We Americans like our space. Our country developed upon the promise of space, as our land, it seemed, went on forever. We like to stretch out, stake a claim, spread wide, stretch our legs.
Sometimes, though, we need reminders that we need to give each other more space, back off, skooch over, step away. We have signs and lines and ropes declaring that patrons “wait here” in order to give privacy to those ahead of us. At the bank. At the library. At the DMV. At our old Blockbuster Video.
But not, apparently, at Redbox video machines. And those side “Quick Return” slots beckon–they tempt us to cross over, to invade, to step up, to skooch in.
And I am not a fan of strangers skooching in on my personal space.
The other day, in my local Walgreens as I tapped the Redbox screen to choose The Descendants, I jumped when a man suddenly stepped toward the “Quick Return” slot at my elbow, literally almost on my elbow. Seriously, I could have touched him with my elbow.
He was a well-dressed middle-aged man with a pleasant face, and that’s all well and good, but the dude was in up in my grill.
“Excuse me,” I said.
He looked at me, smiled, and asked, “For what?”
I held both arms out in stop sign fashion and said, “For personal space.”
Hmm. A crease formed between his eyebrows. He looked at me, and I at him.
“I was going to use the return slot,” he said.
“I see that,” I said. I looked at him, and he at me.
“You want me to move?” he asked.
“Yes, I do,” I said.
He opened his bespectacled eyes wide in surprise and then walked away.
I went back to the screen, swiping my card, entering my zip code, confirming my email address, waiting for my DVD. I turned to find a well-dressed middle-aged woman standing, considerately, about five feet behind me. I smiled at her, and she at me.
As I walked away, the grill-crowder walked toward me, “It’s okay now? It’s okay?”
Unfazed, I let him know, “Yep, it’s great.” He joined his appropriately space wife at the Redbox machine. I grabbed a pack of gum and waited at the register, well out of elbow distance of woman in front of me.