Wednesday, July 24, 2024

The chairlift: Encroaching in Big Sky country

Whitefish Pilot | July 3, 2024 12:00 AM

A bird flew into my dog’s mouth last Sunday afternoon.

We’d just gotten home from a camping trip. After I unpacked, the three of us went into the backyard. My older dog peed on the tree nearest the deck and the younger one followed suit. 

No sooner than he’d finished, a bird flew into his big, goofy smile. He was stunned, dropped his head and looked closely at the shuddering bird on the ground between his paws.

“Leave it,” I hollered and he dutifully walked away, still noticeably and understandably bewildered. 

I’d never seen anything like that. Then, later in the week, I, myself, had a similar experience. 

The ten-dollar word for knowing where your body is in space is proprioception. It is the ability to walk a straight line or to touch your elbow without looking, for example. While a myriad of conditions can affect proprioception, other folks just don’t respect personal space.

I have always tended to give people space when standing in line. The wait will be no shorter should I encroach into the space of the person ahead of me. Likewise, traffic will not move faster if I tailgate.

It was my secret hope that the pandemic practice of giving people 6 feet of space would carry over and become a normal part of human behavior. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.

The post office wasn’t very busy. I was the fifth person in line. 

(Aside: When you enter the post office and the employee has stepped away, doesn’t it feel like a hidden camera prank with five or six patrons waiting in silence, looking about as if they were on an elevator?)

We’d each given one another plenty of room in line, until a woman entered and walked right up to me. It was startling.

For sme perspective, I wear jeans and boots and I stand tall with my shoulders back. My resting facial expression and overall mien could not be described as warm and welcoming. 

But this woman, at least a foot shorter and a dozen years older than I, was in my space. I took a step away and she filled that space immediately. I held my package to my side like a blocker, leaned the other way and shuffled to my right. She answered with a step forward as if we were dancing.

Throughout this interchange, I was giving her the stink eye, to no avail.

It was 40 degrees outside and I was wearing a down jacket but I began fanning myself resolutely to repel the smell of her perfume and give yet another physical cue that I was uncomfortable with her proximity. Again, my message went unreceived.

When the line ahead of me moved and I failed to step forward, having found a degree of respite in the corner of the room, she shot me a glance that said I was out of line, literally, and I must be daft to not step up.

I made it to the head of the line and she was right on my back. By this time I'd had more than enough. I took two steps backward. I did not look behind me. I did not step on her foot, nor did I hear her hit the ground.

Sadly, the bird did not survive the encounter with my dog’s mouth. The lady at the post office, however, remains unscathed.