The Lank Tank

Why so serious?

Personal Space Invaders

Posted by Carl Schutte on January 26, 2009

This blog entry was brought to you by C-Dawg

OK, so what exactly is the deal with people not understanding the concept of personal space?! Are these people from another culture on a distant planet or were they just smothered with too much love as babies?

It really does boggle my mind how some people just don’t get it.  It’s not like I graduated from Social Psychology 101 and suddenly realised that 1.2 m is the optimal distance I should be keeping from people – unless it’s my girlfriend (if only), in which case it’s (hopefully) acceptable for me to be within her intimate space of about 45 cm. Although, not all the time, that would be pretty annoying if your partner abused their personal space privileges and were always up in your face… but I digress.

So, what brings me to this topic you might ask. Well, grocery store checkouts have always been a bit of an issue for me. It’s like suddenly “prison rules” apply and anything goes. You’re still busy paying for your weekly food stock, but the douche bag behind you has already unpacked their monthly supplies and is slowly pushing it further down the conveyor belt. Now you can feel them standing right next to you. You want to turn to them and say: “Hey, I’m quite new to signing credit card receipts. Do you think you could hold down the paper and I’ll try to figure out how to use this pen? I just know that if we work as a team we can totally overcome this obstacle! Also, this might sound weird, but would you like to be friends?” Actually what I’d really like to say to them is: “Hey buddy, how about you back the f**k up?!”

What I can’t understand, is that they’re going to get served; they’re next in line. This isn’t some government office where the cashier is just going to close up and go to lunch, but that they’ll be back in an hour, so just queue longer. True story; it happened to me when I passed my motorcycle drivers.

Now I have a few little tricks I like to employ when I detect that someone is invading my space; you probably have a few of your own too. Firstly, I like to lean on the counter with my left arm, but make sure that my arm is fully extended – this really draws the line in the sand. Sometimes they’re too close though and you can’t pull this move off. Then it’s time for the hand-on-your-hip-with-elbow-out move. This may result in you jabbing them in stomach (or head if it’s a kid); good, they deserve it. Well, we could debate about the kid, but there are always going to be casualties of war. Besides, as a parent, if you can’t discipline your child, expect that someone else will. I also have a few side-step variations and shuffle moves. These mechanisms help me to deal with the aliens invading my space.

Now last weekend this was taken to a whole new level. I popped into my friendly Spar to buy a few necessaries before attending a braai. Whilst at the checkout I could feel that something was breathing down my neck. I had only just put my items down; I wasn’t even concluding my transaction yet. Nevertheless, I stood my ground. The next thing I know, I have flour and icing sugar on my braai itinerary (along with chips, cool drink and wors). What exactly am I supposed to do with baking goods at a braai?! I explain to the cashier that I have never seen those items before in my life and that I am in no way associated with the social drop-out standing behind me. I turn around, only to be met with blank stare, accompanied by a smile. Almost like like a deer in the headlights, but you’re tickling the deer. I smiled politely, concluded my transaction and proceeded to my braai.

Now let me just say this, if you are standing so close to somebody in the checkout that the cashier thinks you’re with them and starts ringing up your goods together… you are too close! She wasn’t even hot – that still wouldn’t make it acceptable, but I might understand where her flawed logic came from. No, this was some homely-looking, middle-aged woman, who I can only assume was on her way to some Bake Off on a Sunday afternoon.

Needless to say, the experience has left me even more jaded…

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