Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Buffer Zone

Today, I realized that when I enter a classroom and choose a seat I always try to leave at least a one chair buffer zone between me and the next person on the row. This happens without premeditation. It is instinct. As a result I feel separated from my neighbors and melancholy. I don't like it and I'm not sure exactly why I do it. I do the same thing when I decide which urinal to use in the bathroom but that is totally different. The bathroom is not a place of social exchange. It is a place of privacy and sanctuary.

Today I decided to fight this unfriendly and antisocial instinct. I came into class and chose a seat next to a girl named (as I soon found out) Stephanie. She looked at me strangely as I sat down next to her and then carefully proceeded to look around me at the empty chairs filling the rest of the row. I could feel her wondering why I was sitting so close to her when there were so many available chairs farther away. We sat in a strange and thick (soupy) sort of silence for a few moments. I then told her that my name was Ben and that I was looking forward to spending the rest of class in her close company. She took a moment to process what I was telling her and then laughed loudly (very). We quickly became friends.

As I was talking to Stephanie I noticed that people were flowing into the class in groups and dripping into the class in singles. They each chose a seat as far away from human company as possible.

In elementary school boys didn't sit with girls and girls didn't sit with boys. Speaking from a boys perspective, it was because girls were gross and I didn't wish to be contaminated. I'm sure that girls also felt that boys were gross and that they were probably a lot more accurate in that assumption.

I thought about this as I sat in that class and watched people treat each other like diseased zombies who might attack at any moment with decay-spreading virus-infected teeth and claws. The difference is that now, in college, gender is no longer a variable. Everyone avoids everyone.
It's so strange.

I'm glad that I am realizing this. When I got home I listened to LCD Soundsystem's "I Can Change". I can change.

Go make a friend.


  1. A) I hate the antisocial tendencies that is our culture.
    B) I hate that when you try and break people away from them too fast (in most cases) they avoid you. What I mean is, with Stephanie who you sat by, she handled it really well. Most people are so uncomfortable with you trying to shake things up and sit by them before you know them that they are way too awkward to talk to you. Or maybe I'm just a weird nerd/scary guy and should be shunned in any case haha.
    C) I am glad you did this. I want to do it, too.
    D) I miss you. I hope you are doing well.
    E) LCD Soundsystem is my favorite band in the entire world and "I Can Change" is one of the best songs in the entire universe. "Love is a murderer- love is a murderer." "Love is an open verse to a book of your bad poetry..and this is coming from me.."

  2. Sometimes you manage to be super inspiring in simple ways. One of my biggest weaknesses is that I am sort of shy. Oddly, it often comes off as arrogant. Erik has the same problem. I don't know why it is. Anyway, I am resolving to sit next to someone I don't know tomorrow, and say hello! It should be interesting because the class is in one of those big auditorium type things you find at huge universities, so to sit next to someone in a room just full of seats might be interesting.