In order to maximize my ice time I, like many adult skaters, rely heavily on weekend public sessions. I don't have to tell most of my readers that weekend publics are mobbed during the holiday season. The mob "ramp-up" starts during the Thanksgiving holiday and achieves it's maximum density during Christmas break. Mercifully for the dedicated skaters the tide generally starts going back out around mid-January and by February weekend publics tend to return to a manageable population level.
As an observer with more than a casual interest in weekend publics I've noticed that some crowded sessions just flow better than others. Typically, Saturday is calmer than Sunday. But why is this so? There are just as many people on the ice but the dynamic or personality of the crowd at the Saturday session is usually more conducive to higher level practice. In my mind I picture it as the difference between a closely packed but orderly school of fish and a similar school of fish which suddenly becomes chaotic.
Case in point: I skated the early afternoon publics at Bowie on both Saturday and Sunday this past weekend. The Saturday session was crowded but I was able to skate several patterns of each of the two dances I'm working on plus get in a fair amount of practice on back skating elements and foot work sequences. The crowd was "mellow" for lack of a better word. Sunday the vibe was completely different. The crowd was chaotic with kids all over the map, adult ice tourists camping out in the rink ends or coming to dead stops in the mid of traffic to take photos with their cell phones and very few breaks in traffic when one could take a flyer. It was total bedlam and I got close to zip accomplished. By the end of the session I told myself that this would be the last Sunday public I'd skate until mid-January. My time on earth is a non-renewable resource and I have a long laundry list of other things I could be doing.
But the question remains: what is different in terms of crowd psychology between a "good" and "bad" collection of ice tourists at a public session? What is the trigger that moves a crowd on an ice rink from orderly to agitated? Does the introduction of a few good skaters cause tension like the introduction of predators in a chicken coop, or does the presence of good skaters impose a certain discipline which the crowd follows? There were more good skaters Saturday than Sunday. Coincidence or not?
There are also different degrees of anonymity in a given crowd. Some crowds are composed of unconnected individuals while other crowds are clusters of family members or friends. Are unconnected individuals more orderly than people who know one another? I'm beginning to suspect so.
Are people grumpier on Sunday vs Saturday, knowing that the following day is a workday? Do they bring that aggravation to the ice? Perhaps.
Fortunately I have this next week off and so will skate as many early morning public sessions as possible. That will get me another week closer to "low tide".