That thing called ‘Collective Wisdom’

Our flight to Denver started 30 minutes late, so we were in danger of missing the onward connection to San Jose. The plane made up some time in air, 10 minutes or so, which meant that we would get about 3 minutes to run to the departure gate of our connection.

3 minutes to get out and do a half-kilometer jog? Sitting few rows deep inside this packed plane, I wasn’t too sure of making it. An unplanned night halt at Denver looked imminent. But then came this announcement from the cabin crew.

“All those who have a connecting flight within 10-15 minutes of arrival at Denver, please raise your hands”.

My colleague and I raised ours, and so did about a dozen more passengers.

“Alright. Now I have a request for everyone else. As soon as we land and halt, please make way for these 14 folks and let them out first. Let none of us move for about a minute till these folks are out and on their way”.

I could sense my chances increase.

We arrived at Denver. As soon as our plane parked at the gate, everybody did whatever they could to let the dozen of us out as quickly as possible. We got out, ran across the terminal, and made it to the San Jose flight just in time!

Once settled in my seat, I was thinking about the incident. Nobody really questioned our claim that we actually had a close-connection to catch. And every soul on the plane cooperated to help us get out as soon as possible. Then, I thought about similar situations in India where things like these – based on trust, and cooperation – never work out.

Where do they get this much discipline from? Can we – in India – ever be so cooperative, trusting and organized in our behavior in public? Is it only about literacy? Or does it take more than that to develop what I call collective wisdom?

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6 Responses

  1. I think as a culture – we always like to nudge, push, fight, squabble to get our way (or atleast attempt to do so). Just recollect — at temples, fairs, festivals – we are used to crowds (mobs actually) jostling to get the right of way. In a similar scenario on a plane to mumbai — i remember just about everyone claimed they needed to get out first – some with colorful excuses, some just insisted. I think we get what we deserve — sad but true. I certainly think the only way indians listen is – if we are policed, then we fall into the line.

  2. hiiiiii friend

    nice experience……

  3. Probably here when that question was asked, many more than 10 would have raised their hands!! :-)

    Nice to hear the pleasant story!

  4. nice experince and when it comes without asking for it really
    you feel great. u cannot expect this to happen here our people are for sure would have taken this opportunity if at all there to create jams by addding 10 who are not really there to catch any connecting flight. yes for these things we have appreciate their collective wisdom and we must learn from them.
    when we get such days here is big Q

  5. Late reply, sorry. Thanks for the comments.

    Examples are plenty. And agree with Namma Nadu – policing is the way. But thats like working on the symptom, isn’t it? But the thing is – ‘why’ do we behave that way? Why are we always in the ‘rush’? Why do we not value someone else’s priority at times when we need to?

    I notice that younger Indians are definitely better than the middle aged or older ones in displaying collective wisdom. I have an interesting experience to share there. A post soon.

  6. I have met some people who start responses with “NO.” “No, do it like this.”; “No, its 10′ o clock.”; “No, yes.”. I read an article in TOI (by Gurcharan Das) about how as Indians we value winners (and hence the offensive show of ardour for our 20-20 guys) and not goodness. Is that not true? And very sad?

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