“Personal space refers to an area with invisible boundaries surrounding a person’s body into which intruders may not come.”
Robert Sommer, Personal Space, 1969
After coming across an interesting study about how often mortals touch it seemed to relate to my single encounter theory. It was not so much about strangers or lovers but mostly regarding friends and co-workers.
Sidney Girard, a psychologist, went around the world for a few years spying on people in cafes on how they interact. He discovered that in San Juan Puerto Rico persons touched 200 times per hour, 40 in Paris, 2 in New York City and 0 in London. It’s just my hunch but Phoenix might be a minus 2. It’s the heat! It’s the heat!
I’ve done some spying myself lately. What if we have lost touch with people in our markets, banks, theaters, cafes and neighborhoods? Maybe it has taken a silent toll on us and we have not realized it.
Sixty or seventy years ago we might have known a few people while entering a theater when there was only one movie screen. We now have sixteen cinemas in a single building and we might have to just wave from a distance at a neighbor in the lobby. We may have had one coffee house in town back then and now we have one on nearly every corner. When I was a kid we went to the one and only café in our neighborhood. Now we have one on nearly every corner. Is that OK?
When I go to an ATM for cash, customers stay back at a distance. No way to touch or even chat in those zones, out of fear of being robbed I guess. Bank tellers hold forth behind lots of glass. No touching in those places. I tried to reach through once and got slapped by a smiling teller. I gave up and now drive through to avoid getting spanked. While standing in line at the market to check out we don’t chat anymore with the cashiers lest those behind give us the look. You could also get whacked trying to touch a shopper in those lines too. They are making us stand back in line at pharmacies. Is that OK? But what about germs? So what, we might live longer if we got touched more often.
I use to enjoy going to a car wash but these days the workers harangue us by urging us to add an extra wash. I always figure there will be pleasant patrons in the office but they are all engaged with their smart phones and I don’t have their numbers to hack into them. Is that OK?
We lost contact with our neighbors eons ago. During my morning or evening walks I never see a human being out front. However, there are always empty chairs on their front porches. The only clue there are mortals living in those homes is when their trash barrels are on the curb for pickups on Thursdays. Is that OK?
I think the touch per-hour may be much lower these days than what Dr. Girard observed. He needs to take on another study.