Space Invaders

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Some people take up way too much space.

I realize this next statement is coming too late, because some of you have already gotten me wrong, but I’ll say it anyway: Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about taking up too much space PHYSICALLY. Large people don’t bother me; indeed, some of our most beloved and important American historical figures have been, to put it delicately, really fat. I speak specifically of people like U.S. President William Howard Taft, baseball legend Babe Ruth, and fictitious benefactor Santa Claus.

No, what I’m referring to is people who take up too much space SOCIALLY. That is, they draw more attention to themselves than is necessary. With celebrities, this is expected, and it’s even sort of OK. I mean, celebrities actually DO something — they entertain us in one way or another, thus justifying their omnipresence. But regular people are another matter altogether.

For example, this summer I spent a great deal of time next to my apartment complex’s swimming pool, basking in the sun and tanning my pasty white flesh. It was often very calm and relaxing out there, for about three seconds, at which point the Stereo Girls would come out. The Stereo Girls were a group of tenants who felt that, if they were going to be near the pool, they needed to be listening to music — surely you can see the logical necessity there — and, for that matter, everyone else at the pool needed to be listening to music, too. They couldn’t bring out a small portable CD player and listen to something quietly. No sir or madam, they would bring out an actual stereo — complete with separate speakers — and blast their music for all the world to hear.

Was it good music? As it happens, it generally was, although that is not the slightest bit relevant. It was usually the “City of Angels” soundtrack, which is a pretty good album, although it comes from a stupid movie. (“I’m going to give up being immortal because I’m in love with you. Whoops! You died. Now I have given up being immortal for no reason at all. What a moron I am. The moral of the story: Never take risks, never take chances, never do anything impulsive, never let love dictate your actions. I’m going to go kill myself now. Bye-bye.”) The point is, there is no reason that I should have even noticed these girls. But by blaring their stereo every single day for the entire summer, they took over what essentially should have been public property, socially speaking. They invaded territory that belonged to everyone, and staked it out for themselves.

It’s the same reason I don’t like it when people whistle. Whistling is a selfish act. If I wanted to hear music, I’d turn on the radio. Whistling is like saying, “Here’s the song that’s been stuck in my head all day; I’d like for it to be stuck in yours, too. Enjoy.”

Another example. I know someone whose special talent is that he is capable of feeling welcome and comfortable in places where no one has ever made any attempt to make him feel that way. Those of you who live in large apartment complexes know this type. They practice the Knock & Barge method of visiting: They knock on your apartment door and then barge in, usually while still in mid-knock, before you have a chance to hide. Then they sit down and watch whatever you’re watching, talk about whatever you’re talking about, and eat whatever you’re eating — all without having been invited.

Imagine! Most of us would feel uncomfortable doing that, except in certain select places where the residents have previously made us feel welcome. I believe we would call these people “friends.” But to be able to walk into ANY apartment in the complex and do that — well, THAT takes talent.

It also takes up a lot of space, socially speaking. People should not thrust themselves upon you and force you to be their host, and yet we have the Knockers & Bargers who do it anyway, imprinting themselves onto people’s minds and forcing us to think about them. I maintain that when someone knocks and barges and sits down on the couch and integrates himself into whatever’s going on, you are not obligated to be the “host.” You are perfectly within your rights to go on doing whatever you were doing, and even to ignore the person if you so choose. Perhaps it would not be too much of a stretch to suggest that, if the situation warranted it, you would be within your rights to kill that person. After all, you did not invite them in. They have already proven themselves quite capable of doing things on their own — inviting themselves in, asking themselves to have a seat, offering themselves some pretzels — so they can probably also entertain themselves without your assistance. Really, they don’t even need you. They just need your apartment and your stuff. If you ever left the door unlocked, you’d probably come home to find them on the couch in their underwear, like they’re Kramer or something.

So let us all take care how much space we take up, socially. Let us not force ourselves upon others. And maybe it wouldn’t kill us to lose a few pounds, too. I mean, come on.

The idea of taking up too much space socially is very interesting to me. It is a subject I will certainly visit again in the near future. (I can be so sure because I have already started writing the column.) Believe it or not, I really don't like to draw attention to myself in public unless I'm on stage or in some other way "performing" (e.g., writing a column, spraypainting graffiti, etc.) -- and even then it makes me kind of uncomfortable. I'm amazed at how unself-conscious some people are. Maybe it really IS a gift, as I sarcastically suggest here.

Sharp-eyed and/or obsessive readers may recall the bit about why people shouldn't whistling. I made the same statement, almost word-for-word, in a column called "Bed-Ridden," published Oct. 20, 1997 -- almost exactly a year earlier. Maybe it's bad form to steal from yourself, but I noticed a lot of people were still whistling, so I figured it was worth mentioning again.

Notice the incredibly hip "Seinfeld" reference near the end, when I mention Kramer. Is "Seinfeld" the greatest sitcom ever? Maybe, maybe not. It was certainly a brilliant show, and Kramer was certainly a great character (though not the best character on the show; that would be George). I disagree with the popular assessment that the show was about "nothing." A show about "nothing" would be a show where you just stared at a blank screen for a half-hour. In fact, that show -- we'd call it "The Nothing Show" -- would be tons better than most shows already on TV. I think I'll pitch it to one of the networks.

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