Thursday, November 8, 2007

Lost in Space

Space is important, especially personal space. That imaginary boundary you place around yourself in an attempt to keep people from getting too close to you is different for everyone. Mine changes with the wind. One day it’s tiny. Another day it’s the size of a football field. A lot of it depends on my mood. If I’m happy and optimistic, you can stand right next to me and it doesn’t bother me at all. If I’m tired and cranky, you need to back up about three steps. Hmm. Make that four. It also depends on who the person is. Some folks can stand elbow to elbow with me, and it doesn’t bother me one bit. But some people make me uncomfortable, and I don’t always know why. It’s just a feeling that I get with strangers sometimes. I don’t want these folks to touch me or get close to me even though I’m prone to hugging and elbow squeezing and arm patting. I’m a touch-er, which makes the whole “don’t get close to me” thing ironic. Since I’ve been Typhoid Mary during the last week, personal space has not been an issue. No one wants to stand next to me. No one is busting down my invisible fence. That will likely change tomorrow when I go to the grocery store….and get in the checkout line.

The one thing (besides car trouble) that makes me absolutely, positively, without a doubt, certifiably insane is for the person in line behind me to stand right next to me while I pay for my stuff. Is there not an unspoken rule that the next person should stand a few feet back, somewhere near the beginning of the checkout counter until my transaction is done? He should not move forward until I’ve been given my receipt and the “thanks for shopping with us, Mrs. Hula” sendoff. My invisible fence alarm starts ringing in my head if the person behind me stands right next to me. I can’t concentrate on paying. I want to scream, “Back up! I’m not done.” Isn’t this how identity theft happens? People stand too close and surf for your checking account numbers. More than anything, it makes me claustrophobic. I can’t explain why. It just does. And it happens to me almost every time I go to this one particular grocery store. I always give the person in front of me a little room. Mama J. doesn’t. She crowds the person in front of her, and it drives me insane to watch her do it.

I think they should post some checkout line guidelines, so we all play by the same rules. 1. Maintain at least four feet between customers at all times.
2. Have your payment method ready to go before your total is given. That way we don’t all have to wait while you dig through your purse for your debit card or that wrinkled up $20 bill.
3. Use the little divider bar so the clerk doesn’t get my groceries mixed up with yours and I end up paying for your Lean Cuisines.
4. Don’t make the whole line wait for a price check on that one naval orange you’re buying. If it doesn’t have a bar code on it, please don’t pick it up.
5. If your toddler is in the cart, keep an eye on him, so I don’t suffer a heart attack in line watching him stand on one foot in the front seat.
6. And please, please don’t push your cart into my back while I’m trying to pay. Without a doubt, that is way over my invisible fence.

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