7 People Who Need to Get Out of the Freaking Way
Sometimes the universe brings people into your life who seem to know just what you need at that very moment, and then they stand right between you and that thing. There is a colorful term for one specific type of that person, namely "cockblocker," but there are a lot of other types whose blockage is aimed at things other than the union of genitals.
People Who Stand in Front of the Most Useful Thing in the Room
When the average working person goes to the break room, he or she is usually planning to do something in it other than admire the architecture. Like possibly use one of the items in the room, like the fridge, or the coffee machine, or the sink. With great frequency, they will find a pack of Chatty Cathys strategically placed in front of each of the things they are planning to use.
Never mind that there's some fine patches of blank wall or empty counter anyone could stand in front of. Or how about the legally mandated employee rights and labor laws posters? I'm pretty sure that's why the government requires them to be posted in every break room, to create a permanent patch of wall nobody ever needs to use or look at. It's a sort of decorated "stand here please" wallpaper.
Ain't nobody reading this, OSHA.
I can get that if there's nowhere else to stand, you'd stand in front of the coffee pot or the fridge, but if I ever do that, I stay alert to anyone entering the room, casting furtive glances at the item, and am ready to move at a moment's notice, whereas most people seem completely baffled by why you are standing in front of them and just try to ignore you like you are some rude weirdo.
"Why would anyone ever need to use one of these?"
So fine, fair enough. You say, "Excuse me," because people can't read your mind, after all, and maybe they could reasonably think you are in love with them but have some social disorder where you don't know that you shouldn't stare directly at people, which has to be more likely than the possibility that you want to use the frequently used machine behind them, and clearly the empty coffee mug you are holding is just a red herring clue they don't want to be distracted by. So you say, "Excuse me," which should clear everything up.
Then invariably they move from standing in front of the coffee maker to standing in front of the coffee condiments, which means that after you have poured your coffee, you are going to have to ask them to excuse you again, after which they'll probably stand in front of the garbage can so you can't throw your stirrer and empty sugar packet away. And there's a limit to how much you can help them out, because saying "Excuse me" is acceptable enough, but "How about you just stand in front of the stupid labor laws?" is considered patronizing.
You'll see the same thing in many other places, too, like the gym, where people will go pick up some weights from the weight rack, and then start lifting those weights right in front of it, because come on, who else is going to want to get weights? In a gym?
People Who Just Want to "Get in Real Quick"
Specifically, people who want to "get in real quick" to do the same thing you were doing. I don't have any objection to someone who asks if they can get in real quick because they only have one item when I have a shopping cart full of assorted groceries and am planning to argue about some of the coupons. Other people with mass purchases have voluntarily let me go first in those situations, and I think it's a fine thing and don't mind doing the same for others.
Especially when I am purchasing a child. The paperwork takes forever.
But someone who only has one item and wants to get ahead of you when you also only have one item is kind of a dick, especially when they're not really asking you but telling you, and slip in without waiting for an answer. It's not only grocery stores, but also when you're trying to get somewhere in a crowd and some asshole behind you decides you don't really need to be anywhere but are just enjoying the autumn air or contemplating life or something.
In reality, you're in a damn hurry to get through the postgame crowd and find a bathroom, but a gaggle of cross-traffic just blocked your way, forcing you to stop until they pass. Now that they've passed, the way is clear for you to go forward, only this dipshit behind you has decided the way was clear the whole time and you were just standing there because you are enjoying the atmosphere, so they cut in front of you as you're stepping forward into the gap, and say, "I just need to get in here," because they are the only ones who want to leave the arena and you and everyone else in the crowd obviously are slack-jawed morons who want to hang out there all night or until your keepers come get you.
I've also been at a soda machine, about to get a soda, when someone else says they "just need to get in real quick," and it turns out they want to ... get a soda, like I was about to do.
It seems like the only time it's appropriate is as a very honest pickup line.
People Who Stand Right in Front of Elevator Doors
Elevators and subway cars are two things people seem to really really want to get into, despite the fact that they are often smelly and urine-stained. But as the old saying goes, you have to ride the pee car or you'll never get to the office.
Sometimes elevators and trains can be really crowded, and it's understandable that riders want to get a jump on the competition and make sure they get in first, before it fills up. That's the kind of thinking that leads you to push an old couple onto the third rail, hoping you will move up two places in line, when actually they just end up stopping all the trains and the police come in and you not only don't get on this one, but you don't get on another train for three hours and your boss makes you stay late. That's probably what would happen if you hypothetically did such a thing.
Equally counterproductive is standing right in front of the doors as they open, blocking the exiting passengers. You see, in order for you to get on a crowded train or elevator, someone on board needs to step out. Unless that person is a ghost, they cannot get out by passing through you.
I have seen many people deal with this impasse by staring at the passengers inside the elevator impatiently, as if wondering why they don't get out. Or they consider moving in any the four compass directions, three of which would allow passengers to exit, and take the fourth one, by trying to charge forward into the elevator through sheer willpower.
Quite often, the people inside just have to try to squeeze their way out past the glowering obstacle, which requires Eastern European levels of personal space invasion, and face-to-face at that.
I don't know why they can't stand just to the side of the elevator door, which is still just one step away from the elevator and doesn't make it look like you are lining up to kiss everyone inside as they step out.
People Who Are in Denial About the Size of Their Backpacks
If you've ever gone to college, you've probably run into this scenario at some point -- you're trying to walk down a narrow aisle in a bookstore, only to be blocked by a fellow shopper browsing the shelves. He takes up about half of the 36-inch aisle (the minimum width allowed by the Americans With Disabilities Act), and his backpack takes up the other half.
You say, "Excuse me," and he's polite enough to scoot forward a few inches, and goes back to reading the book he isn't going to buy. You look, and there's about 4 inches of clearance behind his backpack. "Um sorry," you say, "I still can't ..." and he scoots forward until he's pressed against the shelf in front of him, staring at you bizarrely, like he can't believe you can't get by with what must be a massive gulf behind him. Eventually, you call upon your yoga training and breathing exercises and manage to make it through the 6-inch gap he's given you, his backpack snapping back into place as you pop through.
After that clue, he might idly reach a hand back to see how far his backpack goes, and maybe, if he's a very self-aware type, take it off and put it on the floor. Or maybe turn sideways the next time someone comes by to pass. Pretty often, though, these people are still not clear what the problem was and go back to reading the free book in the store.
For some reason, most people seem to severely underestimate the size of their backpacks. The mental perception of most backpack wearers is that it adds a negligible width to their profile, when on a lot of high school and college campuses, it's pretty common for backpacks to double or even triple a person's front-to-back measurement, depending on how skinny they are.
School backpacks -- slim and fitted like a second skin.
You see this in the aisle-passing problem, and you also see it when backpacks are slung on the backs of chairs and someone tries to get by. For some reason, the backpack owner imagines the backpack to be about 4 inches deep at most, and doesn't even consider that two backpack-laden chairs, back to back, can completely block a passage. You get the same slight scooting forward and the same confused annoyance that this isn't enough to let the walker by. You might also get the self-righteous grumble that the walker would dare touch the backpack as they squeeze by it, because they figure the walker has plenty of space and is just pushing the backpack on purpose as they go by, to be a drama queen or something.
People Who Must Always Stay Parallel to Their Walking Companions
Seanbaby once described a row of pedestrians walking straight at you as the '94 Knicks, who seem to relish the thought of running you down.
The Jeremy Lin Knicks would have apologized.
There's also a lot of walking walls out there that do make some effort to try to avoid you, but in the stupidest way possible. Instead of one or two people in the group dropping back behind the others, everyone in the row moves to one side and tries to squeeze together as tightly as possible without breaking formation. Under no circumstances can any person in the row be allowed to move more than 3 inches forward or back from the line, lest the delicate mind-link between them be broken.
No matter how closely they cuddle, four people in a row are still pretty much impassable on a sidewalk. The kicker is when they just stare helplessly at you and shrug, like, "Hey, we're doing our best. I have no idea what else you could possibly expect from us. There is literally nothing else we could do to move out of your way." Then, when you stumble off to the side into the mud, or a brick wall, or off an embankment, they just look apologetically at you like it was one of the great unavoidable tragedies of life, like a freak natural disaster or something.
I realize the hive mind link explanation only applies in a small percentage of cases, when the pedestrians in question are actual human replicants in the service of the shadow government's lizard masters, but most of the pedestrians I've seen doing this lack the telltale transmitter node on the back of their neck.
In the case of genuine humans, the only excusable explanation is that their conversations are so vital that they cannot be broken for the five seconds it would take for a walker or two to drop back a moment and return to the line. So I guess they're all about to propose to someone or broker some kind of peace treaty.
People Who Leave Two Seats Between Them at Airports
A lot of people complain about how unfriendly and mistrustful we've become these days and how we should all be chatting up strangers more or something. This is bullshit. Everyone knows strangers are gross and have cooties and nobody wants to sit next to one, especially in an airport.
So everybody goes to great lengths to leave at least one seat between themselves and a stranger when they sit down in an airport lounge, or any other public place with unassigned seating. Fair enough. But unless the stranger is very obese or emitting some kind of poison cloud, one seat should be fine. It's just gratuitous to leave two spaces. And it fills things up pretty fast, leaving new arrivals with no place to sit.
In the illustration above, if they weren't so greedy and just gave themselves one seat's worth of buffer (which is plenty for preventing cootie transmission), the fifth passenger could find herself a seat as well without having to risk touching anyone.
The same goes for anywhere else -- bus benches or waiting rooms or wherever. Just leave enough space so there's no way you can accidentally touch the person, nor can they "accidentally" touch you by using the old movie theater yawning trick. You don't need to be so far away you can't recognize them, or even tell whether they are men or women.
People Who Spontaneously Start Conversations in High-Traffic Areas
Everyone's familiar with situations where blockages can be a huge pain for hundreds of people, like a packed, busy sidewalk, or a crowd exiting a sports stadium. In fact, the Romans had a word for a stadium exit area -- vomitorium -- that paints it as the stadium "vomiting" its audience out into the streets. And as everyone knows, blocking vomit on its way out is not pretty.
That's why it's infuriating when people spontaneously happen upon an old friend in the middle of such a crowd and decide to catch up on everything that has happened in the past 10 years right then and there, in the middle of a narrow hallway full of people trying to get past.
There's nothing wrong with taking the time to connect with someone, or even with suddenly discovering you had a very interesting joke to tell the person you were already walking with, but what's maddening is that these people are so excited they can't move it to the side. You don't even have to miss one moment of what happened after your friend left for the Peace Corps, he's actually made a recent discovery that it's possible to talk while walking 10 feet to the wall.
The icing on the cake is when these two people get so excited about their travel adventures or spontaneous ideas that they start calling other people over. Sure, when people start grouping up in the middle of a high-traffic walkway, it's "socializing," but when blood cells start grouping up in one of your brain arteries, they call it a "stroke." Either we can stop being so cavalier about obstructing other people, or we can stop being so judgmental toward blood cells, either way.
For more from Christina, check out 5 Weight Loss Tips for Cynical Bastards and 5 Topics Guaranteed to Elicit (Condescending) Advice.