I was shelving once again. I had my cart and me in my roughly four foot wide space between the bookshelves. A woman was coming through and I needed to make some space for her. And I was off onto the subject of this post.
My initial thought on the right of way in the fiction stacks is that I, who am working, have primacy. I am moving through. I am benefiting the community as a whole with my shelving. I can be worked around. My tireless labor must be respected. But when I think about this again I understand that naturally I want to see it this way. It is more convenient to me. I am shelving. I have my rhythm and my goals. I have my bubble, and I want everyone to stay out of my way.
But the truth is, I am being paid. And paid, as I am, my time is less valuable because it is rewarded by default. If I defer to a patron in the "F's", and have to stand around for a minute, maybe writing some amusing observations down on my pad of post it notes (oh how you will laugh when I tell you!), I will be receiving roughly 35 cents in the process. If a patron stands around for a minute to let me work my way through, they start out not with spare change, but rather by losing a minute of their precious life. They're on their own for any rewards to pull from the situation beyond that. Both of us may or may not make some extra use of our waiting minute, but only I get a quarter and a dime no matter what.
So with all this in my mind, as the lady passed through, in my row where I was shelving like a madman, I stopped shelving and pulled my cart all the way over. Way over. I reduced my space consumption a bare third of the aisle space available, all at the cost of my time and workflow, so that she could proceed without much slowing or delay in her time, which was precious. The space was open. We nodded politely as she passed through, and then she crashed into my cart.