Territorial Imperative

©2014 By Bob Litton

Well folks, my wench of a muse is back…sort of. Not sure how long I can count on her; just like all females, her dominant characteristic is moodiness. It is manifesting itself even now in its usual pattern of vigorous starts and fading finishes; she murmurs these delightful ideas in my ear and then leaves me the onerous task of developing them.

There is a slight difference this time, however, in that, instead of abandoning me, she simply fell asleep — without telling me! Now she is blaming her lengthy nap on me, stomping around in my cerebellum like some angry neighbor above trying to signal me that I’m playing my Victrola® too loud. Ain’t that just like a woman — blaming her man for something that she has or has not done?

One of her inspirations concerns space: not the space that interested Flash Gordon, but the areas we consider our own; you know, that yardage around a tree that a dog has peed on to designate his territory. The zoologists call it the “territorial imperative”. We humans are inclined to measure our areas in similar fashion, ever since the farmers started stringing those barbed wire fences through the ranchers’ “open range”.

Well, I have my declared spaces, too. The primary one, of course, is my apartment; even though I don’t own it, I am cautious about whom I allow to enter and how they treat it and my possessions when they are inside. The books and records, I am especially protective of. But I even get angry at heaven when I sense my roof is threatened by a hail storm.

The second space of which I am jealous is my claimed parking area, particularly at the coffee shop I most often frequent and at the senior center where I ingest my weekday lunches. That latter place was where the muse first pestered me yesterday.  As I was rounding the corner about to enter the parking lot, wondering whether my favorite spot would be open for me, she muttered, “Why don’t you write about this, Bob? You know how it jangles your nerves and raises your blood pressure when somebody else’s vehicle is parked there right next to the sidewalk. The vehemence with which you will write it up is bound to arouse similar feelings in your readers: They are all certain to empathize with your anxiety.” As for my apartment, each tenant has his or her own numbered parking space, so there are few problems unless one of my neighbors is having a yard sale.

I also have my favorite tables at the coffee shop and the senior center. The waitresses at the former already know what it is and have the coffee and honey jar in place there shortly after they see my Isuzu Hombre entering the parking lot. However, since the coffee shop has an almost constant influx and outflow of customers, I learned almost from the beginning that I cannot count on that table being open, and it doesn’t really bother me anymore. The senior center is a different story, naturally, because mostly the same people eat there each weekday noon. (There are no waitresses, of course.) We all have our assumed regular spots — so regular, in fact, that it has become somewhat boring: always the same people with the same redundant greetings and other repetitive, personal habits. (I will write about that another time.)

There is one restaurant I enjoy patronizing about once every week or two; not any more often because it is generally expensive. However, they have a healthy “cup” of homemade soup for only $5.95 that changes daily. Cornbread muffins and pecan biscuits come with it. They call it a “cup”, but it is served in what most people would call a bowl. However, what I really most like about the place are the pretty waitresses who welcome me every time I walk in and assume my usual stool at the bar. There is a rapid turnover lately, though, because most of the girls are university students and, so, graduate or enroll, fitting their employments to their university schedule. I recognize only half of them right now: I have to memorize several new names and associated faces. Bummer! My bar stool, however, is always waiting for me.

Even at City Hall, when I attend a council meeting, I always arrive early so I can claim my favorite chair across one aisle from the coffee pot and cookies. From his demeanor, I suspect the mayor believes I consume too much of the taxpayers’ coffee. The brew is quite tasty, as a matter of fact, and I don’t think three cups plus six cookies is too much.

In sum, I guess it all boils down to knowing my direction will lead to my various roosts, everyone else should acknowledge my territory, and lines and searches are abhorrent to me. I have peed on my trees!



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