Sunday, March 16, 2014

Space, The Final Frontier

My daughter likes to quote “The No No Square Song.”

This is a song meant, wisely or not, for young children. You can see some renditions on YouTube here and here. (The performers couldn’t help adding some of their own lyrics.)  One of her Catholic high school theology teachers taught this, in a required class called “Sex, Love & You.” (Let the jokes begin. One mother noted that the entire textbook for that class could be summed up in one word: “No!”)

Anyway, when my daughter sings it, she stretches her arms out as far as she can above and around her while she belts out, “Stop! Don’t touch me there! THIS is my no no square!”

I know what she means. One of my dog-park buddies once pointed out to me that I don’t like people in my personal space. “See, if I step toward you,” he said as he did, “you step back,” I already had. He did it a few times, till I was like, “OK, OK, stop!”

I don’t like people breathing my air.

Other people don’t seem to mind.

I am often reminded, on an almost daily basis, of something I didn’t even read, my friend did, years ago, in a book on city design. The author explained that he had done observational studies of traffic flow on sidewalks. He was looking for physical bottlenecks holding people up. What he found instead, and to his great surprise, was that people go out of their way to create bottlenecks. If they stop to talk and aren’t blocking traffic, people will, he found, actually move until they are.

Think about that the next time you are wheeling a cart around supermarket aisles or are at a party where everyone is jammed together in the kitchen.



  1. Always hated when someone came too close. Now I'm a teacher and this year I find myself obligated to also teach pre-K through all elementary grades in addition to middle school (small private international school). I detest it when students want to talk to me one inch from my nose...

    The kid who felt uncomfortable when her parents took her to crowded flea markets or other tourist zones? That was me. The kid who wouldn't go to a 30 people party in a friend's studio apartment? Still me.