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Consider This

By 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, Im sad to say, nothings 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 arms length wide, a personal, invisible circle around us into which we really dont want anyone to barge. Well of course a lover or child gets special dispensation, and in fact are often welcomed there, but thats 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. Youre the person who thinks talking straight into my nostrils from 3 inches away is acceptable and even wanted by me. Its 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, its disconcerting and maddening.

I have an acquaintance who does it all the time. Hes about my height so can look meaningfully into my eyes even if were discussing unmeaningful things like liquid vs. wax shoe polish. He begins a conversation and he gradually, very very slowly, moves into my zone until hes so close I experience severe spittle shrapnel, to say nothing of knowing what he had for lunch. Its downright gross. I back away slowly, but soon Im 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. Id see her come toward me up the bleachers, Id offer up a prayer she wouldnt 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 Id begin to gradually slide to the end of the bench. Like a magnet she stayed cozily with me, every single inch, until Id get to the end of the bench and had nowhere else to go but the floor. Id stand and yes, shed stand with me. In my zone. Id flee to the loo and shed flee with me, but Id 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 didnt slowly get into ones zone, he barged into it immediately. Youd walk into a room and like a charging bison, Roland would be so into your zone hed practically be behind you. Awful. My way of dealing with Roland, when I knew Id be seeing him, was to make certain thered be movable chairs in the room. Roland would stride toward me, blast into my zone and Id 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 chairs back, Id move around it, playing musical chair with Roland in hot pursuit until I could finally make a break for it.

So zone bargers, please, arms length. Ill stay out of yours if youll stay out of mine, OK?


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