Thursday, August 29, 2013
"But that's MY place!"
My boyhood dog Sooner was territorial. He knew where "his" property ended, knew where to scent-mark, knew where other dogs' territories began--though he didn't always give a Milk-Bone about that. He went where he wanted, sometimes got thrashed as a result. But--like Huck Finn pretending to be a girl--he took notice and done better.
I learned about how firmly in the grip of territoriality some dogs are while I was riding my bike and--later--jogging. The local Cujos would charge out at me, but if I could pedal or run fast enough, they generally (though not always) stopped when they reached that invisible line. When we lived in Aurora, I used to jog east on Pioneer Trail, but there was a large dog out there that waited for me (it seemed) and appeared to be missing the genes that told him when to stop. Once, I turned and yelled at him, and he stopped and stared at me, surely calculating: That chubby little biped is yelling--is there danger? Probably not. Still ... And he turned and trotted home. But I was not so certain he would come to the same conclusion on subsequent days, so I quit going that way.
Other critters, of course, are territorial as well, some roaming around in the same terrain their entire lives. So I guess it's no surprise that we humans are territorial, too. Some of us more than others.
I saw it in my students all the time. Although in my later years, I did not assign seats, the students would do it themselves--virtually always sitting in the same place (sometimes for the entire year) and expressing great umbrage when someone else took "their" seat. Sometimes I had to say, "I don't assign seats--neither can you," though I felt great sympathy for the dispossessed: I hate losing "my place" to someone else. Really hate it.
I used to arrive at Caribou Coffee about ten minutes before it opened (6 a..m.) to make certain I got "my " chair--a nice comfortable (faux) leather one by the (faux) fireplace. I was almost always the first one there each morning (especially on sub-zero, snowy, or rainy days--dancing lightning tends to discourage folks; not me), but for a while there was some other Dude who decided he would get there earlier than I. He didn't want my seat, mind you (he bought and left); he just wanted to be first in line. I didn't give a Milk-Bone about that, but for some reason it just got on my nerves that he was so obsessed, you know? So I started showing up a little earlier, and then he did. Then I was earlier; then he was. Then ... it got so ridiculous I just quit bothering about it.
I became more obsessive but decided that going even earlier was too blatantly maniacal. But ... !
PAUSE: A little note here. He would wait in his car, his music system blasting so loudly (jackass) that I could hear it a block away--even with his windows closed. When he saw me coming down the street (I walked or biked--weather depending), he would get out of the car and move to the entrance, where he would focus fiercely on his smart phone the whole time I was waiting there. (Of course, I was on my smart phone, too--best way ever invented to avoid unwanted social interactions!) I don't know that we ever spoke to each other, even though we sometimes stood a yard apart for ten minutes--or more.
PLAY: Caribou has two entrances, so one day I waited by the other one--not the front one, the one on the side. And they unlocked that door first! I got in first. Threw my backpack on my chair, swaggered to the register like a dominant athlete. If I'd had a football with me, I woulda spiked it.
Next day when I arrived ... he was already there, waiting at the side door. Jackass. So I--mature, wise, in control, educated, liberal--went to the other door and just stayed there. They let him in first. He swaggered in like ... And I said To hell with this. It's not important.
But, of course, it was. Is.
Eventually, he quit coming. Don't know what happened. Maybe he felt he'd schooled me, showed me who was the superior person (the bigger jackass). I don't know. But I felt a tremendous psychological relief when it became clear he was no longer going to play the game. Maybe I flat wore the jackass down.
Now, I have a favorite seat at Hattie's Cafe in the morning (no one's yet challenged me for it).
And out at the local health club, I have several favorites. Parking (on the south side and right across from the main entrance). Locker (I ain't telling you the number because ... you know). Exercise bike (when someone else is on it, I am truly homicidal). Shower (again--ain't telling you which one).
Very, very rarely do I get all I want out there--parking, locker, bike, shower. And on days I don't, I feel somehow ... anxious. Up tight. Maybe even hostile?
But on Tuesday this week I was 4 for 4. And the heavens parted, a beam of celestial light marked my pathway to my car after I worked out, my blood pressure behaved, my homicidal fantasy life mellowed, I drove home--green at all stoplights--where I relaxed all evening with the confident knowledge that I rule!