We all KNOW it, but not all of us HONOR it. When someone disregards the buffer zone, a rage builds inside of me rivaling that of a hockey player who’s been sent to the penalty box. If only I owned a hockey stick so I could smack the offender over the head with it.
Just last week, I was at the gym and I came face to face with a violator. It was 11:00 in the morning on a weekday, so as you can imagine, the gym was virtually empty. I mean, most people work during the day. One of the best things about working nights is that you can enjoy places like the gym relatively free of annoying crowds of people. Well, not that morning. As I was running on the treadmill, a woman came over and actually got on the treadmill RIGHT NEXT TO ME. Yes, she did. There was an ENTIRE row of empty treadmills. Why did she pick the one directly beside mine? Hey lady, how about leaving at least one treadmill in between us?? Did she think I wanted to smell her b.o.? (Yes she was stinky.) Did she want to make polite conversation with me to pass the time while she exercised? (Thank God she had her headphones and didn’t do that.) As she was fiddling with the buttons on the treadmill, I gave her a look of death full of hatred and pure venom. Hell, if I could’ve shot daggers out of my eyes, I would’ve. But she was clearly in her own world. She didn’t even flinch at my odious glances in her direction. I’m not sure what was going on with this lady, but someone needs to teach her to value space and take advantage of it when it’s available!
Then there’s the subway. I am fortunate to live on the very first stop of my train line. Getting a seat is a guarantee. What is not certain, however, is who might be sitting on either side of you. Working in the evenings means I am riding the train at off-peak hours and thus, I typically avoid the rush hour madness. In other words, the train is never at full capacity. Isn’t that nice? If you have to go to work, at least having a pleasant commute where I can read, check emails or peruse Facebook helps me temporarily forget where I’m ultimately going. And having a seat with some room to relax and spread out is comforting. It doesn’t always work out that way, however. I was coming home from a trip once and I had a bunch of bags with me. In walks a woman who decides she has to squeeze into the seat next to me despite the fact that my bags were surrounding me like a homeless person and there was an empty seat across the aisle where she could’ve laid down and taken a nap if she wanted to! But no, she just HAD to sit next to me and force me to place one of my pieces of luggage on my lap. A part of me wanted to leap up and shout: “Why don’t you just take my seat too!” But grabbing all that luggage and looking dignified while simultaneously screaming at her just didn’t seem plausible.
Then there’s the kicker… the buffer toilet. Why on earth would someone want to use the stall next to mine if I’m the ONLY other person in the bathroom??? Okay, how do they know I’m in there you ask? I admit that very often a bathroom is quiet and you can’t always detect if anyone else is in there. And that’s when you do what I do… you bend down and peak under the stalls and look for feet! Come on, admit it… I’m sure some of you have done it too! Sometimes you need a moment alone in the stall to take care of business, whether it’s something bad you ate for lunch or just to have a good cry over something a nasty customer said to you. (Perhaps the latter is mostly referring to my own behavior.) In any case, bathroom time is sacred – however you choose to use it – and quite frankly, I don’t want to share it with anyone if I don’t have to. And I certainly don’t want you in the stall next to me if I DO have to share it. I used to work on Wall Street with a bunch of guys who considered their bathroom time SOOOO precious that they used to go to another floor to enjoy it. They simply did not want to run into anyone they knew while enjoying their “reading” time.
Look, anyone that knows me is aware of my warm and fuzzy nature. I am what you call a “people person”. I have been known to talk to random strangers on the street, some of whom have gone on to become my friends. (Weird, but true.) I love meeting new people, probably more than any human ever should. However, when it comes to space, I can be an evil monster if I don’t get it. Usually the most extroverted people in the world are the ones who need their alone time the most. Maybe we’re just out in the world so much interacting with others that we are simply exhausted at the end of the day and need to decompress. Dunno. What I do know is the next time you see me sitting on an empty bench, you might want to pick a different one to sit on :)