There is nothing so beautiful as personal space. Take it from someone who has now lived in three countries where ‘personal bubbles’ do not exist. In the worlds to which I have traveled, it is perfectly acceptable to stand within centimeters of the person in front of you in a line. In fact, if you don’t stand so close that one of you could end up pregnant, you will lose your place in line. That, my friends, is guaranteed.
A few years ago, in Shanghai, I was at the grocery store. It was always busy at the grocery store in China because there are a thrillion people living there and a lot of them eat. I was standing in line to check out, pinned between the checkout counter on my left and the bar thingy on the right. In front of me, I had left at least two feet between myself and the customer who was checking out… why? Because I don’t need to be any closer. No one can come between us without a good deal of violence and shuffling. And they would need to be quite skinny to fit between my cart and the barriers to my left and right.
Apparently the woman behind me was expecting just such a person- a skinny, violent, pushy person, to try and call ‘cutsies’ between her and me because she had her cart touching my hiney. She gave me a tiny nudge as she pulled in behind me, so I stepped forward, exactly one inch, just enough so her cart wasn’t touching me in a no-no spot. The move forward was so small, so tiny that it would’ve been undetectable to the normal human eye. But not to the evil villain known as Personal Bubble Popper! No, she saw my movement and moved with me, again touching me with her cart! I let out an audible sigh, hoping she would hear my frustration, and stepped forward again. And again, she came with me, her cart making me feel uncomfortable in it hands-on approach to our blossoming relationship.
This time, I gave the little half-turn of my head- you know, where you don’t actually look at the person but instead turn your head just enough so they know you’re about to get serious. And then I stepped forward again… and she came with me, cart in my booty and all.
Finally, I could take it no more. I turned full around and looked her in the eye and said, “Stop it!” Then I turned back around, took a final tiny step forward… and none-too-soon, felt the all-to-familiar nudge of the shopping cart. I turned around and looked at the lady. She just shrugged and kept right on letting her shopping cart molest me. And I had to give in, I had to relent and take the abuse of the shopping cart because I was about to be touching the guy in front of me and that was a line I wasn’t willing to cross.
Yesterday, here in the Middle East, a man was standing so close to me in line, I expected to turn around and find someone I knew because really… it was too close. I tried the same moving-forward trick and received the exact same results- he moved forward every time I did. AND he kept pushing his basket down the conveyor belt until our foodstuffs were touching too! Honestly, some people. And their foodstuffs.
Today, if you’re feeling down or grumpy or even the slightest bit irritated, look around and appreciate that at least no one is touching you with their shopping cart. Enjoy the freedom of standing in a line ALONE and with space to turn around, or bend over and tie your shoe, or even reach in your purse for your wallet without having to touch a stranger.
Unless you’re into that kind of thing…