No doubt about it, I am an anxious person. Not that my anxiety prevents me from being a hard-working, semi-productive member of society, but it’s always there, in the back of my mind. Occasionally it gets bad enough where I begin freaking out over whether I’m walking in straight line. Once I’m assured I am, I begin to get nervous yet again…what if I have to make a sudden turn?!
And so on.
My anxiety especially peaks when I’m around people I am unfamiliar with. This is one reason why I rarely go out to clubs, busy restaurants, amusement parks, sidewalks. I always have the feeling I am in their way, or that if I’m not in their way right then, I certainly will be in their way within the hour. Of course, all the fretting I do about impeding their path usually leads to me and this stranger having an awkward encounter, where I try like hell to get away from them.
The latter event occurred yesterday. I was in Barnes & Noble, browsing the “Buy2, Get 1 Free” table near the entrance. I hear the woosh of the air that accompanies a door swinging open and look up. It was a woman, looked to be in her late-30s. She was talking on her cell phone, somewhat loudly. I go back to looking at the books, as I’m used to people having no idea how loud they’re being when they are discussing plans with their friend over the phone on the wine tasting party that’s happening on Saturday.
I hear the phone-lady say adieu to her friend, followed by the sound of the phone dropping into her faux eco-friendly bag.
And then, silence.
I look up, and this woman is staring at me. Our eyes meet briefly, and I give a quick smile and nod. A genial greeting, really. No malice whatsoever. Her response to this lack of malice was a brief smile before going back to a straight face and staring at me. I go back to looking over the BOGO table, but my attention is now split. Every now and then I’ll look up and the woman’s still there. She has her phone out and is now texting.
Following is my brief internal monologue:
“Why is that woman staring at me? I don’t know her. I doubt she knows me. Don’t think our social circles would really intersect. Maybe she wants to look at this table, too? Then why isn’t she? It’s a large table. Certainly big enough for at least two people to peruse. Why is she still standing there? God, I wish she’d say something. Come on, lady! What do you want from me?! Would you please just go walk somewhere else or something?! Gah, forget this!”
I turn toward the exit, stepping away from the table lined with books. I turn to look back and see this lady walking through where I was just standing to get to the bookshelf that was to the right of the table. Not a horrible thing, except that there was plenty of room on the other side of the table where she could have easily made it to the shelf without freaking me out.
With my head turned, I don’t pay attention to my dragging feet, and catch the corner of the rug with the rubber edges. I stumble, taking the corner of the rug with me. The Barnes & Noble employees all stare at me as I attempt to kick the rug back into place, having no success and finally having to squat down to maneuver it into a place near where it was originally.
After finishing that task, I just slowly backed out of the store. There was no longer any need for me to be there. I had done enough.