The other day I was standing, waiting, at my favourite(!) railway crossing (Infamous Crossing) when I was suddenly approached by two people. I say ‘suddenly approached’; it was more of a sidle and they weren’t actually approaching me, they just wanted to get, like me, to the other side of the railway as soon as they could. So they really approached the crossing gates.
So why did I say I was approached?
Well, I was standing fairly close to the shut gates – any closer and I would have been on the wrong side of them! The two people approached from behind (obviously otherwise they too would have been on the wrong side of the gates!) and I could hear them from some distance because they were talking quite loudly.
They reached the gates and got so close to them that they were leaning over them. They continued to talk at a high volume and took on the appearance of the stereo typical neighbours from decades ago gossiping over the garden wall.
As they leant over the gates talking, they left between them a space large enough (just) to fit a third person.
How can I be sure the space was large enough (just)? Well, quite simply because I was already in that space!
That’s right, this couple stood either side of me pushed up against the railway gates and bent round me to continue their conversation.
I am the sort of person who likes his personal space kept for its intended occupant. There are certain times when the invasion of my personal space is tolerated, but only because there isn’t much choice – for example on a packed underground train. Sometimes when attending one of my favourite pastimes, theatre, I also find that the seats are just a little too close. Again, not much one can do about the invasion, but trying to share the small arm of the chair between the two of us is somewhat disturbing!
Especially on a hot summers evening when the stranger’s bare skin may be a little clammy! 😦
I’ve experienced times when travelling to London on a packed commuter train, again a time when there is no escaping the space invasion, and the person next to me has fallen asleep and their head has come to rest on my shoulder!
What does one do? As a polite, shy, reserved human being (OK polite) does one just abruptly awaken the fellow passenger with a swift elbow to the ribs? Does one just sit there, sweating profusely in a mild panic attack because ones space has been well and truly invaded? Does one stand up and watch the sleeping traveller drop to the seat?
It’s a dilemma!
As I write this, I’m beginning to think I have a major phobia about space invasion because another thought has popped into my head. And that thought concerns the great British art of queuing. I always leave a ‘good’ person width between me and the person directly in front of me (note the use of the word good– especially for my ‘good’ friend Mr Plenty!). However, the person behind me is often virtually in my back pocket, and when the queue moves up ahead, no matter how casually I try to close the gap (still leaving a person width of course), the person behind me remains attached to my rear end!
Now, back to my close encounter at the railway crossing.
Unfortunately for me, it was one of those days when the gates stayed shut for multiple trains, and being a typically reserved Brit, rather than say anything to the loudly chatting couple, and rather than move away, I stood my ground and just glared. In actual fact, I don’t think I stood my ground at all, I think I was paralysed by the shocking use of English attacking my brain in surround sound!