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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Personal Space

It seems that we often have thought-provoking experiences that revolve around supermarkets. They are great places to see all types of people, from all types of places, behaving in all types of ways. Trent and I try to use our good manners everywhere we go, and I think a lot of people are that way as well. There are, of course, the exceptions to every rule. 

Even though we try to act like adults most of the time, every so often we cut loose and act silly in front of other people. Some times it's accidental and sometimes it's on purpose. On a recent shopping trip, Trent decided that we should have an impromptu dance in one of the aisles. I guess he didn't see the mom with her two kids at the other end of the aisle. We heard the older boy whisper something to his mom, and ended our little dancing interlude. Trent made an apology, which the kind mom said was unnecessary. We then scored big points when Trent mentioned that he only saw a shirt and face sitting in the cart, because the younger boy was wearing camouflage pants. We crossed paths with them several times during our shopping trip, and all of us ended up with smiles on our faces.

I am getting to a point where I wonder who I will encounter when I go shopping. The other day, we saw another mother who was shopping with a bloodthirsty pirate, all of two-and-a-half feet tall, equipped with two very scary swords. As mom was pushing her cart, her little swashbuckler was engaged in battle with an enemy that we were not able to see. I am confident that the unseen combatant was full of holes from the bloodthirsty pirate's sharp and trusty blades, and would soon give up the fight. We told mom that she sure had a scary pirate with her. She smiled and shook her head, saying that she just couldn't end up with a nice, quiet little girl. I know she loves her little pirate. It radiated from her face. The pirate knows it, too.

It's often when you get to the checkout line, the freeway system of the store, that people's true colors begin to show. You see the aggressive drivers, the people who will try and run you off the road in order to get in front of you in line. You shake your head, knowing that their sense of urgency has removed all reason from their actions. Then there are the quiet ones, the ones who won't even use their turn signals because they don't want to bother anyone or get into anyone's way. They will stand in line behind your cart full of items, holding their single jug of milk. We usually insist on them going ahead of us in line. Being polite feels good, and if it adds a pleasant moment to someone's day, I think that we have done something good. 

The ones that bother me a lot, though, are the tailgaters. No, I don't mean the people who drive down to the football stadium and set up their grill and tv and have tons of yummy food and drink while they enjoy the game. I mean the person who is behind you and is thisclose. The one that if you really were driving, you'd ask yourself if they wouldn't feel more comfortable just climbing in the back seat rather than driving into it. It was this situation that happened to me the other day. As our order was being rung up and bagged, Trent was putting the full (reusable) bags in the shopping cart. After reaching over to help, I turned back to my spot in line, in front of the payment terminal. And noticed a man standing pretty much in front of it. He was standing there with a half smile on his face, while the woman he was with (Wife? Mother? Girlfriend? Cousin? Buddy?) was struggling to unload her cart onto the counter.

When several of her items fell on the floor with a crash, he didn't respond at all. She retrieved them from the floor and continued unloading her cart. He stayed right where he was, half-smile in place. Nice glasses, I thought. Yes, I was close enough to get a very good look at them. I slowly slid into my spot, feeling a bit uncomfortable, and he didn't budge. My personal space apparently was a lot smaller than his. And my awareness of the situation was apparently a lot larger. I made a conscious decision to try to ignore the situation. Everyone's personal space is different. This young man's was quite small, I think. In my brief glance, I had noticed that he seemed to be either talking or singing silently to himself. I wasn't irked or threatened or irritated. I had a moment in which I realized that he was detached from the situation, and it wasn't bothering him a bit. So I decided to work hard at not letting it bother me. He wasn't trying to rush me. He wasn't being pushy or rude. He was just in his own world. Which could mean that his personal space is a wonderful place to be.

We are all different from one another in so many ways. Our brains and emotions are wired differently. Closeness that is okay in some places, like walking down the aisles of the market, can be fine, but closeness while we are conducting our personal business can feel very uncomfortable.  The person next in line, though, may have a personal space that is almost large enough to hold a flea. And the one behind them might have one that is Irish Wolfhound-sized. I'm always going to try and leave enough room for the other person's Wolfhound. And try to be understanding if there's only enough room left for me and a flea!