The misanthrope’s need for personal space
I’m having trouble with space. Not the intergalactic type, but the human kind, as in my personal space. People and things are cluttering it up, and my daily encounters with the lack thereof are wearing me down and cranking me up.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Hey Kitchen Slattern, you chose to live in one of the most densely populated areas on Earth — of course space is tight. Stop your bitching, why don’t you?” Thank you for your understanding. Let me clarify, it’s not just New York that’s getting tighter, it’s everything and everywhere: my shoes, my car, the distance between restaurant tables, the aisles at Bloomingdales, even the formerly inviolate area around my person. In short, there’s just too much stuff and noise everywhere, and any place that’s not filled with crap is chockablock with nattering, rambling, scrambling humanity.
It is really starting to bug me.
For example, yesterday my white skirt was soiled by the dirty crocs of a child who was obviously having some kind of sugar-fueled seizure on the uptown A train. Though there was an empty seat between us and his mother was on his other side, the child, who could not have been more than four, managed to smear my skirt not once but twice in the time it took to get from Times Square to 50th Street. That’s eight blocks, folks. The boy was spinning and writhing and wriggling and flailing while his oblivious mother (who had successfully staked out her own personal space) played video games on her iPhone WITH EAR BUDS STUCK IN HER EARS.
Interestingly, the second I put my hand out to fend off the third encounter between linen and blackened rubber, while very kindly saying, “Excuse me sweetie, but I think you need to be still,” out came the buds, and I was instantly on the receiving end of a look so searing it very nearly set me on fire. Rather than make a scene, I simply pointed to the skid marks on my daywear, raised an eyebrow at the suddenly vigilant mother and silently dared her to speak. Instead, she gathered up little Pigpen and made for the exit. I guess I’ll send the cleaning bill to general delivery.
Now you may call me hidebound, but I recall a time — my own youth as it happens — when children were expected to behave in ways appropriate to their situation. (For more on this by someone much younger and hipper than me see PFPT’s persuasive argument for child-free zones.) Running and flailing were OK in the schoolyard or at intensive play therapy, but not in close quarters like the subway or restaurants.
Think about it. How often has your expensive meal been disrupted by toddlers free ranging in the dining room? Once, I actually saw a child run straight into a waiter with a fully loaded tray only to have the irate parent remonstrate with management because young Fauntleroy took a soup spoon to the noggin. I mean, it’s bad enough that we now have roughly six inches between tables, but having hordes of low-to-the-ground humanity scrabbling around underneath and between them, snuffling their snotty noses and running their bacteria-riddled fingers over your belongings, meal and person, all the while disrupting the wait staff, has effectively turned the restaurant dining room into a hazmat area. This goes on at all hours of the day and night, so you’re not even safe from it with a 9:30 dinner reservation. It’s no wonder these kids are out of control; they’re OVER TIRED, people.
And since we’re on the subject of restaurants, I’ve got a question. Can anyone tell me the name of the genius who started the trend of furnishing restaurants with long communal tables? Because unless the hostess is planning to seat me next to George Clooney (and he’s buying rounds for the house), I’m not interested in sharing a table with strangers. And no, I don’t strike up friendships that way. I bring my own friends with me — I’ve already got some, and I’d like to relax and talk to them rather than having to listen as some camera-clicking tourist from East Bumfuck describes life down home and how much he and the missus enjoyed Blue Man Group last night. I want my own table goddammit. If I felt like dining communally, I’d eat in a prison or my local soup kitchen.
Flying is even worse than eating out. Not only are airline seats approximately half the size they once were, where there used to be ten rows, now there are twenty. Once you’re folded into your “seat,” the position is disturbingly reminiscent of a visit to the gynecologist — your knees are up around your ears, it’s unbearably stuffy and badly lit, you’re holding on to the armrests for dear life and hoping against hope that this time you won’t have to slide down or extricate yourself suddenly to pee. Invariably, the person next to you is either morbidly obese and overflowing into your space, unpleasantly fragrant, involved in an intimate phone chat, watching porn on his laptop, or all of the above. And once the guy ahead of you reclines, you’d best hope his toupee is glued fast (they do fall off, let me tell you).
The shrinkage of personal space is as much psychic as physical. For this I blame reality TV and its hyperactive, evil spawn, social media. Now that we can watch regular, ordinary people — like the Kardashians, Snookie and Big Ang — going about the business of their daily lives in lurid widescreen detail, we seem to have the idea that everything we do is fit for public consumption, and we all need video cameras up our asses every hour of every day to document same. There’s no expectation of privacy anymore. In fact, if the cameras aren’t rolling, we Americans hitch up our can-do spirit to our Yankee ingenuity and do it ourselves. Praying to go viral, we Twit news of our every nose pick, bowel movement and proctological exam to anyone who cares to follow along. Enough already, people. Stop inviting me into your space; it’s too much.
And while you’re at it, stay out of mine. As the great Divine once said, “I’ve got hampers of ironing to do, and my diet pill is wearing off.”
Posted on July 29, 2012, in Commentary, Rants, The Slattern Speaks and tagged Airline seat, Bloomingdales, George Clooney, Humor, Kardashians, Misanthropy, Personal space. Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.