I was in a suburb of a large metro area, at a gas station in the parking lot of a supermarket that is part of a big chain. I walked up the the booth to pay rather than run my debit card through the reader and risk identify theft or a drained bank account. One person was already standing at the window, waiting for the attendant to return.
The person was presenting a female gender identity. She was younger than I am, and dressed in tight clothes. She didn’t mind showing off her body.
I took my place in line behind the woman. I was standing the normal distance I would stand behind a person in a line in front of me. I don’t like people all up in my business, so I try to avoid getting all up in the business of others. My desire for space means other people have space too. However, my definition of enough space was different from this woman’s.
She turned around, quickly looked me up and down and said, Could you take a step back? I don’t like people too close to me.
What could I do? I took a step back.
I didn’t feel like I was excessively close, but she used her words (if not quite politely, not exactly rudely either) and made a not unreasonable request. It was a strange request, maybe, but not an ureasonable one.
I did wonder if my underarms were particularly smelly that day or my clothes particularly dirty. (I usually dress decently and deodorize my underarms before I go to the big city, I swear.) Maybe the woman likes space in any situation, but I did worry that somehow I specifically was offensive to her.
She seemed satisfied with my one step back and went about her business with nothing more to say to me.