We spent some time in a small berg in Eastern Washington the other day, picking the day that was both the hottest day of the year AND the most-crowded day of the year in that berg. The effect 11 degrees Fahrenheit can have on one’s ability to throttle age or odor-related epithets in a crowd is REAL, folks. And having a very curious toddler weaving across foot traffic into ANOTHER store selling kettle corn… WHO NEEDS THIS MUCH KETTLE CORN… compounds one’s calm demeanor, even when your dopamine levels should be up.
I don’t know if I have ever had a real panic attack. I feel like I’ve teetered on the edge a few times, and frankly I am over-tired of people who act like my need to excuse myself from cacophonous areas and tightly-packed rooms is a weakness. I am grown up. I am an adult. There are some times I can totally tough it out. And other times I have nothing to prove to a small store full of strangers, none of us making eye contact, while a 3 year-old yanks porcelain figures off the “DO NOT TOUCH EVEN THOUGH THIS IS AT TODDLER LEVEL” display. And as my head filled with white noise and people seemed to gear-down from “sloooow” to “barely moving,” I had to get out. The medical term is “get the fuck out right now.”
The feeling of being stuck is bad enough for me to deal with. There’s something about being penned-in that bothers me greatly, even though I can see there’s NOTHING dangerous happening. I think more it’s the fact that I look at people’s faces and they seem to be totally unaffected by the mass they have created. Same thing in traffic. I know, I’m part of the mass, but why isn’t anybody moving? Why aren’t we moving a little more quickly, even a half-step more? Add to that a kid who is eye-to-butt with a lot of people and is touching things he’s not supposed to only because we’ve made a horrible choice to come into the Crystal Solitude retail outlet, and how about I just scream and run out with my kid over my shoulder like the dam burst? Because that seems more rational than the 8 minute route we’re taking to the exit.
My real issue with this is that my need to loosen up my bounds is looked upon like some personality disorder. For some reason, be it that I don’t like crowds that cannot move properly, or I am an Aquarius and can only take some much of being surrounded, or because I’m somewhat neurotic about keeping my kid from side-arming a $395 ceramic Halloween Gnome across the room, my “must have space” need gets the stink eye from people. And with our society slowing down thanks to technology (I am advocating a roped-off area for all publicly-standing texters) it’s only going to get worse. But not for me.
I am making a pledge right now that I will be more vocal about people slowing things down, walking the wrong way, leaving their grocery carts unattended, staring at their phones, being rude, and in general, acting like they are alone in public. Because that sounds lovely, and if I can’t have it, everybody won’t.