You’re a nice guy… please get out of my bubble

Shawn Magrath

I’d like to think we’ve all had encounters with people that we almost immediately regret. I’m sure even Ned Flanders would grimace and mutter something a little less than flattering at the sight of a familiar face that he would really, really, really like to avoid.

Of course, we’re not talking just avoid. No, we’re talking about going out of the way to avoid.

I had one of those encounters at the grocery store earlier this week (and in hindsight, I suppose only one per week isn’t so bad). I wasn’t even given the chance to avoid it. I simply turned and, well, there was no “pretending” I didn’t see him, no ducking down behind bread shelves, no last-second turns down the feminine products aisle which involves other risks that I’m willing to take… My only option was to not move and just hope he didn’t see me, which of course, didn’t work the way I had hoped.

It’s not that this gentleman’s a bad guy. He’s not rude. He’s not threatening. He doesn’t complain, doesn’t cuss, smoke, yell or hassle me. On the contrary, he’s almost too pleasant – the rot-your-teeth-from-too-much-sweetness kind of pleasant. Really, I don’t mind his persona. My problem is his lack of regard for personal space – you know, the “personal bubble.” Everybody has one and it’s only big enough for themselves.

This guy definitely tries to fit too much of himself into the too little space available in my bubble. It’s a complaint straight from a Seinfeld episode; a great guy but stands waayyy too close – a literal toe to toe conversationalist. So close, I actually needed to push my elbow backwards to shake his hand. I take a step back and he inches his way closer while he talks to me. Another step back and he inches closer. Another step back and he inches closer… A few more steps I might actually make it to my car (assuming he doesn’t try to carry on the conversation as I’m rolling up the window and driving away).

And it’s an awkward situation. He’s an acquaintances I don’t see too often and it’s just not worth the risk of sounding like a jerk by asking him to back up a little. Truth be told, I don’t even remember the conversation. I just put it on autopilot – I smiled, nodded my head, watched his pupils dilate and stuck with it until he spotted someone else he knew.

Who wouldn’t want to relive that? I Can’t wait until I see him again.