The day before Thanksgiving is a desperately stupid time to needlessly walk into a grocery store. And since I’m at the “Must Sit in the Cowboy Corner” level when it comes to personal space, yes, coffee from home would’ve been the smart move.

Sadly, I’m dumb in the morning and donut-flavored coffee sounded good. I strutted into King Soopers, peeked around the corner at Starbucks’ shortish line, and sidled up to the back, three feet from the person in front of me.

Within seconds, a dude was hovering behind a little too close. By “a little too close,” I mean: Had I decided to spin in a circle with my elbows at my sides and my hands out, I would’ve hit him.

I briefly considered it, and then remembered my therapist gently suggesting, “Try not to slap people away from you.”

I breathed as deeply as I could and decided to just keep my eye on him. As he shifted towards my left elbow, I sashayed to the right. As he drifted to my right, I waltzed to my left, reciting new mantras.

“Now’s not a teaching moment. Boundaries are different for everyone. Adults don’t kick other adults.”

As the line in front of me marched three steps ahead, I shuffled a single step forward, building a buffer. He was still on my six and now also on the phone using an outside voice. I wondered if the woman in the floral department was enjoying our little dance from inside the enviable confines of her wraparound stand-up flower fort.

As I meditated on ways to maintain a larger berth in the future (obnoxiously large hats, inexcusable gas, asking people if they have time to discuss the environment), I kept that dude in my peripheral like a dog waiting for someone to walk away from a burrito.

And then it happened: a squat woman suddenly grabbed my waist, shoving past me to eyeball the pastry case. And right there in the grocery store I screamed as if she’d shanked me.

It’s not the first time someone’s wailed in fright and dismay in the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving. But, I also wasn’t staring into a floor freezer filled with nothing but cornish game hen and Italian sausage; I’d been surprised by a stranger. And yes, I did look like a crazy asshole guarding the cheese Danish, but maybe she shouldn’t have burst from the scented pinecone display and barreled past me like a squirrel on steroids.

I get it: Not everyone is easily startled, guards their personal space like Fort Knox, or shrinks from the touch of a stranger. But if you want to survive the shopping mall, the packed grocery stores and the Starbucks line this holiday season with minimal screaming and accidental elbows to the gut, do us personal space lovers a favor and employ the words, “Excuse me,” so we know you’re coming and have a chance to get out of the way.

I promise, we’d LOVE to get out of your way.

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