (which is partly why people setting up aquaria are directed not to go over the limit of fish per volume. Waste production has something to do with that too, but if you crowd too many fish, they can start attacking each other). And humans are animals, too. Maybe better-dressed animals, but still, animals.

  4. Tatyana »

    31 October 2013 · 12:24 pm

    Today’s coincidence, reading Poirot’s story:
    “Certainly, there were too many people in the Underground world of London at this particular moment (6:30pm) of the evening., Heat, noise, crowd, contiguity – the unwelcome pressure of hands, arms, bodies, shoulders! Hemmed in and pressed by strangers – and on the whole (he thought distastefully) a plain and uninteresting lot of strangers! Humanity seen thus en masse was not atracive. How seldom did one see a face sparkling with intelligence, how seldom a femme bien mise!

  5. CGHill »

    31 October 2013 · 2:20 pm

    Regression to the mean — or, perhaps, to the meaner.

  6. fillyjonk »

    1 November 2013 · 10:08 am

    I always DID like ol’ Hercule…

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