Don’t Stand So Close To Me

13 Aug

Greetings from 40,000 feet above somewhere over Indiana. I had a hard time getting to sleep last night – I don’t know if it was anxiety, excitement or the 2 quarts of iced tea I had, but I just could not get myself to sleep. It was nearly 3:30 a.m. when I finally nodded off, and my first alarm went off at 6:45. I should probably be sleeping right now, but as I said before, I don’t like to sleep in public.

Somewhere over the Midwest...

Somewhere over the Midwest…

I said my goodbyes to Mom before she left for work and Dad and the dog dropped me off at the airport at 8:30. Due to weather in the northeast, my plane’s arrival was delayed by nearly an hour, but that was fine – it allowed me time to get some breakfast at the Chili’s Too in the Louisville airport. P.S., Chili’s Too – calling your breakfast platter the American “Feast” might be just a touch overzealous.

Even though I knew I had some extra time, I shoveled the “Feast” into my face as if I were in an episode of “Man vs. Food,” where the only prize is indigestion and oily skin. In fact, I got through check-in, security and I had finished my breakfast by 9:15 – 45 minutes start to finish. That left me a lot of time to sit in the terminal, which I actually don’t mind as long as it’s quiet. I picked out a seat to myself two gates away from my own where there was no one near me and I sat for a while watching CNN on the flatscreen TV mounted above my head. Remember when they used to have small TVs in the terminals mounted on long rows of seats and you had to pay to watch your favorite show in miniature black-and-white? Am I dating myself? Moving on…

My peaceful Valhalla in the middle of Terminal B quickly crumbled around me with the arrival of a family of 5 – a mom, a dad and their three beautifully blonde daughters who were probably between the ages of 8 and 13. Despite the hundreds of empty seats throughout the terminal, the dad planted himself in the seat nearest me and in an instant, as if they were in their living room, all three girls dropped their rolling carry-on bags and laid themselves out in the middle of the terminal floor, shoes off and iPhones in hand. Despite laying right next to each other, they shouted back and forth about how hungry they were and how they needed to find an electrical outlet to charge their various devices while the mom and dad both ignored them and focused on their own iPhones. So as to not look out of place, I pulled out my iPhone, as well, and managed to  snap a quick picture of the dad and the several dozen empty seats behind him. At such close range it was difficult to snap a picture of the entire scene, but I think you’ll get the point.

My awkward attempt at a picture of the close-sitters. Do you see all those empty seats that they could have chosen?

My awkward attempt at a picture of the close-sitters. Do you see all those empty seats that they could have chosen?

I don’t know what it is about me that attracts people to me. I don’t mean this in a conceited “everyone finds me to be incredibly handsome” kind of way. I mean in a “Hey! I see that you have your headphones on and, despite the 20 other people around you who are not enjoying music or are in the middle of a phone call, I’m going to choose you to ask for directions” kind of way. It happens to me all the time. I am a magnet for personal space invaders. If I were a betting man, I would put money down that any time I get on an empty or mostly-empty subway car, someone will come sit right next to me. There could be sixty empty seats and sure as shootin’, I’ll have a neighbor. If I happen to be seated in a moderately crowded train where there are no more seats available, you can be sure that momentarily someone will grab onto a rail or pole directly in front of me, and they’re probably not wearing deodorant. If I’m in an empty movie theatre, it’s almost a guarantee that someone will end up sitting right in front or right behind me. I don’t get it. Am I so devastatingly handsome? Does my Midwestern charm and delightfulness just ooze out of every pore, inviting people to approach me? Do I just smell really good?

While I do smell pretty great (L’Occitane’s Green Tea is my signature scent), I’m pretty certain I am not an overly inviting person – especially when I’m out on the streets of New York. I put on my best bitchy resting face (B.R.F.) so as to say, “Don’t look at me. Don’t talk to me. Don’t even think about it.” And bam! “Um, excuse me sir? Which way to Macy’s?” or “Can I just squeeze in there?” Sometimes when people plant themselves next to me, I will passive-aggressively get up and move to one of the dozens of empty seats while flashing them my best B.R.F., which inevitably invites someone else to come park himself next to me and want to strike up a conversation. Or a mariachi band will step onto the train just as the doors are closing and play “Cielito Lindo” just inches away from me.

But really – what makes people feel compelled to encroach on someone else’s space when there are plenty of more comfortable options? Why is that when you park your car all the way in the back of mall parking lot, where there are no other cars for hundreds of feet, there are always cars park in the spots on either side of you when you return? What makes someone think, “Oh! Someone has chosen this secluded toilet stall in the back corner. They must want a neighbor while they relieve themselves.” Is it a safety in numbers thing? And while we’re at it: Gentlemen, let’s talk about urinal etiquette, shall we? Always take the outside urinals first and then fill in the middle, only using every other urinal unless it’s particularly crowded and you’re forced to stand next to someone. And do you really need to prop yourself up against the wall while you pee? Is the force of your urine flow so strong that you must brace yourself to avoid being blown backward by the pressure?

Sorry…I went a little off-topic there, but that’s one of my biggest pet peeves.

Speaking of peeing, the gentleman in the “I Love Cheese” t-shirt just came out of the lavatory that I’ve been waiting for for the last 10 minutes. Excuse me while I climb over the lady who plopped herself into the center seat next to me just as they were closing the door. See you in Denver!

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