Last year, I entered a drugstore in a nearby town, made my way to the pharmacy, and stood in the empty waiting line. An attendant called out, “Hi Mark; it will be a few minutes. I have a slight emergency.”
“No problem!”, I replied. “I’m used to waiting. I had to replace my lost driver’s license yesterday.”
“Hear that. Bet Pam found the license when she got home.”
Chagrined, I sheepishly was about to respond when I heard, in a slight, but audible, voice, “I was in line, sir!”
I could barely hear the exclamation. “Hello?” I said as my head swiveled swiftly. (Yes. It is damn difficult to say. It is also damn difficult to type!) “Where are you?” I implored.
“Back here.” The little echo returned.
“Where here? Can you step to a location where I can see you? That would be very helpful to me.” I was ready to buy a flare gun. Throw a gold carp. Anything to let her know where I was.
She moved away from the wall she was standing near and suddenly appeared, no longer hidden by the outstanding bend in the wall. Ten feet from that corner.
“Why are you back so far?” I was quite interested in this.
“Why, it’s just common courtesy.”
“I agree that it is quite nice, but there was no one in line! To whom was the courtesy being paid?
“Well, I couldn’t tell if anyone was there, so I thought I should stand back here just to be certain.” Her answer, well, that line was odd. I told here she could move to the front of the line, so she began to make her way there. Before she got to the corner, another older lady arrived at the front of the line.
Our Lady, lady one said, “I was here first!”
Of course, lady two, the elder, was rather brusque. “Who the hell are you kidding?” I sought to intervene. The situation was going downhill quickly. The prospect of blood frightened me, and I am not easily intimidated.
Lady two had already assumed a position of power, feng shui anyone, which sent lady one back to her corner saying, “OK. Take your front. I’ll take second.”
“Wait a minute!” I shouted. Lady two just waved her cane menacingly, while lady one stood akimbo looked my way indignantly. My way? All I could see were mental images of me in the local weekly advertisement pick-up being hauled off for inciting violence.
I went to lady one. “Sorry for all this.”
“You should be. People could have been hurt!”
“Yes, ma’am. How far back should I stand?”
“Fifteen feet would be fine.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
One hour later, I decided to leave, the line having grown. I was still at the rear and now out into the parking lot. Luckily, I was standing next to my car.
Back in the late 80’s, I learned about the concept of boundaries. Boundaries had two senses. One was the kind of boundaries that people can envision for themselves to help themselves avoid the emotional pain associated with verbal attacks by others. They’re something to stand behind. Something that John Bradshaw or Pia Melody, New Age children of Western Esotericism, pitched this and other tools. But it wasn’t tripe. Some panned it because of the roots it came from, but based on my experience I found it a very helpful model.
Then there were the other boundaries. The type that has transmogrified into personal space. The one that while there is no law we are nevertheless expected to respect. And upon what objective criteria is this space defined? None! It is subjective. Whoever owns the space determines the area. It is their “safe” area. Their “Elysian Fields.” How sweet it must be, to be so fragile that we get to carry around our space that no one else gets to enter!
Man’s second skin inflated now compares to Macy’s Parade.
The person owning holds their “safe space” possesses a positive right if they can enforce it. In this case, there is no law (at least not yet), so there is only a virtual positive right.
If I seek to hand a summons to the man or woman claiming the positive right above, were there a law making it defensible, they would have a negative right against me. I would be out my fee. However, were I to wait in line, at their bus stop so as to prevent them from entering until they take the summons, I win! She either takes the warrant or walks. (Of course, she then will go to the consulting psychologist mentioned below, and the law will get changed and so for forth.)
Needless to say, the negative right is, in this case, only a virtual negative right. Virtual only because of the aforementioned consulting psychologist with the bureaucracy who hasn’t finished their report.
In general, negative and positive rights are held by all people based on laws in the presence of a State plus contractual agreements (be they formal or otherwise) whether a State exists or not.
A positive right gives you the power to do something. A negative right allows you to prevent another person from doing something.
A hold harmless clause in a contract gives you the negative power to prevent the person you have contracted with from suing you for damages if you have made errors. Architects, engineers, and builders use them in their contracts where they have warned their clients that site difficulties make the budget impossible.
Remember the pharmacy? Lady one claimed a positive right and granted a significant positive right to whoever she thought was already was in line until I got there. Then she changed her mind.
Naughty lady one. The positive right she had tacitly granted me, she ripped from quivering fingers. Luckily I had good emotional boundaries. Thanks, John Bradshaw. Thanks,
Lady two then asserted her positive right over Lady one’s protests and stared her down. She stared me down, sort of, too.
So I ended up with no rights. I gave up bewildered. Whoever came in just got in front of me. All I heard was, “Excuse me, sir. You’re in my way.” I hear it still after the flushing is over, as the Restoril dissolves, as the Night takes over ending the day, I hear it still…
All the way to my car.
Written by Mark E. Deardorff, © 2016, 2017 by ScienceViaMarkets and Mark E Deardorff, All Rights Reserved.