Can You Stand Closer Please? I Can't Quite Smell Your Breath

Danger, Confined Space - Hazardous Atmosphere.  Check oxygen level before and during entry.

“Would you like to sign this?” my friend asked another stranger.

“Excuse me?” the stranger asked, a little startled.

“Well, you’re standing so close to me, I figured you could help me.”

My friend was in a supermarket buying groceries and the lady behind him was standing so close, he barely had any elbow room to complete his purchase.

The Magical Bubble

Everyone has a bubble of space. And when people venture uninvited inside this bubble, it makes for a very uncomfortable experience.

Everyone hates it when someone tailgates them while driving. The same applies (at least for me) when someone is engaged in people-tailgating (or bubble bursting, as I’ll call it).

When I’m in that supermarket line, I make pretty damn sure I give the dude in front of me his space. Often, however, the person behind me would ride my ass so hard that I come out of the store feeling sore and molested.

In fact, I can usually smell their breath, and that’s just too close for a perfect stranger. In those instances, I usually make quick and awkward movements to freak those out behind me so they will back up.

ATM Closeness… Freaky!

Ever been to an ATM at 11pm at night (yes, a bad idea in the first place)? Then some other person has the same bright idea, and he stands like one foot behind you?

You almost want to ask the person to enter your PIN in for you (after you have gotten over the fear of him robbing you, of course).

Self-checkout Closeness

Self-checkout at supermarkets is a miserable experience in the first place.

However, I “love” it when I’m checking out my groceries and someone is so close behind me, they’ll make small comments about the stuff I’m buying. Or, offer me “advice” when something isn’t scanning correctly.

The icing on the cake is when the person will start setting some of his groceries down on the self-checkout platform “before” you have even finished. The freakin’ nerve!

I just want to turn around and say, “Dude, I’m not buying your shit for you.” Just for the record, I would never really say that. I would just run into a corner and cry instead.

If you want to really irritate those behind you, right before you leave the self-checkout line, start the process for the next person and change the language to Spanish.

“Hiiiiii, I’m friieeeendly.”

How about the people that immediately violate your bubble? The person wants to speak to you, and decides the appropriate space is six inches from your nose.

At this distance, you can tell if he’s been plucking his nose hairs.

When this occurs, I back up. If he comes with me, I hold out my arm. If he gets offended, I kick him in the nuts (ok, I don’t really do that, but I think about it quite a bit).

One of my lady friends was absolutely perfect at getting people to back off. If someone was too close, she’d just light up a cigarette. In another instance, she’d wave her arms and say, “See? BUBBLE! Don’t break the BUBBLE!”

My “close encounter” experience

One time I was in an Office Max buying some boxes since I was preparing for moving.

While carrying these boxes, I carried them in such a way that the back edge of the boxes were about 2 feet behind me.

As I was waiting in line, a mother-daughter bubble-bursting team decided to get behind me. I just absolutely knew they were the bubble-bursting type.

Without even moving once, I suddenly felt a jolt in the boxes. The mother had decided she wanted to get close to me for some strange reason, and my new box bubble gave her a jolt and said, “Nope, this is where you stop woman!”

As I neared the front of the line, I felt yet another jolt. This time it was the little girl (I kinda felt bad about it, but not really).

Finally, I was at the cashier, and the two bubble-bursters decided to get immediately behind me.

However, as the transaction finished, I had to take my two huge boxes and back out with them. Rather than get impaled by some boxes, the mother-daughter team scurried out of the way, and I left the store snickering in a devilish rage.

I had gotten my revenge on some bubble-bursters.

8 Comments

  1. Agreed, except I would add that my magical bubble varies depending on the type of tailgaiting stranger. The more female and attractive the trespasser, the smaller my bubble.

    • Peter,

      I would definitely have to agree with you.

      I’m actually getting flashbacks to my economics class in college with all their fancy line charts.

      As hotness increases, the bubble decreases.

      However, this reminds me of a quote from Demetri Martin.

      From Demetri Martin quotes:

      This is very autobiographical. This is the cuteness of a girl versus how interested I am in hearing about how intuitive her cat is. You see, the cuter the girl is, the more I’m willing to hear about the cat. “Oh really?” “Yeah, he’s very intuitive.” But you’ll notice, at a certain point, I don’t care how cute you are. I don’t wanna hear about your fucking cat anymore.

      • Yep, reminds me of the Jack Nicholson character in “Wolf” speaking to the Michelle Pfeiffer character:

        You’re very beautiful and you think men are only interested in you because you’re beautiful, but you want them to be interested in you because you’re you. The problem is, aside from all that beauty, you’re not very interesting. You’re rude, you’re hostile, you’re sullen, you’re withdrawn. I know you want someone to look past all that at the real person underneath but the only reason anyone would bother to look past all that is because you’re beautiful. Ironic, isn’t it?

    • Lol

      You have described the law of nature in your way. The more attractiveness, the closer people get.

      Recently I have been a little embarrassed. I had bad breath for some reason one day and I noticed some of my employees covering their nose discretely as I was talking to them…

      I bought a pack of gum quickly.

      Henri

  2. I am one of those people who does not even like friends and family coming into my bubble. I am not a touchy feely kind of person. I have very few people who can invade my space without being invited too.

    As for your great experience with the box, maybe carrying large boxes all the time would make a big difference.

    I do have a piece of advice that might help with the ATM problem. Act like you are a lunatic and talk to the invisible person beside you. Act as though the invisible person is a demon and you are arguing to save the life of the bubble burster. Say something like no I don’t think would make a good sacrifice to you. ha ha

  3. Don’t ever try the ATM at 11pm again its too risky. Me too is not at ease when someone is at my back that seems watching what I am doing at the machine even at day time. Its better to be cautious than to get in trouble. Specially nowadays.

  4. Work in the food business and you get over these hang-ups pretty quick. A kitchen or serve line can be a pretty cramped place. And waiting tables involves continuosly reaching around people.

    I’ve worked food as a second job for years and have no issues with someone standing within inches of me. Non whatsoever.

  5. I have had this happen all to often. I don’t quite understand how people do not know the meaning of personal space. Honestly I would like a five foot radius unless I am extremely close with that person

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