Dealing with the General Public

Yesterday I had a totally frustrating encounter and it reminded me of that old saying about being able to be a saint until I walk out my front door. When it’s just me and Jesus, we are good to go.

Henry, Isabel and I were running an errand and I opted to get a treat for us after our mission. We were pulling into a parking spot at a strip mall, zipping in to meet my sister-in-law for some fro-yo. I did a little back and forth, aligning my van just so, making sure that I didn’t park too far to the left or the right and end up preventing someone from getting in their vehicle.

I finished my parking job, grabbed Isabel from her seat and opened the driver’s door. I told Henry to climb in my lap and we’d all get out my door.

As I opened my door, I kept a firm grasp, making sure it didn’t swing open into the very cute little Volvo¬†sports car parked next to us. Henry climbed down, and I followed after him holding Isabel. I got out and as I was closing the door, a young woman came marching quite deliberately out of a restaurant right in front of my parking spot. She walked towards us, got right next to me and paid me absolutely no attention.

She was staring at the Volvo, hunched over quite intently. There she stood, ignoring me and giving me her full, agitated attention all at the same time.

“Is something wrong,” I asked after second. She clearly wanted me to notice. “Did my door hit your car?”

“It’s fine,” she said with a huff. “Yes, you hit my car but it’s fine.”

She marched back into the restaurant and I headed off to our destaination.

I was shaken by her rudeness and also sad that I didn’t have the presence of mind to say, no, we actually did not hit your car though it may have seemed that way from your vantage inside the building. I was upset with myself for not pointing this out, because I was so taken back by her passive/aggressive communication skills that I failed to defend myself.

Oh well, I thought later, taking yet another deep breath. No harm no foul. Her car is fine and I guess that’s all the matters.

This morning, I was at my regular jaunt grabbing some morning caffeine and sitting to feed Isabel. I do this sometimes, get out of the house for breakfast to gather my thoughts before coming home, putting the baby down and getting some work done.

I tend to go to the same places over and over. Today, I was in one of those places and an old man who I’ve noticed before, he was standing by the restaurant’s entry as I walked inside.

He said hello as we walked in and I politely nodded. I didn’t want to say much because a few months ago, this same guy sat right next to me when I was having lunch. It was very frustrating. He’s clearly not all there and I know that sounds mean to say but it’s true. He tried to talk with me and after a few minutes of me sort of answering, he didn’t really catch on that I’d had enough. I couldn’t totally understand what he was saying and I felt like I had indulged the conversation long enough.

“I’m going to eat my lunch now,” I finally said pedantically, and then put my full, one-hundred seventy-five percent attention on Isabel and our meal. The old man sat and continued to stare at me and I was *this close* to saying something when someone I knew came into the restaurant and I invited my friend (quickly and loudly) over to eat with me.

Whew.

Today, the man was outside and I hoped he would stay there. Just the same, I sat at a table near lots of other people, whereas normally I sit a bit more isolated to make lists and write. And sure enough, five minutes into my meal the man came in and sat across from me. I ignored, ignored, ignored with all my strength. No luck — he came over and offered me his extra hashbrown.

“Thank you,” I said with a smile, “we have plenty of food.”

He looked blankly at me, a lone, brown tooth projecting from his lower gums. I didn’t want to kick this man while he was down, but please, I wanted to say, don’t force me to be rude!

He went back to his table and sat down and I finished up. As I was standing to leave, he rushed over and offered to throw away my trash. It was very nice indeed yes it was but my goodness I am not looking for a friendship here. I just Vant to be Alone and really don’t want to have a confrontation with someone who is probably just trying to be nice and is not totally all there.

I gathered my things, had my keys in my hand and with Isabel firmly on my hip, headed out to the parking lot and dove into the van.

My new plan is to not go back to the restaurant anytime soon, which is frustrating. But I don’t see another option, beyond having to cause some kind of scene with a person who probably gets treats like dirt on a regular basis.

Some days the life of a hermit seems oh-so-appealing. Then End.

Comments

  1. I had an “event” like those you describe the other night while leaving soccer. We have a Suburban and I was trying to back out of my parking spot to head back home. Another SUV approached and would not let me pull out. Then, I backed out a bit and another approached and would not let me pull out. This cycle of me backing up about a foot or so and ANOTHER large SUV simply driving around us occurred about 7 times in a row! I couldn’t believe it!

    Didn’t these other large SUV drivers have any compassion for a Mom just trying to back out and head home after soccer?? I was totally frustrated because they all acted like I was in the wrong JUST FOR TRYING TO BACK UP! These are probably the same people who would chat with me on the sidelines but when it was time to head home NO ONE was going to get in their way.

    Needless to say, I needed to take some deep breaths and say a prayer. Totally frustrating.

  2. libby @ ninesandquines says:

    UGH! i can’t stand it when people are passive aggressive! that makes ME feel like i did something wrong and then makes ME agitated! @jen, i laughed at your story – my husband drives a four door pickup with a long bed so his truck is, suffice it to say, like yours, one of the biggest “passenger” cars on the road. sometimes he will be backing out and will notice that someone is deliberately trying to get around him instead of just letting him back out and go about his business. instead of stopping though, he’ll just keep backing up and will say “look out! i’m coming through!” HA!

  3. Michelle says:

    You are wise to not go to that breakfast place again. That would creep me out a bit.

  4. I feel your pain regarding the man staring at you. I live in Indonesia, and wherever I go, I am stared at and people think they need to practice their English on me which usually amounts to, “I Love you Mister, kiss me!” Bah… There are times when I really wish I was invisible!!

  5. Mom in GA says:

    Had the SAME incident happen w/ my big van in the gym parking lot. I did bump a car as I was backing up. I knew there was no damage – it was such a slight bump. One personal trainer and customer saw me and decided to inspect the other vehicle after asking me if I noticed that I ‘hit’ that car. As I drove away, I decided I needed to drive back. So, looked at the car w/ NO damage and wrote a note to the owner. As I was putting the note on the windshield the owner came out and I let them know about the incident. She didn’t care in the least bit – there was no damage. And, she thanked me for letting her know. I was SO irritated that 2 other people would take it upon themselves to be so overly aggressive in inspecting the car. That was a rough morning. But, now I back in and park next to a dumpster so I don’t have to worry about backing out into cars.

  6. Mom in GA again says:

    RE: man in the restaurant. I totally get what you’re saying that he is ‘not all there’. So, take this in light of that……As I was reading the story about him I thought – MAYBE God is placing this man into your life for some reason. I don’t know. That might be totally off. But, I always feel like God puts people in our path for a reason. Maybe you need to pray for him, be a friendly face to him, or avoid going there for awhile. I don’t know, honestly. But, maybe think/pray about it through a supernatural lens. P.S. Thanks so much for sharing stories like this. We can certainly all relate. And, it is great to hear others that encounter the same trials – and be able to offer support/advice, etc.

    • I can relate to feeling “creeped out”, but I too was thinking that this might be something to really think and pray about. He probably had a developmental disability and was just trying to be friends with you, a beautiful lady. Maybe he thought of his mother as he watched you with your baby. And, unlike my 8-year-old daughter who has a developmental disability and likes to say hi and hug strangers, he is no longer little and cute. I think about her future when I see those “most unloved and unwanted”.

  7. I understand your reaction to the man in the restaurant totally. Sometimes when I’m in a situation where I’m not sure how to respond, it helps me to take one of my favorite saints and plug them into the situation and imagine what they would do. Sometimes these strangers are someone who’s been ignored or pushed away all their life and they approach us because they think we might be different than all the other people. I hugely admire you for putting these stories out there……it always helps to know we’re not alone. :)