On tuesday the gentrifying hipsters* in my neighborhood showed the movie Koyaanisqatsi down on the square under our building. Coming back home from a reading session in the park, I heard the music and decided to go have look at their little festival. I sat down on a bench, a bit off from the small crowd and watched the film by myself. At some point a man and a woman, who had just arrived, recognized each other next to the food truck. As they were greeting each other, all excited, they moved away from the truck and the audience. They stopped about 30cm in front of me. My sandals even touched his sneakers for a second. Looming over me, completely obscuring my view they started chatting. I couldn’t believe it. We almost touched, her dress would flutter against me if there were the slightest bit of wind, yet they seemed utterly oblivious of my presence.
This is not the first time something like this happened to me
And while I might be wrong on this for many reasons (the present is not a good judge), I feel like this phenomenon is especially poignant in Lausanne. Nowhere else have I bumped against so many people on the street. Everyone seems to refuse to budge even a centimeter out of what they perceive to be their lane. In the shops you will wait in vain, if you hope that the person next to you will step aside anytime soon to let you browse among the things between you. I cannot count how many times I stood still for five minutes in front of a rack, because the lady next to me laid a blouse over a section in order to examine it more closely. Elbows out, straddle-legged like your stereotypical 20-something guy, they will stare at the item of their choice as if the world stopped right there with them. How many times did I need to literally fight my way out of the metro, because the people wanting to get in would stand in front of the door like a stubborn flock of llamas.
No other city requires me to do so many breathing exercises on a daily basis as Lausanne. And you know, each time I hope myself that it’s just the routine, that it is there in other places too and that if I leave for a while, I just might see everything differently upon my return. But then I do take a vacation, a weekend in Belgium, one week in Scotland, three weeks in Eastern Europe or a month at my parents- it really doesn’t matter how long I am gone. I can count on getting hit in the shoulder the second I step off the train in Lausanne. No matter how happily I skip onto that platform; the assholes are ready. How they do it? It’s beyond me.
When we were in Edinburgh in March a bookstore owner talked to us for the longest time. He switched casually from topic to topic, somewhat intimidating us with his knowledge. At one point he fluffed up when we got to talk about the people we crossed in the city. „People nowadays don’t have self-awareness anymore“, he said with a look out the shop window. And that explanation stayed with me. They (and more and more: me, too) lack self-awareness. Somehow humans are capable of forgetting where the borders of their private space are. And more importantly they forget that, what they protect with so much aggressive pride, is something that everyone has and values for themselves.
Because, yes, I do understand everyone who tries to defend their little space on the bus and being able to relax on their seat and the spot before the spice rack in the supermarket. I really do. I am the queen of spreading all my things on the seat next to me, hoping that it will prevent anyone from wanting to sit down there. (And for the record I do make space if someone decides they want to join my miserable face.) But what I don’t understand is how other people won’t think one step ahead and realize that maybe (just maybe) everyone else would like to have the same thing. Everyone wants the goodies for themselves, but your damn freedom to have those ends, when you cross mine.
I’m tired of this. Today I went out to ask my neighbor not to talk on the phone in the stairway, because I could hear every word through the paper thin walls and the good-for-nothing door. She seemed already agitated on the phone but when she turned to me, you would have thought she wanted to shoot me right there. Long story short she finished by telling me to shut my mouth. I ended up being just as nice to her and we went our ways, loudly ranting about each other. I wasn’t nice on the Tuesday I started with either. With all the irritation my 160cm could muster up, I loudly asked the pair standing in front of me, if they couldn’t have chosen a different place for their conversation. They laughed nervously in much too exaggerated shock, started making apologies, the woman even reached out to pat my shoulder before she took a better look at my face. In any case: they jumped out of the way immediately.
Yet somehow I felt more miserable than after my encounter with my screeching neighbor. Their reaction was all polite, yes. But in a way I find it worse because they had actually been so close to me without seeing me, feeling my presence- quite literally, too. I can’t really believe they didn’t see me. The Portuguese lady on the stairs was at least honest: she knew fully well what she was doing, she just very openly didn’t give a fuck. She doesn’t have much going for herself, but at least her assholery has integrity.
That’s something to build upon, even if it’s kinda the argument Trump supporters would give you for their choice of candidate. But at least that way I could call her connasse and get away with it. Sometimes it’s the small things that make you happy.
*if anyone wants to complain about me saying that: please explain to me why my flat cost 450.- over market value when we moved in, without the previous renter having contested the price (we did contest it in the end).