Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Personal Space

“Personal space refers to an area with invisible boundaries surrounding a persons body into which intruders may not come.”--Robert Sommer

We New Yorkers certainly have a thing with space.  Perhaps it is because we have none; hence, we are always ready to do battle for what we consider our personal space, that area around us that we prefer not to be occupied by another person.  Our turf, so to speak.  And when someone invades our comfort zone, we feel uncomfortable and some even react in some negative way. We've all experienced an invader at some time or another. 

For example, last night I rode the train home from work with a co-worker.  While waiting for the train, we had been discussing our reactions to a recent visit by the CEO of our company and how we felt that he was trying to pacify us when we expressed our concerns about our new office space.  When the train arrived, we found two seats across the aisle from each other, and since both of us are older ladies, we both chose to sit rather than carry on our conversation.  Resting our weary tootsies was more important than carrying on with our gossip.  I felt the lady I sat next to stiffen a little and move may 1/2 inch away,  but as soon as my co-worker sat down, the woman in next seat rather hastily jumped to her feet and moved off to the side, all the while glaring at my co-worker for invading what she perceived to be her a violation of her personal space.  

I've had worse happen to me.  I was at the register at a Rite Aid preparing to pay when one of my items fell to the floor.  As I bent to retrieve it, I barely brushed against the lady behind me, and she went off on me.  And when I say she went off, I mean she went off.  She shouted called me all kinds of names and brushed off her arm like I gave her cooties or something. The woman would not stop. Screamed at me until I paid and left the store.Talk about boundary issues!!!  It's actually quite funny when I think of it now, but, at the time, it was pretty embarrassing to say the least.

Now, granted, she was a rather extreme example, and there was obviously something wrong with her, but don't we all do it?  Don't  we all surround ourselves with a protective fence which forms an invisible boundary around us?  It's a perfectly normal human reaction to feel uncomfortable when someone moves into our space.  I know, myself,  when I am seated on the subway and someone squeezes into the seat next to me, I feel my body tighten.  It's an automatic reaction, but it's up to me how I react.  I always take a deep breath and try putting myself in the other person's place;  after all, I have a seat, and there is a seat next to me that is empty,  so why shouldn't they be able to sit?  Why, they've probably had just the same busy day as I have.  Somehow, I always feel better when I trade places with the other person....although, I have to admit,  it can be a little frustrating when the person begins rifling through their bag, eating something, or rattling the newspaper , but that's another story.  There are other things, too, that violate one's personal space.  Here are a few of mine:

I don't know about where you work, but in my place of work it seems we all have our same seats when it comes to lunch or staff meetings.  Even clients seem to sit in the same seats, group after group.  It seems as if I begin to feel strangely homeless when someone takes my seat in our staff meeting or lunch room, and I find myself forced to see elsewhere.  I want to cry out, "That's my seat",  but, the truth is, it is not.
Or, how about  when a stranger sits at  your table when other tables are available?  Why do they have to do that?  They don't attempt to chat with you, so they are not trying to be your friend.  They are just invading, pure and simple.
Hearing someone's cell phone conversation. On my subway ride home the train comes up out of the tunnel for two stops before diving back down again.  As soon as the first sign of light, people are dialing their phones and talking about what time they will be home or what they are having for dinner.  Who cares?  I have my own worries.  And I especially hate those 'beep beep' things where you hear both sides of the conversation.  Is nothing sacred anymore?
Loud people, or music.  Worse yet, why wear headphones if you are going to blast your music so loud that I am going to hear it anyway?
Spammers on my blogs.  Oh, do ever feel invaded when that happens.  My blogs are my sacred place.  I don't violate others' space, so please don't do it to mind.  And, with the American Woman Hater making his rounds, I think a lot of us are feeling this way right now.

So, what are some of your pet peeves?


  1. First, let me applaud you, for being able to cope with living in a busy city like NYC. It must take a special kind of person, to handle it, and stay sane. You are amazing! So there!

    Pet peeves? People having the same complaint, over and over, about something in their lives... And never trying to do something/anything, to make it change.


  2. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm Where to begin?
    People blocking aisles in the grocery store. In Walmart resently I had to turn around and retrace my steps to get over to the next aisle.
    People behind me saying Hello to someone on their cell phone and me mistakingly thinking they are saying HELLO to me and I answer them with a Hello as I turn around and they look at me like I have two heads. :0(
    I'll stop there.
    Have a great day m/f. (((hugs)))

  3. I have major issues with personal space. I've ridden the subway on my many trips into the city and each time I swear I will never do it again.

    I have issues with my physical personal space as well as all of my senses being invaded.

    As for the American Woman Hater, I changed my blogger comments so even if he does comment I can moderate and not place his words on my blog. Part and parcel for living with crazy people. Like I always say, you can't argue with crazy.

  4. .Hi Mary....oh you bring up some of the most interesting issues. Personal space.....Living in AZ I'm not often confronted with someone getting in my personal space. It seems like we have more space than we can handle and more people keep on commin' to fill it up. LOL LOL

    I did have an experience down South once....while traveling with my husband on business he introduced me to this most charming man. I was in my late 30's and unaccustomed to southern manner. Anyway....this gentleman saddled right up next to me...couldn't of been more than a few inches from my face and told me what a pleasure it was to meet me. I did feel a little uncomfortable...but I guess that is the way the do it in the South. LOL LOL Ended up spending quite a bit of time with this particular gentleman.....made sure I was out of reach from that point on.

    BTW.....the woman hater visited me....deleted immediately.


  5. I have to hand it to you living in NY. I couldn't do it! I have to say that folks that block the entrance or exit doors bug me, all of a sudden they stop and start unloading their buggies. What? Or the folks that have to chat on their cell phone while at a sit down restaurant. Just rude! Or someone standing over my shoulder while checking out, I refuse to even swipe my debit card while they stand there. I just stand and stare at them, once they move away I go about checking out. The "woman hater"?
    Love you!