As Americans, we are particularly aware of what we usually call our own “personal space.” Elevators make us want to die, we don’t like talking to strangers, and we each have a four to five foot bubble that must not be breached. This is our common social contract—stay out of my no-fly zone and I’ll stay out of yours.
But there is that handful of people who try to ruin it for the rest of us. They sit next to you at the airport and have a way-too-detailed phone conversation with their sister about their emotional state because it’s “that time of the month.”
Or it’s your co-worker who apparently can’t communicate unless he’s buzzing your tower from six inches away. Or the lady on the plane who turns casual, polite conversation into two hours of torture and doesn’t take you reading the barf bag as an obvious enough cue that you’re not interested.
For every Steve Martin, there’s a John Candy along for the trip, all too eager to take your cab, crash your party, or light your rental car on fire (Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, people). Everywhere you go, those people are there.
I found that guy again yesterday at the gym. There I was minding my own business on the treadmill, when an older, fully grown man mounted the Stairmaster to my immediate left. Why in that entirely empty row of machines he had to pick the one right next to mine, I’ll never know. But he did.
And as I jogged on to the sweet rhythm of the Michelle Branch station on Pandora (only a real man can actually admit that), trying to enjoy the peaceful stress-relief I get from the solitude of running, I noticed little droplets of water splashing down on my machine. I glanced to the left to see the source of this tropic rain.
John Candy’s twin brother over here looks like a Grizzly bear trying to climb a tree for a coveted honeycomb snack, and as he does so keeps flinging his arms and head like a dog after a bath. That’s right, the falling rain on my machine, in my personal space, is a sad combination of sweat and drool from this guy’s jowls as he totally overexerts himself.
The other very, very sad irony is that while I finally come to the conclusion about the unwanted moisture on the handrail of my apparatus, John Mayer’s song Your Body is a Wonderland comes on over the wire. No, sir, your body is most certainly not a wonderland. So please take it and your secretions elsewhere. This isn’t SeaWorld, and I didn’t pay to sit in your splash zone.
This is my plea to all of you: don’t be that guy. Respect other people’s space, including the range of their ears, the splash zone around you as you workout, and the closeness of your talking. Nobody wants to hear you talk to your long lost cousin about your goiter. Your business call as you feign working out doesn’t impress me with your sense of never-ending self-importance.
And finally, to steal a line from Jim Carey in Dumb & Dumber as the lady talks his ear off at the bar and asks for the millionth time, ‘You know what I mean?’—“No, and I don’t care! Bartender!”