Not a big deal, or maybe it is. No, it really is petty, but I have a gripe today – well, I have it often, but it was evoked today with my trip to Curves. I’m so far from being athletic you could say I extend the normal curve like a snake way off to the left. But I do try to get to Curves three times a week for what amounts to a workout.

If you’re familiar with the place, you know there is a large circle of workout machines. (I think 12. Next time I go I’ll count them.) In between there are “recovery stations” where you can do whatever you want – walking or jogging in place, flinging your arms around, bending and stretching – whatever. And it’s all timed. 30 seconds on a machine, 30 seconds on recovery.

For most of us who pay the small extra fee, the intensity of our workout is recorded on a computer which, at the end of two plus cycles, tells us how we did. Something to strive for. As for me, the hard part is getting myself there. The joyful part is seeing the end.

So, about community and closeness. If I were doing a more serious blog, I’d be ranting about the importance of encouraging community, cooperation, empathy, working together, appreciating each other’s differences, overcoming greed. In other words, I think community is our hope for the future and appreciation of things past.

But It also means respect for our individuality. And that’s what set me off today. When I arrived this morning, there was one other person working out, so I chose to start on a machine at a distance from where she was so as not to crowd her. I was happily (well, dutifully) working my way around the circuit when another woman arrived and started her circuit right next to me. Now, if there ‘s a huge crowd there, options are few. Bu she had plenty of room.

What it meant was I had to stand and wait for her to finish, or work my way around her to a different spot – not the best way to keep the computer informed.

Actually, she seems to be a lovely lady. So what is it when people seem not to be aware they are crowding others?

Now that I’m on a roll, how about the light at the intersection of highways 41 and 5? (Or wherever your example may be.) Those of us who drive there often know the green light lasts just long enough for three, maybe four cars to get through. I’m OK with that. It’s a busy intersection. But I do try to be alert if I’m first in line so I move as soon as I’ve taken a quick look left to make sure no one is running the red light against me. I’m not perfect at it, but it seems to me like an act of respecting other people’s need to get through the intersection. My gripe? Folks who are first in line who seem not to be aware that the fate of others depends on them and, for want of a better word, dawdle for one reason or another. Leaving those a few cars behind them waiting again through the whole cycle before they can get through.

One more example of failure to respect personal space. The person whose own personal space is minimal, so he or she drives you into a corner as you try to maintain your polite distance in a conversation.

I know. I know. Cultural differences. Even neurological differences. For my classes when we were on the topic of personal space, I often cited the difference between my Swedish heritage of greeting people with a handshake that produces a separation of approximately three feet. (Try it) Compared to my welcoming Italian heritage in-laws who greeted me with a kiss on the lips – or at least in the vicinity. I learned to appreciate the closeness, though I suspect they never understood the Scandinavian stand-off-ish-ness (literally.)

But why couldn’t the woman at Curves have chosen to start a few machines away from me this morning?

p.s. I’m almost positive the woman in question will never see this blog, and wouldn’t recognize herself if she did. Therefore I feel safe in making this public.



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  1. yes. And why don’t we say something to that person – about how it makes us feel? Personally, I would fear being met with frowns and anger. What was your reason for not speaking up, Mona?

  2. Personal space is an issue we deal with on a regular basis in my workplace as many of the clients don’t understand the concept.

    • Any examples to share?

      • We have many clients who don’t understand the client/carer relationship and they want hugs or to hold your hand. There is one little lady who it doesn’t matter how many times I remind her that we shouldn’t hug, comes up and gets me in bear hug. There are others who think it’s fun to sneak up behind you and tickle. Others who want to hold hands. Others who get close in your face when speaking. It is a constant thing to teach them about the personal space bubble and circle of friends and who you let into that circle.

      • Thanks so much for your examples. Tough things to handle in any situation, but certainly with fragile clients.

  3. You are great. Loved this.
  4. A few years ago I was camping on the Greenlandic tundra. I chose a spot in a dip in the landscape where there was NO ONE. More people arrived during the day and when I went ‘home’ that night there was another tent pitched not five feet from mine. Why? Sven, who I had never met before, said that it just felt right, safe, comfortable, warm and snuggly. We still laugh about it. So, who knows? That woman was drawn to you probably for similar reasons… and for the light hesitation? To repeat what a French flight attendant said to me once when we diverted to another city…”Maybe we avoid un catastroph!” You just never know what it’s good for. Safe and happy travels, Mona.

    • Thanks for your great example. Do I assume you and Sven ended up in some kind of permanent relationship? Great story. And yes, I’ve had the same thought often — maybe I was just spared an accident. What would it all look like if I could survey it from above. Yup, I do get thoughts like that when I’m driving.

  5. You have been most articulate and kind in telling of your frustration regarding the respect we generally have for one another. I have a litany of “pet peeves” that cause me concern over what fundamental respect for others seems lost. An easy one for me to recall is the person who pushes the “walk” button” to cross at an intersection and then crosses when traffic seems to permit. The rest of us sit there, with no pedestrian in sight, while the alloted time runs down. I stood on many a corner with a child who insisted on pushing that button until the walk signal came on. If you have no intention of waiting, don’t press the button. I am equally frustrated by people who insist they are “muti-tasking”. That is a modern phrase, but it is not possible. You are either paying attention to one thing or another. As for simple courtesy, I am really tired of addressing the top of people’s heads. If you are busy and I need to wait for time from you – say so. If I am talking with you, let the phone messages wait. The entire world is honestly not fraught with emergencies. I suppose laptops are a wonderful convenience. Yet, when in a meeting or during a conversation, I can’t be convinced you are tending to the matter at hand if you can’t take your eyes off the screen. Some phone calls do require our immediate attention while at work. “Excuse me while I take this call”, best accompanied with stepping away from the meeting seems the proper and considerate way to respond to emergencies.
    Yes, I hate being pushed aside when entering a store due to someone else believing they are more important. I really miss please and thank you. There are countless ways today that we can display our lack of respect for our fellow man/person. And none of them, in my opinion, serve to demontrate how we value one another. And, if we are not able to show a modicum of respect, how can we expect that the world will respect us. Fodder for judgements that are perhaps inaccurate, but – present yourself as one who respects others and those narrow judgements will not carry such weight and destruction.

    • Thanks for adding to my list. I have not experienced the issue of non-crossers hitting the cross button. I’ll keep an eye out for it. But I certainly agree whole heartedly with your points about value and respect.

  6. The traffic light example reminds me of humorous conversation on Prairie Home Companion a few weeks ago when it was recorded in Des Moines, Iowa. There was a discussion about how many more cars get through each green light in Philadelphia than in Des Moines. In Philadelphia people would immediately honk their horns if someone didn’t quickly get going when the light turned, whereas in Des Moines the second or third driver in the row at the light would wait patiently and would remind themselves that there always will be another green light.

  7. I have experienced the same thing. I take it with a smile.

  8. @”But It also means respect for our individuality.” – logical conclusion and universal truth… long story, short: any human relation that is not based upon MUTUAL respect will always end up into a “cul-de-sac”(dead-end!) – sooner or later, but better sooner! 🙂 last but not least: you know that “cul-de-sac” is a French expression and it literally means: ass of (a) bag! 🙂
    * * *
    I loved your “P.S.”… 😉

  9. Ass of a bag! 🙂

    Thanks. Love your succinct statement “long story, short: any human relation that is not based upon MUTUAL respect will always end up into a “cul-de-sac”(dead-end!) – sooner or later, but better sooner! “

  10. Yep. If only everyone would just do it all MY way.



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