I know we are all on the introvert/extrovert scale. I get that some of us live for a party, speak to strangers in elevators, and actually mean it when we say “we should get together.” Then there are others of us who live for solitude, talk to strangers’ dogs, and prefer to let our fingers do the talking on Facebook and Instagram.
But who are these people who, in a nearly-empty theater, SIT RIGHT NEXT TO US?* The ones who stand too close in an elevator . . . the ones who creep up behind us in line? Do they really not notice that there are 100 other empty seats . . . that the elevator holds a dozen people and there are only two of us . . . that I can literally hear you breathing behind me in line? Are they extroverts who are magnetically drawn to other humans? In church I can understand it, sort of. Church is a communal experience. But in a theater or waiting room or grocery line, why? I'm not even sure if it's an introvert/extrovert thing. I don’t understand it at all.
And then there are their close relatives, the Loud Public Speakers. I don’t know about you but when I’m in a store or doctor’s waiting room or other public place I talk just loud enough for the person I’m with to hear me. The world is my library. Hush. (Although honestly, in a doctor’s waiting room I’m probably nervous and busy with my panicky inner dialogue about disease and death so I wouldn’t be talking to anyone anyway.) But there are people out there who talk to their children or have awkward, personal conversations at a volume that makes me think they must believe it’s impolite to have a private conversation in a public place. Of course it’s impolite to whisper about someone who is right across the dinner table from you, but when we’re in Wal-Mart, it’s ok if I don’t hear about your sister’s creepy boyfriend while I’m picking out my toothpaste, and please stop threatening to smack your kids—they don’t believe you and neither do I, although I’m secretly wishing you’d take some kind of action rather than just the shouting and swearing.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I magnetically attract the close-sitters, the loud-talkers, the people who talk to themselves (or are they talking to me—I’m never sure), the restroom groaners (it’s a PUBLIC restroom, keep your thank-god-I-made-it-in-time sounds to yourself!). Recently in a restaurant bathroom an elderly woman with a walker and superhuman strength nearly tore the stall door off while I kept saying “Someone’s in here . . . I’M IN HERE!” I know she heard me because she repeated what I said in a low, gruff voice which made me even more panicky because I thought she had brought a man in there with her, and then she continued shaking the door with her freakishly strong little arms, and stood there blocking the door when I tried to escape. (I’m not making fun of her, I'm just trying to explain the depth and breadth of my frequent public traumas.)
So in the interest of human relations, if you’re one of these people, maybe you can explain your ways to me, and I can explain my need for personal space to you and the world will be a better place.
*If someone sits in front of you in a nearly empty theater, that's different. They're just jerks.