I think I have mentioned this before on my personal blog but someone managed to bring up the issue again for me last Sunday (they didn’t know they were doing it, of course). Personal space – why do some people feel the need to stand so damn close to another person in a line?

This is a huge pet peeve of mine. When it happens I get nervous and jumpy, and quite frankly, cannot wait to get away from the person that is doing it. I have even gone so far as to tell someone to back up (with varying results). This is what I have done in the present day, but this goes further back.

Jr. high school – the school lunch line is where it all began. In elementary school, you were with a smaller group of people. Not to say that you knew them, but everything was smaller. We had two classes of kids when I was in sixth grade. Approximately thirty students per class = sixty kids. Sixty kids, for the most part, from the same area of town. Sixty kids that behaved decently (some exceptions of course) and even though we had not been taught about personal space, we knew about kooties. Maybe kooties are to kids what personal space is to adults. Does that make sense? Who knows.

Anyways, moving right along… and on to jr. high. Students from various elementary schools in the district are fed into one school, and for most of them, puberty is in full swing. I was always sent to school clean – body, hair and clothes all clean. As for others, you would think they had no idea what water was, or it just wasn’t bath day for them yet. You go to lunch and are in a line with who knows in front of you and behind you. Obviously, the unclean smell. They are stinky and on many occasions the one behind me was entirely too close. Did anything bad ever result of this, other than my personal space being invaded and my nose offended? Not that I recall. I can’t help but ask the question though, would it kill these people to quit tail gating my person? Is it too much to assume that my body should be the only one occupying my clothes, and that there is certainly no room for others?

In this day it is wise to be cautious of your surroundings. When seeing the thing on one of the local news reports about the women getting their purses stolen in movies theaters I kept thinking how silly the whole things was, and that a little common sense on the part of the victims would have prevented the whole thing. Would a man take his wallet out of his pocket and leave it basically unattended on the seat next to him, or on the floor, in a dark room where all small noises are covered up by a movie blasting through speakers in every corner of the room? No, he wouldn’t. Why? Because that would be dumb. Just like leaving your purse in the same situation is dumb.

Back to topic – being wise to your surroundings also means (in my mind) being aware of your personal space. I am aware of and can control the space in front of me. If those behind me did the same, then one could conclude that they would not be so close. I am not talking about huge amounts of space either – just what is normal. The normal amount of space that I allow for people in front of me is what I expect from those behind me, and most of the time, that is what I get. There is the occasional exception, and I do what I can to maneuver myself so that there is either something put in between me and this person or my body is positioned so that I take up more space from the rear than I have to (like putting one leg further behind me instead of standing with the two together).

Am I asking too much here? I don’t think so. Obviously, if other people out there are allowing for the appropriate amount of space in front of them (and there are more of them than there are the people who don’t) then I am not the only person that feels this way. Now, how do we go about cluing in the folks that have no clue on this?

1 Comment so far

  1. zayn (unregistered) on September 10th, 2005 @ 2:23 pm

    i hear you…though personal space, the notion of what is appropriate, differs from culture to culture…the usa generally follows the arm’s length rule…but if you go to mexico p-space is less and to canada p-space is more etc…i guess in a multicultural place like dallas (imagine in nyc where i lived for a while, you stomach anything) you have to live with occasional intrusions into your p-space…better than being in a one-tribe town…

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