LC Van Savage
Arm's Length, Please
I wrote about this subject ten or twelve years ago in this very same column, and frankly folks, I’m sad to say, nothing’s changed. Do I think this column has great influence on people? Well, no.
My complaint a decade ago? Zones. No, not school, business or erogenous. No, these are the personal zones we all have which are about one arm’s length wide, a personal, invisible circle around us into which we really don’t want anyone to barge. Well of course a lover or child gets special dispensation, and in fact are often welcomed there, but that’s a whole nuther column.
I think anyone entering our personal zones are unfeeling, insensitive, uncouth dunderheads. Zones belong to us alone, and no one should ever push into them.
But some of you do, and you know who you are. You’re the person who thinks talking straight into my nostrils from 3 inches away is acceptable and even wanted by me. It’s not. Sure they do it in the movies all the time, but that has something to do with film frames or camera lenses or something. But when it happens to us, it’s disconcerting and maddening.
I have an acquaintance who does it all the time. He’s about my height so can look meaningfully into my eyes even if we’re discussing unmeaningful things like liquid vs. wax shoe polish. He begins a conversation and he gradually, very very slowly, moves into my zone until he’s so close I experience severe spittle shrapnel, to say nothing of knowing what he had for lunch. It’s downright gross. I back away slowly, but soon I’m up against a wall, nowhere to go. I say something amusing I hope, and to emphasize my point, give him a playful slap on the chest which has a lot of shove mixed into it. It startles him and he looks down at his chest and I quickly slide to the left and get around behind him. He turns, faces me with a radiant grin, and we again begin our slow, horrid zone dance.
I used to know a zone-challenged woman with whom I had to attend ice hockey games since our sons were playing. I’d see her come toward me up the bleachers, I’d offer up a prayer she wouldn’t see me, but she always did and with a whoop of happiness would squeeze in next to me. She wanted to get so close (yes, zones exist even with the seated) so I’d begin to gradually slide to the end of the bench. Like a magnet she stayed cozily with me, every single inch, until I’d get to the end of the bench and had nowhere else to go but the floor. I’d stand and yes, she’d stand with me. In my zone. I’d flee to the loo and she’d flee with me, but I’d get locked into my stall before she could join me.
There was another guy in my Personal Zone Hall of Fame. His name was Roland. Roland didn’t slowly get into one’s zone, he barged into it immediately. You’d walk into a room and like a charging bison, Roland would be so into your zone he’d practically be behind you. Awful. My way of dealing with Roland, when I knew I’d be seeing him, was to make certain there’d be movable chairs in the room. Roland would stride toward me, blast into my zone and I’d instantly reach for a chair and not so subtly pull it between us. Roland would walk around it to get closer to my face so he could bellow into it, and, clinging to the chair’s back, I’d move around it, playing musical chair with Roland in hot pursuit until I could finally make a break for it.
So zone bargers, please, arm’s length. I’ll stay out of yours if you’ll stay out of mine, OK?
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