So I am standing in line by myself to buy my ticket at the movies (I got there early to meet some friends that drove separately). My happiness at getting out of the house alone is quickly eclipsed by the annoying person behind me in this very long line. She is in her 50’s, has olive skin, very dark hair, is a bit overweight, and I can tell by the way she is dressed in multiple flowing scarves that she is not from America originally. I immediately realize where she is from. She is from the country called IStandTooCloseToOtherPeople.
Perhaps you have met others from this foreign land? It is rather unnerving. I can feel her breath on my neck. I can smell her (she smells strangely of vinegar). Is she trying to pick my pocket? I try to inconspicuously shift my purse to the other side of my body, and I place my hand across the zipper.
The line moves forward, and she is still glued to my back. In the past, when this sort of thing has happened to me (I say happened “to” me because it is most definitely NOT a situation I seek out), I will turn and pretend to cough in the offending person’s direction. You wanna stand this close? You’re gonna get some germs! Hack, hack, take that! Other tactics I have used include stepping backwards and “inadvertently” stepping on the person’s toes—Oh! I guess I didn’t see you there! I am mentally mulling over my options.
I have a medium-sized shopping bag full of popcorn with me (I refuse to pay $6 for a tiny bag of stale popcorn, so I make it at home first and smuggle in enough for me and my friends). I decide to strategically move the shopping bag between me and this woman. The only thing this accomplishes is that she almost steps on my bag and knocks popcorn everywhere. Yikes. This would be bad: if the popcorn spilled out. Would the teen-aged movie theater usher take me to “Mall Jail”? What would my penalty be—no movies for three years? (Wait, isn’t that the default punishment of having children?)
The line is not even moving now and she steps forward anyway. If it were winter and I was wearing a coat, we would definitely be sharing it. What is her deal? Is she trying to cut in front of me? I can’t take it anymore; I am exasperated. I turn to look her in the eye (which means I turn and practically kiss her).
What I want to say is, listen lady, back off! You are making me claustrophobic of my own skin!
What I do say is: “Did you want to go in front of me?”
She gives me a blank stare; I think she might not speak English. Then she says plainly, “Why? Have you not decided yet which movie you want to see?”
She is looking at me in such a puzzled and genuinely kind way that now I feel like a jerk. Is it really her fault that she is from Another Land where they don’t believe in the pointless luxury of personal space?
So I say, “Yeah, I don’t know which movie yet.” Now she has decided that this is a Conversation Opener and that I want to be Friendly (which I most certainly don’t).
She volunteers, “I’m going to see ‘Eat Pray Love’. It got great reviews. But I heard the ending is very predictable, that the character that Juliet Rogers plays goes and tells the…”
“Maybe I’ll see that one,” I cut her off. I do not want to discuss the review nor the plot summary nor the mangled name of the Oscar-winning star nor the ending of the movie my friends and I are buying tickets for.
She smiles sweetly at me and moves forward again. Are you kidding me? I don’t stand this close to my own husband. WhatdoIdowhatdoIdowhatdoIdowhatdoIdo?
I could pour popcorn on her. That is not any more offensive than her choosing to stand so close to me. I could sneeze and not cover my mouth. That is probably worse than a fake cough. I know! I could faint and land on her (but then I might not get to see my movie, you know, if an ambulance shows up to take me away).
Oh, thank God. I am finally at the very front of the line. I only have to put up with this woman for another minute or two. The clerk selling tickets motions for me to come forward to her booth. I start to walk towards her when my friend Wendy shouts out to me from the side.
“MOV—Laura and I already got your ticket! Come on!”
(“Maneuvering Over Veils”)