Being short comes with a variety of problems. I can’t change lighbulbs. On subway cars with hanging straps, I can’t be a proper strap hanger. Even worse, some people interpret my height to mean I don’t need any personal space, and crowd in on me. And of course, people make fun of me.
Last week a coworker who does respect my personal space, if not my time, was busy coming up with short-people nicknames for me. He wandered from his desk still talking it out, and then returned and eyed me suspiciously. “I shouldn’t expect a call from HR, should I?” And I suddenly remembered what my mother told me.
At the local library, where I worked in highschool, a fellow staffer was the worst offender to my personal space policy. When he wanted to speak to me he’d come so close that he was practically standing on me. Our conversations – rather, his rants – were punctuated by me swiveling a book cart to block him, and him pivoting around it. When that didn’t work I’d suggested that the biographies were looking overrun or that the paperbacks were threatening to overflow. Usually, that did the trick.
Thankfully, I got a break from all that during holidays. When I came back after Peasch, I was hoping that my personal space would be restored. I managed to load my cart with books and started shelving before my coworker realized I’d returned. He saw me sitting on the floor in the business section, and came over to greet my joyously. He crouched down next to me and asked how I’d been – draping himself over me in a hug. I grimaced. Then he sat down, and proceeded to ask me about my life and tell me about his until I convinced him that Miss Susan in the Children’s Room really needed his help. Finally, he left me and the business books in peace.
A while later, the incident came up in a conversation with my mom; she asked why I hadn’t filed a harassment complain. I’d assumed that my preference for a football field-sized personal space wasn’t enough to validate a complain of any sort. “Any unwanted touch is harassment,” she replied.
I filed that away for later use. Which was last week.
When my current coworker started asking about my ability to take a joke, I smiled. “As long as you don’t hug me, I have no complaint.”
“What?” he replied in confusion.
Uninterested in explaining, I summarized “I don’t like hugs.”
“What?” he asked, this time offended.
“I don’t like hugs,” I enunciated clearly.
“What are you?” he asked. “A cyborg? A robot? Everyone likes hugs.”
I laughed for so long at his interpretation that he was gone – off to share the gossip that I don’t like hugs – by the time I could breath enough to explain. So it looks like I better started learning to dance the robot because I just earned myself a reputation as a cyborg.