February 7th, 2004


Synchro and Personal Space

Photos from last week's Mids

Last weekend I was walking past a room when one of the girls I skate with was walking out, and we collided. As we untangled our limbs she exclaimed, "Oh, I'm sorry!"

I shrugged off her apology. "No big deal." And it wasn't, it didn't phase me. I didn't mind being run into at all.

As we walked side-by-side down the hallway, she asked me, "Do you find you have trouble staying out of people's 'personal space' since you skate synchro?" I thought about it, and she's right! You can't have 'personal space' issues when you do a sport like this. Even when you do everything right, you're often standing shoulder to shoulder, grasping hands and arms, leaning, supporting, and pulling one another.

When things go wrong, especially when you're practicing new routines, collisions are frequent. I've been run into, elbowed, tripped, kicked, smacked, groped, and had my hands and face gouged by fingernails. I've had people fall on top of me, and I've fallen on people. It's just the nature of the game: when you are learning to skate in unison really close to one another, you're going to spend a lot of practice time on top of each other.

In other areas of my life when people accidentally step on my feet, or bump into me, or whatever, I hardly notice. I mean come on, somebody stepped on my foot and wasn't even wearing blades - now why should that bother me? Same with when I accidentally bump somebody. I apologize, but I don't consider it a big deal if there isn't any blood.

But it goes further than that. We are all so used to touching one another, since we spend the majority of our routine linked up. It feels natural to touch hands or shoulders when having conversations, and I have to restrain myself from doing that at work. It feels odd not touching my coworkers when greeting them. I feel like I ought to grab their shoulder or pat their back as I walk by.

As she and I joked, sometimes at work I feel like we ought to all stand in a circle holding hands before we go into a big meeting, and share a moment of silence while we focus on our goals! Then we can "pass a squeeze" around the circle, we'll clap, and we'll be ready for the conference call.

Monday, I'd just come from a full traveling weekend of synchro. I had to have the cable guy (a complete stranger) come out and fix my line. He gave me a form to sign when he was done, packed up his stuff, and started to walk out. I totally felt like I ought to be giving him a hug as he left, or at the very least an energetic handshake. Instead I restrained myself and just waved, then I closed the door behind him My teammate's words echoed in my mind, "Do you find you have trouble staying out of people's 'personal space' since you skate synchro?" Yep. It's a whole different world we've taught ourselves to live in.