People are saying in this time of crisis we need to find something positive to help us cope with a stressful situation. I’ve found the most positive thing I could ever hope for – Social Distancing. For anyone with social anxiety this is equivalent to winning the Power Ball.
I’ve never been a people person. Although many have the impression I’m social, these are the same people who believe that David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear. It’s all a distraction to reality. As our illustrious leader said “what you’re seeing is not what’s happening.”
With anxiety, my optimal personal space radius is the square footage of Costco. Being anywhere in a crowd is a challenge. Without a pandemic, most places are usually to “peopley.” I prefer a slow day at the mall, like during a tornado. Hey, I can deal with a few flying cars or a stray cow. I’ve watched Twister and Helen Hunt has nothing on me.
Even when I’ve fully engaged my forcefield, most people are clueless of their own personal space. Standing in line at a store or market is like watching Psycho. I’m already clenching my hands because I know Norman Bates is getting ready to barge into that bathroom.
I’ve got control of the distance in front of me, but it’s always the unknown that lurks behind. I’m consistently the unlucky one who gets bashed in the back by a woman with a purse the size of luggage. Of course, they’re always oblivious– wielding it around nunchuck-style. Is it a soccer mom or Chuck Norris in drag?
I’ve perfected the stink eye along with a sinister glare. If looks could kill, I’d have a body count that rivals Hannibal Lecter. I don’t need fava beans just a turn of the head and my baby blues. “Hit me one more time with that Mary Poppins carpet bag and you better be packing vodka and some Xanax.”
Unfortunately, people are everywhere. It’s hard to avoid them. They seem to show up wherever I go. The worst places to maintainin personal space are public transportation and elevators.
Subways for me are truly trains to hell. I’ve already taken an escalator into the bowels of the earth, then I must fight to squeeze into a tin can of human sardines. The smell of urine, train exhaust and body odor is the perfect bouquet to my high anxiety thrill ride. “Next stop ladies and gentlemen – “Our Lady of Perpetual Panic!”
If I wasn’t afraid of my muscles seizing up and cardiac arrest on my jaunt to the sixty-fifth floor, I’d avoid elevators at all cost. They are clown cars dangling on a cable. Even just pushing the up or down button causes a flop sweat.
I can be the only person waiting to get on an elevator, but as soon as the doors part the Mormon Tabernacle Choir bus tour arrives to get on with me. I’m thrust into a sea of strangers who have no comprehension of the weight limit in an elevator car. If I’m lucky I can squeeze to the back where I’ll cling to the wall doing my Spiderman impression.
Most times, I’m sandwiched between people like a swinger’s orgy. There are things pressed against my front and back, and I’m not sure whether I’ve just felt a belt buckle or I’m now officially in a relationship. Do I offer an afterglow cigarette or call security?
While sheltering in place, I’m glad my anxiety can stay home. We could be setting new norms after this horrible virus is finally contained. When it is safe to wander back into society, I vote to keep social distancing. I can see and talk to you from six feet. I don’t need to smell you too. There’s no need for me to know you’re a smoker or what you had for lunch. Keep your distance and the world will be a happier place – at least for me.