We Americans value our rights. You know, it’s all those inherited entitlements we so dearly treasure. We can organize rallies in protest of laws or print exposés about the politicians we love to hate, and our government will protect us. We can say almost whatever we want or worship any god we choose, because the “Long Arm Of The Law” keeps us covered. But, (and there’s always a but) our most prized entitlement has no protection.

I’m a Walmart fiend. Doesn’t matter what time of day it is, doesn’t matter how much money I don’t have: I’m always at Walmart. Aside from the fact that they only open 6 of the 87 checkout lanes available, I always end up in line with a Personal Space Violator. And y’all know what I’m talking about… it’s the person who thinks you’re trying to advance the line every time you inch closer to the conveyor belt. The worst part? In your efforts to defend your space, you end up becoming a P.S.V. yourself! Don’t even try to explain your actions, because once you’ve intruded, there’s no excuse to justify the infraction. Now everybody’s pissed off and uncomfortable (a dangerous combination in Walmart), trying to regain a reasonable amount of breathing room. The P.S.V. won’t limit infractions to the grocery store, either. You can find these criminals all in your sangria at the bar, looking in your back pocket in the parking deck, or even picking your boogers on the train. You don’t have to identify yourselves, but I know some of y’all are habitual P.S.V.’s! Fret not; help is on the way!

Pictured below is the Personal Space Diagram, followed by a brief explanation of each category:

1.) Social – reserved for waiting in line (i.e. – grocery store, bathroom, fast food restaurants); 2.) Personal – acceptable in large groups, or in places where personal space is limited (i.e. – public transportation, bars, clubs, sporting events; 3.) Intimate – only appropriate with individuals you would kiss, hug, or tell secrets (no examples necessary)

There’s obviously some flexibility within each category, because we don’t all have the same aversions to strangers (or creepers we’ve come to love). However, this guide works well when you need to figure out if someone’s all in your grill. On the flip side, you can use this to stay out of other people’s space. The most important thing here is everyone’s comfort level. It takes time to learn people, so a few initial violations are ok. But if you continuously ignore someone’s personal space, you’ll turn into the weirdo nobody wants to be around. And I don’t want to see that happen to anyone!