I am an extremely polite person. Unerringly so. I hold doors, yield to oncoming traffic, let the person with just a couple of items get ahead of me in line at the supermarket. I say “Yes, ma’am” to customer service reps over the phone, I clean out the lint trap after using the dryer (we live in an apartment building with a communal laundry room), I return library books on time.
Which is why rudeness, particularly in my personal space, is so inexcusable to me. To wit: a shopping center nearby, featuring at least eight top chain stores, has been beset for several months now by solicitors for a specific cause. These over-eager, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer go-getters stand just outside the stores, attempting to engage shoppers entering or leaving as well as those walking past. At first, they were stationed outside only one of the stores, then they expanded their area to several. Given that I like to park at one end of the shopping center and walk to the other (a little exercise seems to make a little shopping a little less sinful), I find myself passing them not infrequently, often walking through the parking lot to avoid an encounter.
Recently, I was distracted and, rather than making the effort to cross to the parking lot, I stayed the course. Big mistake, as evidenced by the approach of Ms. Not-Really-a-Do-Gooder.
She: (approaching me) Good morning, ma’am.
Me: (walking by) Good morning.
She: How are we this morning?
Me: (polite smile)
She: (louder) I said, how are we this morning?
Me: Sorry, no time today, thanks.
She: (offended, much louder) I was only being polite and asking how you are!
Me: (to myself) This is polite? Seriously?
Is it just me or did Ms. Not-Really-a-Do-Gooder actually take offense because I wouldn’t let her intrude on me to hawk her cause? Sounds like someone forgot to get on the “charm” line at charm school. Here’s another tip: if I was uninterested when I passed you going in one direction, please don’t stop me when I return in the opposite direction as if you hadn’t seen me ten minutes earlier. That’s not only rude — it doesn’t make you look too smart. And if you’re not smart, then your judgment and credibility in terms of the cause you’re trying to ram down my throat is … so very questionable.
I see your banner, I see your sign-up table, I see the message on your t-shirt — and I see that I am not interested at the moment. Try to see my side.
Might do you some real good.
© 2013 Claudia Grossman