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Protect Yourself to Manage Stress

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You can’t make this stuff up.

I was between flights at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and sat down in a restaurant for lunch. It was a layout where two small tables-for-two were positioned side-by-side; two separate parties of two could sit there next to each other as if they were friends, even though they were strangers.

The hostess seated me and I noticed right away that there was a man talking with great volume and enthusiasm from the pair of tables in front of me. He was sitting in a position to face me but he was turned around in his seat talking at two people behind him in the next row of tables. There was one person at each of the tables; a man in his 30s and a girl with curly hair in her 20s (I later learned her name was Crystal). It was immediately apparent that none of the three knew either of the other two; the man had his back to the talker, glancing over his shoulder occasionally with appropriate nods and grunts; Crystal was eating and trying not to appear too interested in an obvious (to me, but not to the talker) attempt to discourage him from continuing on and on and on. And on. And on.

His topic was fascinating (not!). In excruciating detail, he was describing a trip he recently took along with all of the troubles he had with flights, etc.

It was actually amusing at first. Crystal and I made eye contact and in a split second I instantly knew she would have rather been just about anywhere else, and she knew I knew.

Then, in a moment of great horror, I realized that I was in the perfect position to capture the talker’s attention; he was in the next row of tables and he was facing me, even though he was talking to them. I carefully studied the menu to avoid eye contact; I’m not unfriendly, but I didn’t feel like sitting there and listening to him blather on and on about himself. Loudly. Ad nauseum.

There seemed to be no hope of avoiding him and it was stressing me out; I just wanted to have a peaceful lunch!

I took action. I figured that getting trapped would be unbearable and doing something now might simply be uncomfortable, so I moved to the row of tables behind me, putting a buffer zone of one empty row between us.

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