Crowds and Tourist Traps – Been There Done That

Shopping on Christmas Eve used to be my thing. I would go to the mall the day before my favorite holiday, braving the inevitable crowds. The thought of that today makes me want to run and hide, waiting until the New Year to reemerge.

Looking back, it’s difficult for me to pinpoint just when crowds became something I have a sincere aversion toward. Growing up in Kansas City, “crowds” in the local suburban, Midwest shopping mall were quite different than, say, Rockefeller Center in Manhattan during the Christmas tree lighting ceremony. I can’t tell you what got into me that year. I was already very much aware of my dislike of crowds during the holidays of 2011. Perhaps it was just the magic of Christmas, my first in New York City, that brought me anywhere near 49th street that night.

The magic of Christmas was soon snuffed by very expensive fudge falling from my lips on to the heavily trafficked sidewalk (that I picked up, washed, and later ate, mind you), a near physical brawl between me and another lady who wouldn’t stop pushing, a minor anxiety attack, and my ex-husband and I getting into a fight. I blame it all on too many goddamned people in one location at the same time.

My exception to avoiding crowds, however, has always been that I have to do or see something at least once if it interests me. A seventy-four foot tall Christmas tree with 30,000 LED lights being lit in the middle of a frigidly cold night in Manhattan somehow sparked my interest. It was, after all, quintessentially New York, iconic and festive.

Rockefeller Christmas Tree 2011

Drawing Crowds in Chicago

I was reminded of my disdain for tourist traps this past Fourth of July on a trip to Chicago’s cloud gate or more widely known as, “The Bean,” a stainless steel structure in the shape of a legume. It attracts millions of visitors annually to its Millennium Park location. It was cool! Don’t get me wrong. I just couldn’t wait to leave. The humidity didn’t aide in my calm.

Ready to escape the crowds
This is my, “Are We done yet?” pose at The Bean, Chicago

Now that I think about it, maybe that’s the difference. During the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting, temperatures were extremely cold. During my visit to the bean, they were extremely hot. A shopping mall is a controlled climate! On second thought, you wouldn’t catch me dead at a mall on Christmas Eve these days. I just hate crowds!

Truthfully, it is in my experience that large quantities of people breed more stupidity and a greater possibility for danger. Plus, one of my biggest pet peeves is people who don’t walk on the right side! Or those who walk in groups of two or more right next to one another but don’t move single file when you’re walking in their direction. I appreciate awareness and consideration and, unfortunately, in crowds, there is less awareness and more deer-in-headlights moments. I realize I run the risk of sounding completely neurotic, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Uncomfortable in Crowds

My willingness to put myself in situations that I know are going to make me uncomfortable, on the other hand, fascinates me. I may politely excuse myself after a few short minutes, but that brings me to one of the beauties of traveling alone. There’s no need to confess to someone, “I’m just going to go sit over there in the shade away from the large families of screaming kids and inconsiderate, rude couples taking selfie after selfie in front a giant piece of alloy before I have an anxiety attack.”

“I just hate crowds!”

I understand the appeal. Iconic places like the Empire State Building or Times Square, Hollywood Boulevard or The Bean draw large crowds. Once is enough, though. I’ve adopted a sort of “been there done that” mentality. When friends or family come to Los Angeles eager to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame, I show them to the Metro red line.

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