Sunday, February 17, 2013

I Need My Space

I’m the kind of guy who likes to stretch out.  At a full six feet tall and just shy of 200 pounds, I need some room just to be, much less to move.  I don’t think claustrophobia is the best term to accurately describe this need I have for some real estate around me, but whatever I am feeling would definitely be in the same ballpark. 

The veterinary clinic where I am employed is a small building with several people of varying sizes and personalities, and a lot of “stuff”. We are always bumping into each other and tripping over things.   As much as I enjoy my work and the people with whom I do it, there are some days when I am vaguely irritated for seemingly no reason.  It never manifests itself outwardly or affects my work in any way, but it is just enough to tip my attitude from viewing the glass as half-full to one of seeing it as half-empty.  The other day, it occurred to me that there might be a connection between this hard-to-pin-down occasional irritation of mine and the times when things at work are particularly crowded or cluttered.  Hence the inspiration for this post.

Life feels a lot like this sometimes. (Source)

Like many things, it probably has roots in my childhood.  Growing up as I did in a small town, everyone seemed to know everyone else, and it was hard to avoid anyone, even if you tried.  I was raised in a small house by my parents, with three siblings and one busy bathroom.  I attended a small parochial school, but was part of an unusually large class, so we were packed tightly in the classroom from first through eighth grade.  It was much the same in high school, where no class since has had the numbers of my graduating class.  My first job was at a radio station that was in a facility the size of a shoe box.  Room to maneuver always seemed to be a tough thing to come by in my youth.

Then, as now, I always sought out some wiggle room.  I used to love to spend days at my grandparents’ place in the country as a child, and often visited my other grandmother in town since she lived alone in a large house.  Sure, I genuinely enjoyed their company, but I also liked to be able to stretch out a little.  My best friends as a child were usually kindred spirits who also liked to roam.  The gang of kids I ran with back then was not made up of the types who would hole up reading comic books or watching TV in the living room all day.  We liked to get out there and explore the world in which we had been placed just as much as we reasonably could.  There were paths to follow, streams to wade, rocks to climb, and roads to take.  I had numerous bicycles shot out from under me due to heavy use in those days.  My first car as a teenager was one of the largest on the road, a 1972 Chevy Caprice with lots of leg room for the $575 I paid for it.  Of course it cost over $25 to fill the tank, and that was when gas was well under a dollar a gallon, so it was not all good.  Plus it inexplicably smelt of cherries.  But I digress.

To this day, I still enjoy getting out for walks in the woods or going for rides on my bike or in my car on back roads.  Backwoods camping is one of my favorite warm weather hobbies.  I’ll freely admit that I have been out walking in an open field on a summer day with no one around and just flopped down on the grass, spreading out my arms and legs and just taking in the vastness of it all.  Then ants would start crawling on me, and the reverie would end very abruptly.  I have also done this while out snowshoeing in the winter too, but never for very long, since I don’t know exactly how I would explain the frostbite on my rear end to the emergency room staff. 

As much as I love sports and music, the idea of going to a crowded concert or stadium or hanging out in a packed club does not at all appeal to me.  I will do it, but it had better be a musical act or sports team that I am extremely fond of if I am going to subject myself to such close quarters.  We’re talking on the level of a reunion of the Beatles or the 1992 USA Basketball Dream Team here.  I attend a church that has lots of room, though purely through coincidence and not by choice, and it suits me very well.  Not so much on Christmas Eve though, when it is shoulder-to-shoulder in the church and I am usually ready to turn myself inside-out by the time the service is over.

Get-togethers with my family can be a wonderful thing, but if we are all packed inside someone’s house because of inclement weather, I can only take so much.  I’ll always be the first person to volunteer to run to the store for supplies if they are needed in such a situation, though I may not be back for hours.  I find that I am closest to relatives who are smokers, even though I don’t smoke myself, since I am often outside to get some air at the same time they are outside polluting it.

Carpooling is a challenge too.  While I am all in favor of saving on gas and helping the environment, it just makes me uncomfortable to be in a crowded vehicle for more than 15 minutes or so, even if I know all the occupants very well.  I’d be happier strapped to the roof.  I would probably use buses or subways if I lived in a large city though.  For brief periods, about the length of time between stops, I can tolerate close quarters, especially if it means I don’t have to look for an empty parking place or shell out money for a parking garage.

Please don’t think that it is an antisocial thing on my part, because I really do love people.  Some of my best friends are people.  However, too many too close to me for too long, no matter whom they are, make me edgy. 

Now, would you mind taking a few steps over there?  Thanks.

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