Living in a Crowded Bubble

Last night at the grocery store I found myself experiencing what I call crowded bubble phenomenon.

The store was pretty empty, except wherever I happened to be. No matter where I was, someone would pop out of nowhere to obstruct my path, get in front of what I was looking at or compete for a last item on the shelf.

This happens on occasion. Sometimes while shopping, while driving or at a restaurant. Sometime while buying things online. It seems that it often happens that whenever I get the urge to buy something, lots of others do at the same time.

While driving, it manifests in several ways. Sometimes a slow driver is in front of me, going 10 mph below the speed limit. As they turn off I think I have a clear run ahead, another driver pulls out in front of me with the same 10 mph below speed limit.

I look around and there is nobody for a half a mile behind us or ahead of us.

Or, as I’m driving on a highway, at nearly every on ramp someone is merging in at just the right placement to cause me to have to change lanes or slow down. Usually, though, just as the merging car is getting up to speed, another car in the left lane pops out of nowhere to keep me from moving over.

It happens enough that even passengers notice and comment on it.

In restaurants, my family refers to this as ‘my fans,’ as in, ‘it looks like your fans have arrived.’ More often than not, they usually arrive after me, rather than before me, so that does seem like a bit of good luck.

We often get to a restaurant just as there is a small wait for a table, and within a minute or two, the restaurant gets slammed.

It might make sense if we often go to restaurants on the front side of normal dining hours. But, these instances really stand out when it happens outside of normal dining hours.

Just last week, I went to a BBQ restaurant to grab some food for a family gathering at about two in the afternoon. It was empty when I arrived, but within in five minutes it was jammed packed. I had to laugh.

Now, all of this could just be cases of confirmation bias. That is, I notice and put more weight on the times when these happen and don’t put as much weight on when they don’t. And, I will admit there are times when they don’t happen.

But, I really start to wonder when folks who aren’t with me all the time notice, as well.


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