Anne Palumbo: Hey, you! Get off of my cloud!

Anne Palumbo

Pull up a chair. We need to talk. But don’t pull it too close. You’ll be encroaching on my invisible bubble of personal space. Don’t take it personally, but I can’t take one more person invading this coveted space of mine. Honestly, it’s gotten unbearable lately.

Is it just me? Or are others feeling the same intrusion? No matter where I go these days, no matter what I’m doing, some stranger manages to breach my bubble. They either stand too close or do not move out of the way or mist me with goober-y saliva molecules.

Lest you think I have an aversion to humans, I do not. I’m just a stickler for upholding accepted zones of individual space, no matter the zone: intimate, personal, social, or public.

Really, I’m good with the four zones and their appropriate distances. It’s the trespassing that pickles my persona, the rude budging into territory where you clearly don’t belong.

Let me give you a good example of personal space invasion. Maybe you can relate. It frequently occurs when I’m standing in the grocery-store checkout aisle, waiting to sign my name on the electronic signature pad. Here’s what happens: I’ll be patiently standing there, humming some happy little tune, when, suddenly, I’ll sense that my bubble is being violated.

What usually tips me off is someone’s hot, sticky breath. But deodorant (or the lack thereof) can also trigger a Code Red Bubble-Breach Alert. Now, in order for me to smell these smells, I’m talking about strangers who have crossed into my “intimate zone,” which – from nose to nose – is only about 8 inches. Eight inches! Feet don’t fail me now! But, of course, I can’t run – I have to pay for my groceries.

Here’s another example. People have lost all sense of space decorum when it comes to waiting in lines, an activity that warrants the “social zone” – a distance between 2 to 4 feet. Yes, 4 feet may be asking too much, but at least give me 2. Please give me 2. But, no. Today’s people don’t give you 2. What they give you instead is an in-depth look at their most recent dental work. No thanks.

Quite frankly, I’m amazed that space offenders don’t notice the little “space dance” that occurs when people feel threatened. Just last week, I was engaged in a space dance at a cocktail party. A guest moved forward, I moved to the side; he moved to the side, I moved backward; he came forward again, I impaled him with a shish kabob skewer.

OK, I didn’t really do that, but the thought did occur to me.

“Anne,” you might be saying, “lighten up. We’re a crowded society.” The thing is, I don’t think this behavior has anything to do with crowds. I say it all boils down to yet another manner we are letting fall by the wayside. First, the rude driving; then, the flagrant display of underwear; now, the space invasion.

Anyway, thanks for listening. You can move your chair away now. No, farther. Keep going until you reach the “public zone.” That would be 12 feet away. What do you mean you can’t do that because you’ll be out in the street with traffic bearing down on you? Manners are manners. Hop to it!

Anne Palumbo writes this weekly column for Messenger Post Newspapers. E-mail: