How to Recognize a Close Encounter of the Personal Kind.

space invader

You know who I’m talking about.

Those people who get so close to you that you almost feel their breath on your neck as you stand in line at the grocery store, post office or drug store.  Anywhere there is a line with people who think that you’re too slow and they’re more important,  or who were seriously raised by parents who did not teach them about respecting the personal space of others.

This often takes place as I am paying and I want to offer them a piece of gum out of my purse since they can see inside it so well.

A grown man in the next line over at the store yesterday was so up in this lady’s business and being such a spaz about it that I could feel the energy in the next lane over. (This photo does not do the situation justice and I was trying to be discreet.)  I wanted to ask him if he had to use the restroom or something since he seemed in such a hurry.

Often these space invaders have one hand on their hip, their arms crossed or even their legs crossed like this guy.  And some sighs and heavy breathing might take place. Sometimes body odor.

Naively, I always think that making some dramatic eye contact with a semi-sneer will make it clear to them that they are invading my space and they need to back off.

Or sometimes I think that if I just hold my ground and not move a single inch until I’m good and ready, they’ll get the message.

I’ve even tried slightly backing up to throw them off, to no avail.

I always want to say something like “You seem like you’re in a hurry since you’re up so close and personal with me right now, want to go ahead of me?  Or do you just want to get to know me better?”  Or “You seem like you need a hug … is that why you’re getting so close?”   But I worry that I would start something that I’m physically unable to carry through.

Any attempts I make to help space invaders realize that they are bucking  this social norm are futile.  I’m baffled.  Or maybe I’m delusional to think that I can really change another human being’s behavior? ( Logically I know this to be the answer but I still love to analyze it.)

How do you handle Close Encounters of the Personal Kind?  Any tips?

10 thoughts on “How to Recognize a Close Encounter of the Personal Kind.

  1. I hate when that happens! It’s not like the line is going to move any faster with someone attaching themselves to my back! What I do is I stand sideways to the person, with feet quite far apart and shift my weight away from them and just use my foot and leg as a sort of barrier. If I have a bag or rucksack with me, that goes on that side as well. And if they don’t get the message then, I use the eyebrows-raised, haughty look on them. Which doesn’t work as well as it sounds, but at least they’ll know they getting on my nerves. 🙂
    Next time, however, I’m going to offer them a hug. I think. It’s a genius idea. Very startling, yet totally non-offensive. 🙂

  2. I have an invisible line around me that is about an arms-length away and I hate it when someone I don’t know gets into my space. I will either step back and tread on their toe, or I’ll swing my bag to get the cash out and hit them ‘accidentally’ in the head (yes – I’m tall!) 😀

  3. Like you, i don’t do well with these people.. Actually, they get on my last nerve..i frequent a store near my house and I kid you not other than a few of us that go there, the rest have never had any home training. It takes all my strength not to just go off on a rant when I’m in line to pay and dude/or dudette is about 2 inches from my face.. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr..;-)

  4. Your idea to offer a hug is priceless!

    I’m quite sure it’s a often a cultural thing and not intended quite as rudely as you (and I) perceive it.

    When I lived for a short time in Europe, people would not only wait in line at the bank, post office, etc. crazy close, but they would also stand RIGHT NEXT to the person being served at the teller window. Talk about wanting to screen bloody murder. Imagine being the one speaking to the post office employee in your best (broken) Italian about the amount of money you needed exchanged and having some dude practically shoulder-to-shoulder with you, staring at you. Somebody put me out of my misery.

    Again, I think it’s maybe more acceptable for people used to more ‘crowded’ cultures. It must be super polite to squueeeezzze in nice and tight in line. <:D At least that's what I tell myself.

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