Friday, July 28, 2006

Space Invader

Okay, so maybe I have some personal space issues...

But I've just experienced something that my many years spent sharing this earth with other humans did not prepare me for. Something for which I have no logical explanation.

My daughters had a little "Halloween in July" thing at their camp today. Parents were to report at 11:30 AM for a parade.

(Issues of The Inanity of Costumes in Ninety-plus Degree Weather aside, this is not the illogical event to which the second paragraph of this post alludes.)

I was one of the first parents to arrive at 11:25.

Walking from my car, I saw the portico area by the main entrance was still parent-free, so I decided to christen it with my presence. There were two small wrought iron benches, one on each side of the entrance-way. Feeling like an explorer being the first to plant her flag on a new land, I firmly planted my derriere on one of the benches.

As I put my keys into my purse, I was startled by a dude sitting down next to me. WHAT?

And more importantly "WHY!" when the bench across from us was still so perfectly and pristinely empty. In fact, the entire area was empty. Except for me and the dude sitting way too close to me.

In an instant, I went from comfortably scoring a good parade position to panic. See, if the other bench had been taken, I would have understood. But it was Unoccupied. Vacant. Empty.

So beautifully empty, and singing out its siren call for this dude to sit on it instead of next to me.

Oh yeah, he did happen to have a baby in a carrier on his chest. However, that loophole is not considered legitimate, at least not according to my copy of the Rules of Personal Space. Not when there's a viable seating option a mere two-second stroll away.

He also had a preschool-aged daughter by his side. Who seemed my perfect excuse for escape.

I jumped to my feet -- "Oh, here, let your daughter sit down next to you!"

"Noooo," the guy drawled. "You sit down..."

"Really. It's alright!" I sputtered desperately. "I don't need to sit!"

I tried appealing directly to the little girl, "You can sit down."

But Space Invader persisted. "No, we're okay. You sit."

At this point, it was becoming even more uncomfortable to not sit, so I plunked my butt back down next to him. I believe there was an extremely brief exchange about it being "nice and shady" sitting there on our tiny little bench, after which I quickly transformed myself into a Giant Human Clam.

More and more parents filtered into the area, and I began to purposelessly rearrange the receipts in my purse, in an effort to look busy and nonchalant while sitting two inches from a guy who is weirding me out.

And then his wife walked over. Now I become, in her eyes, the weird chick sitting next to her husband for no apparent reason. I'm just about to ask her if she wants my seat, when her husband volunteers to give up his. "No thanks," she says, "I'd just as soon stand."


Receipts organized, several times over...I find my daughter's Nintendo DS in my purse and discretely play Brain Academy (hiding the game inside the cloth interior) until the parade begins.

Hurray! Photography is my excuse to leap up and gracefully distance myself from my bench interloper.

The Mid-Summer Halloween Parade, in all its sweaty glory!

It all ends as quickly as it began -- but even an hour later, safely at home, I'm still not over my freaked-out-ness.

However, a Snickers bar helped, at least a little. My girls know it's in their best interest to share, or else Mommy can be very, very cranky...

The Space Invader's behavior continues to perplex me. Was there a higher power at work in his choice of seating? Did I actually look friendly? (Must work on that!)

The image I try to project, as depicted by our younger Halloweener.

Was this dude a stranger from another land? (He did seem to have a bit of a southern drawl...) Was he high? (Yeah, I like that one, at least for its anarchist bent.) Was it all absolutely and entirely random?

Somebody needs to tell this guy that there has to be a certain order in the universe for things to run smoothly. Even the lowliest Septa commuter is aware of this -- you simply do not sit next to someone when there's an empty seat nearby.

Because we all need our little invisible force fields to keep out the "others" and protect us from scary stuff, like actually having to talk to other suburban parents.


At July 30, 2006 2:35 PM, Blogger spocko said...

Cyn: When are you going to accept that you are the new hotness in Suburbia? The guy obviously had a crush on you and (like most human males) thought that by sitting next to you, you would be so overwhelmed with his manliness that you would start talking to him which would lead to you leaving your husband and him leaving his wife and together going off to the Casbar.

And I'm sure his wife had a few choice word for him letter, "Who was that hussy!?" she would hiss.

"I have NO IDEA! She just sat down right next to me."

Expect secret phone calls and 'accidently' meeting with said male in the future. Expecially at the Supermarket where he will come in close behind you in a checkout line. When there are SEVERAL other lines PRACTICALLY EMPTY! That is when you should start thinking about getting restraining orders.

You just have to face it, like Angelina Jolie or Shaina Twain or our favorite, Rachel Hunter, (Stacy's Mom) strange men are just going to want to sit next to you.
Hopefully they won't come to your blog and start posting long rants oops I've said too much...
Do I hear a Carpenter's song coming on?

At August 03, 2006 7:51 PM, Blogger Cyn said...

Ah, yeah, Spocko, that's it.

Actually, I am Angelina Jolie. Haven't you noticed all the veiled orphan-adopting and giving-birth-in-Africa references?

Long comment rants are encouraged here, btw.

At August 04, 2006 12:18 AM, Blogger Merujo said...

The personal space issue is a big thing for me. After years of working with folks from the former Soviet Union (where personal space is virtually nonexistant), I cherish mine. I get weirded out when people get too close.

I read this great piece once about men's urinal etiquette, and the order in which a guy should choose an empty urinal, depending on which other ones around him were occupied. I laughed myself silly, then read it to a couple of guy friends who told me it was completely accurate, and that guys who screwed with the order of the bathroom universe were loathed and despised.

At April 19, 2008 10:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you may have overreacted a little bit. I can understand being made to feel uncomfortable, but if he was not some rude, or greasy guy harassing you, I feel like there is no need for you to have been so upset about it after the fact.

At April 20, 2008 7:59 AM, Blogger Cyn said...

Hi Anonymous (great name - so original!) Hey, I love getting comments on old posts, so thanks :)

Of course I over-reacted. That's the whole point of this blog. Over-reaction is me.

I was uncomfortable, being a shy kind of person, but more perplexed than anything else in a "Why is this person not following the normally accepted procedure?" way.

See, my world functions like a well-oiled machine only if everyone follows the rules. And there are rules for seating that are like unwritten law. Say you're entering a doctor's waiting room, and there are a bunch of empty chairs -- you don't sit directly next to another patient. You at least leave one empty seat between you, but preferably find a completely unoccupied row. People tend to spread out across any empty space and then fill in the gaps between as it becomes more crowded.

Look around you at any public waiting area, and you will see this creation of a personal buffer zone.

Or transpose what happened to me to people boarding a train...You wouldn't expect a man who was traveling with his wife to chose a seat next to a stranger when there was an empty row available across the aisle. You would expect him to choose the empty bench so his wife could sit next to him.

That's just how things are done. And when anything is not done the way I expect, it sends my brain off on dizzying tangents, trying to figure out why.

At April 20, 2008 11:15 AM, Anonymous speener said...

And to be honest - you did start the post by saying "so maybe I have some personal space issues." I think that kind of modifies the rest of the post as in part making fun of yourself and your "overreaction".

How lame would blogs be if people wrote about how non-plussed they are about things?


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