(Phrase made popular by "The Police")
Yesterday, a friend and I met at Barnes & Noble, which just so happened to be bustling with every walk of life: avid readers, style divas, business suits, and long lost friends catching up over soup. As I stood in the “We Proudly Brew Starbucks” café line, I scanned the scene, eagerly searching the faces and body language of the guests. “Oh, I think - perhaps, they are getting up to leave.” I thought to myself, but to no avail. So, I got my coffee, mixed in my cream and sugar, and I moved along to working my way throughout the store. Perhaps, there will be a few comfy chairs available? Occupied - Or maybe, a table is just around the corner of this book shelf? Nada. Alas, I found myself wander into the kid’s section where I barely slid my hips into the Kelly green lawn chair on the reader’s stage. There my friend and I sat and chatted as we read over some of my work. It was quite a humorous sight, for there, in the kid’s section, was a small congregation of adults who just had nowhere else to go to enjoy their coffee and literature, so they found themselves at the reader’s stage, amongst the ever entertaining Dr. Seuss books.
As I sipped on my coffee and we discussed ideas, laughing, running foot steps, and “But, Mom! I want it!” tantrums echoed throughout the aisles of fantasy land. “Quincy, have you chosen a book?” asked the mother of the little girl dressed in her pink, sparkly tutu. She had joined me on the reader’s stage in the adjacent Kelly green lawn chair, reading her Disney “Tangled” cartoon book, which I highly recommend; very good movie. At any rate, as Quincy sat calmly flipping through the pages of the newest addition to her personal library, her little brother jumps up on the listening bench on one end and proceeds to jump from bench to bench until finally he jumps onto the bench my friend is occupying. As his parents gasp in horror of his invasion of my friend’s “personal space,” as the father called it, this rambunctious little boy stands, looks his parents in the eye, and ever so delicately pats my friend on the head and says, “Hello.”
This little boy, whose name I cannot remember, had the most beautiful eyes and angelic face, but became a personal offender. This was a malicious act against my friend’s invisible bubble. He had no concept of what the phrase, “personal space,” meant, which got me thinking, at what age do we come to the realization that we posses this thing called, “personal space”? For me it was kindergarten. I specifically remember the occasion that I was denied this so called space and realized that I was entitled to it. Care to hear? I knew you would.
Kindergarten was a time that my mom was a single mother, which meant, “extended-day care.” For those of you who do not know what “extended-day care” is, it is the after school program for the kids whose parents work and cannot pick them up until about 5 o’clock. The idea of it sounds like a blast; stay after school with some of your friends and play, but the fact that you have to stay extra hours at school with teacher supervision, nightmare. I digress. One afternoon, I was at extended-day and my best friend’s dad came to pick her up. Before she left she just had to come over and give me a hug. This was no ordinary hug, it was the “I can’t live without you” strangle hold. She invaded my space, with no way out, for she had strategically wrapped her arms over my arms, interlocked her fingers, and proceeded to contract like a boa constrictor to its prey. That day, I did what any prey would do in its final attempt to escape death, I wiggled and squirmed and just as I was using all my force to set one of my arms free, she let go. For those of you imagery inclined, you already see the picture. For everyone else, with the force I was using and the sudden release of the restriction, my elbow went springing upward - popping her right in the chin. Then, there was blood and crying and perhaps a tooth missing. I’m not sure. It was a long time ago. Anyway, when it was all said and done, somehow I was the one who got in trouble. Me; the prey! The dad swears I did it on purpose, which I most certainly did not. I was trying to escape my attacker. At any rate, that was when I realized, I have to have some boundaries.
From then on, there has always been an invisible bubble that surrounds me. If anyone gets too close, I can feel my bubble deflate a little and I have to compensate and move accordingly to the degree of the violation. The place that I have been violated of this space the most is at the bank waiting in line for a teller. Listen people, I understand that your financial status is important to you, but getting an inch away from my back side and breathing down my neck is not going to encourage the teller behind the desk, with cameras at ever angle, and a security guard go any faster stamping those checks. So back off!
Another thought that came to me was – well - what if my personal space requires a three foot circumference, but the person beside me only requires a one and a half foot circumference. Then what? Do I compensate my space for them, or do they have to compensate for me and back up a foot and a half? This is where it gets confusing. I propose that we all wear a sign that projects our personal space circumference. So that way, no one is offended in any way and life goes on in perfect harmony. I will be in touch with our local legislature to see if I can get the ball rolling, but until then, please remember, if you are ever behind me in the bank teller line, don’t stand so close to me!