Crowd control must start with the individual

WHAT is it about big crowds that they seem to be magnets for the ill-mannered almost every time?

Recently I stood amid thousands of Barry Gibb fans just to hear him speak about his teen years on the Redcliffe Peninsula and accept an honour being bestowed upon the remaining Bee Gee by the Moreton Bay Regional Council.

Largely, the crowd – like the weather that day – was pretty well-behaved. But, as Barry spoke rather softly, the incessant chatter around me drowned out his poignant words of gratitude and recollection.

Of course, there were the rude few up the back who, even before Barry spoke, were already chanting his name over a previous speaker, respected retired broadcaster Bill Gates who had been instrumental in giving the young Gibb brothers their career start.

The impatient shouting started up again when the Mayor, Allan Sutherland, was speaking.

Crowd at opening of Bee Gees Way at Redcliffe on February 14, 2013

Never mind that the man in the open-necked blue shirt down at the front – who had driven the whole project – making the formal introductions. He had only flown to the US to ask Barry and his family to be involved and then worked tirelessly in the intervening months to ensure their visit back to his favourite place on Earth happened in style.

Not to be outdone by the noisy rabble, a well-dressed couple beside me made somewhat quieter but particularly disparaging remarks about an indigenous elder woman’s welcome to country, prompting me to clap extra hard at its conclusion moments later rather than serve them a return volley of verbal disrespect. I’m fairly sure they read the not-so-silent signal.

Then there was the person persistently holding up a wooden-framed orange sign on a long wooden stake. We could only see the placard from the back, so it could have been a protester or even a fan.

Whoever it was didn’t endear themselves whenever they held their large orange square aloft, blocking the view of those holding a phalanx of small cameras and mobile phones behind them in vain attempts to grab a photo over the dozens of heads in front of them.

Forget about workplace health and safety concerns. The folk right at the back were already standing on park benches, tables and – precariously – on hand railings, trying to see the proceedings. Continued shouts of “Put that b****y orange sign down” were eventually heeded.

Its holder may have been related to the woman who vainly tried to unfurl a large white material banner as she made her way through a narrow passageway near the foreshore, probably 40m away from the podium. But she immediately thought better of it after some sharp words from the restive crowd whose view would have been further blocked.

A light shower of rain almost started the World War 3 of words when a woman just in front of the already cranky back stalls had the temerity to put up her umbrella … but the equally snarky woman gave back almost as good as she got. Choice.

It’s a shame these thousands of onlookers didn’t all have a better vantage to see and hear proceedings but, equally, they could have seen all of the proceedings on a large screen had they moved less than 50m away. Instead, many opted to climb up fixed structures or to crane on their tip-toes to see over those directly in front, to mutter and curse, and generally be miserable.

All the while, little thought or consideration was given to the infirm or the incapacitated – those who were perhaps reliant on a wheelchair, a seat or a walking frame. Most were left seated, towards the back of the crowd, well below the eye line of those standing on every side of them.

Barry Gibb signs autographs at Redcliffe prior to ceremony

Contrast all this impatient, tacky behaviour with the endless good grace and accommodating nature of Redcliffe’s esteemed visitor, who signed hundreds of autographs and posed for endless photos with strangers before and after the official ceremony.

And Barry Gibb not only warmly engaged the invited guests, he also spent a few moments with many of his most eager fans as they inspected the laneway memorial after the statue of the famous trio was unveiled.

And I wonder why I resist going to crowded places. Perhaps it’s the lack of civility, the absence of basic respect for other humans, or perhaps it’s the sheer ignorance of crowd etiquette that appalls me most.

If you must go to such busy places, here’s a tip: It might be best to park your bad temper at home and pack a tonne of patience, for you will encounter times when things will not go your way. In the parlance of the hip: Just chill, Jill.

Try, instead, a random act of kindness. You never know, you might even crack a smile and come away with a pleasant memory or two.


Comment: Trina McLellan, reporting4work
Pictures: Trina McLellan, using iPad and iPhone

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