Left, Right, Left#roopakism Roopak Saluja • January 22, 2017
I often find myself in places of a congregation of large groups of people from all over the world. Two I can think of that are on repeat in my life are Cannes on an annual basis (for the Lions) and Dubai airport several times a year (those of you who know me well will know what a die-hard Emirates loyalist I am). For reasons explained below, I’ve observed that people walking in opposite directions tend to have to dodge each other a lot at these sorts of places. Sometimes they even collide.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but it’s been on my mind for around seven years now. Not that it’s some earth-shatteringly profound insight. Just a simple observation.
As you know, countries drive on one side of the road or the other. The vast majority of the Commonwealth, with Canada and Nigeria being notable exceptions, drive on the left. Additionally, for some reason unknown to me, Japan and Thailand drive on the left too. Pretty much everyone else drives on the right. This behaviour automatically trickles down to walking patterns down aisles or passages of public spaces. People from countries that drive on the left also tend to walk on their left and vice-versa. So if you happen to be walking through a tunnel in the New York Subway, people will generally walk on their right.
But what happens when you’re at the Cannes Lions? Or the Film Festival or MIPCOM for that matter. Or any other truly global event anywhere else in the world. People are around for less than a week. At a major transit airport like Dubai, most passengers shuffling through are on the ground for 1 to 4 hours. Neither a few hours nor a few days are enough to establish a ‘local’ convention for which side you’re supposed to keep to. Hence the confusion.
What won’t be so amusing is if the rise of the Great Orange Dope really does usher in a new world order as he promises. It will likely be one of a more insular United States. A more insular and more globally indifferent US could result in increased chaos. Love ‘em or hate ‘em (or even be ambivalent towards them, like most people around the world), the fact is that if they stop engaging actively (or meddling) with the world, a fair amount of destabilization looms on the horizon. And the result will be a lot less amusing than the effect of the lack of an established global order on which side to keep to when walking.