Avoiding the Crowds…

Johnny-on-the-Spot … by John Foster

By in large, midwestern Americans like to have a little “elbow room”.

“Elbow room” is designed as “adequate space to move or work in”.

We’ll go to sports and music venues to hoot and holler and sit or stand pretty close to lots of strangers.

Generally, though, we tend to avoid “tight quarters”.

Those are defined as “a narrow or cramped space or position; in close proximity; very near together”.

A submarine comes to mind.

It’s normally not the first choice of Midwesterners.

These thoughts came to mind when I saw the United Nations’ World Population Prospects 2022.

This report says the worlds’ population will pass the 8 billion mark on November 15th of this year.

That’s 8 followed by 9 zeroes.

Not quite up to federal budget deficit figures but it is a large number.

We just got to 7,000,000,000 world citizens in 2011.

The world’s population didn’t hit 1 billion until 1804 and it took 123+ years to reach the 2,000,000,000 plateau in 1927.

In 1960, the people of Earth hit 3 billion and, since 1974, about every 12 to 14 years, we added another billion folks to the planet.

But people who keep an eye on these sorts of things believe that rate will slow in the future.

Driving in and around any major metropolitan area, you’d swear we couldn’t bear another person.

But, there are 197 million square miles of living space on this planet and, believe it or not, that equates to 36 people per square mile.

Just 36.

In the United States, we have roughly 93 people per square mile.

Seem “close”?


America ranks 174th when it comes to population density in the world.

Greenland, where I was stationed while in the United States Air Force, has a population density of less than one person per square mile.

Could that be because 90% of the island is covered by ice more than a mile thick?

Might be more caribou and musk ox than people there.

The other extreme is Macau.

The population density there is 57,627 people per square mile.

That’s tight.

The dictionary describes crowd as “a group of people gathered for a common purpose or intent”.

It can also mean “move too close to someone”.

Seems highly likely in Macau, the “Las Vegas of Asia”.

By comparison, Union City, West New York and Hoboken, all in New Jersey have population densities approaching, but short of Macau.

Also, the “Big Apple”, New York City checked in with a population density figure about half of Macau.

When we visited a couple of years ago, I thought it was “tight” and vowed to never personally drive in a city like that.


Some people have issues about being with lots of people.

They could be dealing with “agoraphobia” or “enochlophobia”.

Now, in 1985, we had the Australian rock group called “Crowded House” and their big hit in 1985 was “Don’t Dream, It’s Over”.

Sing along now.

“There is freedom within.

There is freedom without.

There’s a battle ahead.

Many battles are lost./

But you’ll never see the end of the road

while you’re travelling with me.

Hey now! Hey now!

Don’t dream, it’s over.”

But then my mind wandered to the phrase, “Two’s company. Three’s a crowd”.

I found out that’s from a 1546 proverb which was actually, “Two’s company. Three is trumpery.”


(Should the January 6th investigation on Capitol Hill be looking into this?)

That is “excessive frippery”, a showy or unnecessary ornament in architecture, dress or language; a tawdry or frivolous thing”.

(Sounds like a function of Congress to me.)

What a great discovery.

Thanks to 8 billion people in the world, I discovered the words, “trumpery and frippery ” and renewed my acquaintance with the word “tawdry”.

But the world population reaching 8 billion by November 15th of this year helps me remember how blase` we are when it comes to big numbers like 8 billion.

Someone has calculated that one person counting to one billion would take 131.8 years to accomplish the task.

We’re talking 8 billion.

That would take over one thousand years.

Remember gym class when you had to count off by 4’s to determine who the teams were?

So I figured the population of the world this November divided by the population density of Macau, each of those folks would have to to count almost 139 thousand people.

That would take all of those Macau folks about 24 hours each to count 8 billion persons.

Good grief!

The bottom line is while 8 billion people is a lot of folks, the lines getting into Cedar Point shouldn’t be noticeably longer later this year.

But elbow room in Macau might be at a premium.

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