If you ever worked with animals, protocols for space are very evident and they change depending on the situation.
Cattle are real social animals. Just watch them during hot weather when they are free to roam the pasture at will.
When they head in for a drink, there is all kinds of pushing, jostling, and impatience to get at the water. The bullies slake their thirst first and then try to keep the meeker members of the herd from the trough, but eventually relent and everyone gets a drink.
Same thing for grazing. Everyone eats at the same time—no alternating, or working in shifts. Every critter is just well enough spaced to stay out of horn range of its neighbour.
About the only time the herd will crowd together without friction is when the flies are really bad and they swish tails for mutual benefit.
People, on the other hand, being sane, reasonable, highly-intelligent creatures, are not prone to such foolish “space” issues, right? Wrong!
Marital space, for instance. Early on, there isn’t any. You just can’t get close enough. But as passions cool, your own side of the bed, your pillow, and your stuff become increasingly important.
Tolerant phrases like, “Whatever you say, dear,” are replaced by the likes of, “You threw out my what? Are you crazy?”
In time, however, you reach understandings on “space,” just like the Pearl of the Orient and I have. She stays out of my office and I stay out of her lingerie. A very sensible arrangement.
In the coffee shop, where males congregate to tell the latest lies (with the female we call it gossip), personal space issues are a socialized ritual.
In Drizzle Creek at the bakery, it is called the Chair Shuffle.
The tables are grouped to hold parties of four except for one larger one serving as the discussion group area—the debating table. This debating table generally is habituated totally by males.
Drizzle Creek males, in their ignorance, consider themselves one of the last great bastions of sexism and chauvinism remaining in all of North America. Employment equity is unheard of. Equality of the sexes is not even open to discussion.
The females know they are superior and see no reason to come down to the male level.
Observing the “space” quirks of the Drizzle Creek males is quite a unique experience. The normal six seats at the forum table are quickly filled, but others crowd up to the table and the “Chair Shuffle” gets underway.
This is an almost unconscious act of automatically adjusting the space between table members.
You don’t just get up and move your chair. The “Shuffle” involves special technique and skills.
The Drizzle Creek male generally sits down by grabbing the crotch of his pants, hoisting it up to ensure there is plenty of free room (or perhaps just to reaffirm his masculinity). Then he swings his leg over the back of the chair before he lowers his butt.
Once lowered, his hand transfers from his pants crotch to the seat of the chair between his legs. He then lifts up on the chair and proceeds to manoeuvre it in short rapid hops to his proper position at the table.
As if on cue, other males at the table automatically grab the seat of their own chairs, and eyes quickly darting left and right, “Hop, hop, hop,” adjust their own space.
When Drizzle Creek’s least-eligible bachelor shuffles up to the table, his high level of testosterone causes his neighbours to take a couple of extra hops to make sure they’re not too close.
When the latest political hopeful wanders in from Trawna with another handful of election lies, the whole crew shuffles around to face the new arrival.
Looks just like it does on Nature, when buffalo at the water hole turn to face the approaching lion.
But the strangest sight of all is when four or five bodies rise and leave in unison. Those remaining have their space sensitivities kick into overdrive, feeling being seated too closely threatens their masculinity.
A veritable syncopation of the shuffle erupts as they re-space themselves around the table—scurrying around like a bunch of surprised cockroaches.
If you don’t believe me, stop into the bakery some morning and observe. You even could get involved. And please be prepared to contribute at least one new lie.
Besides the shuffle looks a lot easier and more entertaining than line dancing.
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