Close Standers

I am the kind of person who needs a little bit of space around me. Just a small perimeter. Not a lot, maybe about 8-10 inches. Or a foot, just to be safe. Maybe it’s a symptom of a mental illness or something, but I’m perfectly happy being this way, so I have no intention of seeking a cure.

Anyway, because I like my small amount of personal space, I really don’t like it when I’m standing in a line and people behind me edge up so close I can practically feel them touching me. This happened this afternoon when I was at Borders, minding my own business, waiting in line to order coffee. I was waiting behind the guy in front of me (which is normally how it works when you’re waiting in line), who had thoughtlessly ordered some really complicated coffee-like thing and was taking forever, and then four people in a group came and stood behind me. Well, not so much “behind” me as “practically surrounding me in a semi circle.”

So I did what I usually do – I moved up a little, while yelling (in my mind, not out loud) at the guy in front of me – “JUST GET NORMAL COFFEE NEXT TIME!! I’M BEING SWALLOWED UP BY CLOSE STANDERS HERE!!!!! YOU’RE TAKING FOREVER!!!”

It seemed like moving up a few inches would do the trick, but oh no. The people behind me moved their little group up as well, continuing to surround me and talk about whatever they were  going to order, sometimes even pointing at the menu board so that some of their arms moved within milimeters of my ears. Which are just normal-sized ears, by the way – it’s not like they were sticking out in the way or anything.

So just a little request – if you are ever standing behind me in a line, give me some room. On a related note, if you are ever in your car and are behind me in my car, don’t get right up against me. What if there’s some sort of emergency where I might have to suddenly throw it into reverse and peel out of there? I need to have room to maneuver. Not that that’s ever happened to me before, but you never know. I just want to be ready.

Basically all I’m saying is – step back, people.

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6 Responses to Close Standers

  1. Leon says:

    If I get any farther away from you, I’ll be out in the Atlantic Ocean.

  2. Coffee Places Shortorderers Unite! says:

    Thanks Charley, for excellent points (and a great image of you huddled between groups of people in line, arms whizzing by your ears).

    I think coffee places need an express line for people like me and apparently Charley — so if all you want is a simple “grande drip” you don’t have to wait (closely, crampedly) in line (with arms whizzing by your ears) with all the longorderers who want “tall soy latte with extra sweetener with a drip of caramel half caff half decaff extra decaff shot of expresso in a vente cup, room for cream, two cup guards and a breakfast panini, hold the egg and the ham, extra cheese.”

    My big Starbucks pet peeve is when I arrive at the door first, but, being a gentleman, hold the door open for a group of women walking from the parking lot, and they proceed to get into line in front of me and then spout forth with all of their longorders, plus the list of longorders they have for the gang back at the office, while I wait, steaming like hot milk, for them to finish so I can order my simple, fast, “grande drip.”

    After they graciously accept my door opening for them, can’t they just as graciously step aside and let me proceed to the line in front of them?

    Longorderers, what say you?

  3. Julia says:

    Being short (I don’t know if you have ever noticed that fact, Charley, so I thought I’d point it out), I can completely commiserate with your dislike for people, especially crowds of people, whizzing their arms past your ears, apparently oblivious to the fact that you are taking up that particular square footage of space. So may I offer you the following words of advice that I have learned in the 25+ years that I have navigated life as an adult just under 5 ft.

    1) Strollers do wonders for increasing your personal space. Double-strollers are even better. Nothing says “Excuse me, but I believe it’s my turn next” better than a stroller wheel rammed into the back of an ankle. I know, it’s probably a little late for this method, but perhaps when you become a grandfather.

    2) One way of dealing with people talking over your head is to turn and join in the conversation. Surely they mean to include you if they are attempting to yell into one of your ears and have it come out the other side for their friend to reply to. I have also found this “joining in” approach effective when the person behind you in the grocery line steps up before you have paid. I almost managed to get one gentleman, who was actually counting out wads of cash at the time, to pay for my groceries.

    3) Not that you personally can use this tip, Charley, but perhaps another of your readers can: if you are female, tote a good-sized purse with a long strap. It’s best if you pack it with heavy objects. You can then instantly gain yourself some personal space by “adjusting” the purse on your shoulder. Practice at home to perfect the swing of the purse in a flail-like arc behind your back while appearing to simply be shifting the weight of the strap on your shoulder. Once in a while it will pay off with a highly satisfying “oompf” from the crowder behind you.

    4) By far the most effective way of dealing with close-standers and crowds of crowders is not actually to step forward. As you discovered the other day, they inevitably follow you. The best approach is to step BACK, preferably with careful aim so that your heel comes down squarely on the close-stander’s toe. There again, being female gives you the edge, as you can wear high heeled shoes to more firmly drive your point home. If you can coordinate a subtle yet sharp backwards swing of your elbow and the same time you step back, the chances are greater that the tailgater will retreat.

  4. Megan says:

    I think it’s a Miller thing… yup definitely a Miller thing.

  5. Alan says:

    I usually just start coughing and hacking and say something like, The doctor said I have the swine flu but I think he’s being a little hysterical. Yup, that works 100% of the time and if you time it right, you might get a free coffee!

  6. joannmski says:

    I like a hula hoop of personal space myself. DH, he is a Space Invader.

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