This is the seating layout for the NCT (National Car Test) Centre I previously mentioned. Fellow attendees marked by letters. Females in pink. Males red.
The TV is blaring, showing Sky News broadcasting live from the UK house of commons where half a dozen half asleep politicians are trying hard not to be disturbed by the animated speaker.
I enter and stand in the place marked ‘IN’ and find myself at a loss… Where do I sit?
It looks to me like the two gents in position D and E know each other. One is sprawled backward, legs leaning in front of the other two seats next to him. The other is sitting forward, legs sprawled open, resting his chin on his elbow. It looks as if they’ve just paused their conversation. They dominate the entire corner. My natural inclination is to sit near there, but their stance implies I would be intruding on their discussion -or dragged into it.
I hate sitting in ‘islands’ -be it in restaurants, bars or NCT waiting rooms. You always have someone to your back. I hate that. Also, if I sat in the island facing ‘E’ then ‘B’ would be looking directly at the back of my head as she looked at the TV. I hate that. It looks like she’s the only one looking at the telly too, but another disadvantage of sitting near E is I’d be directly in the eye-line at all times of anyone who did look at the television. That would annoy me no end.
That TV is annoying.
I find myself getting very annoyed by the people in the ‘middle’ of each seat set -A, B, C and F, although I can forgive ‘F’ if he arrived after ‘H’ and ‘I’.
The men in D and E have at least had the courtesy to chose an ‘end’ seat in a row of three, although their poses are a dare in themselves. As I stand there, I re-assess their relationship and now believe they don’t know each other afterall.
It seems to me these men are emtting a different type of passive/aggressiveness to the females. They don’t ‘block’ the seat next to them, but sit awkwardly to dissuade you from approaching.
I pause slightly longer than I should. It’s now becoming embarrassing as heads begin to turn to await my verdict.What is he doing just standing there? I hear them think.
This is ridiculous. The room is less than half full and there is nowhere for me to sit.
I’m not the absolute worst decision maker. I’m sure there are many worse, but this room seems to be designed by white-coat wearing scientists as a way to examine human behaviour in comparison to lab-rats. I check for a two-way mirror. Don’t find any.
Everyone in the room appears to be emitting “don’t come near me” signals and only the absolute worst seats are left if I’m not to rub shoulders. I really don’t mind rubbing shoulders of course, but now I would be the first person in the room to have to do so (assuming I don’t sit in one of those awful island spots).
I probably would have sat on the seat right next to ‘A’, right next to where I was standing, except she had further guarded against this by placing a number of loose sheets of paper there. I suspect she’s a teacher, marking exams or something.
I guess I’m supposed to sit in that empty island spot two-up from G, but that’s just what they want me to do.
In the end, I sit at the other side of the teacher (A). Now I discover she’s chewing gum. Loudly. I find myself reassessing her occupation. Teachers don’t chew gum, do they? If they do, I’m pretty sure none of them have figured out how to do so loudly.
Within five minutes of my sitting, Ms. Teacher gets up and goes to the toilet. When she returns she casually sits one seat removed from me -in the spot I would have gone to if she had left some room. None of us mention it of course, but we all know the rules of personal space. I attacked like a pawn to a knight. She deflected with a side-step.
So where would you sit? Would you have given a thought to it? Even without thought… where would you sit?