Friday, September 21, 2012

Mumbling Strangers


I'm not sure if this happens to everyone, or if it's just me. Maybe I look friendly and approachable. Maybe it's my habit of eye contact, or the slight smile I generally wear. Maybe people look at me and see a kindred spirit... and by kindred, I mean 'nut like me'. But strangers talk to me fairly often. Not the strangers in acceptable situations—like when you are sharing a four hour plane ride... but people walking on the sidewalk near me. Or who see me standing somewhere...

They range from single comment-makers to people trying to engage in full-on conversation. And inevitably, most of what they say is mumbling.

And when they mumble, you are put in the very odd conundrum of deciding between the following options:

1) Ignoring them. (I think I am incapable of doing this.)
2) Agreeing with them to be agreeable.
3) Or asking for clarification about what they just said.

And see that choice between the latter two, because the first seems out of my grasp, causes great difficulties. The FORMER leads to risks like the infamous Seinfeld episode where Jerry agreed to wear the ridiculous shirt because Kramer's girlfriend was a 'quiet talker' and Jerry agreed without knowing...


But the LATTER requires a deeper level engagement—by asking clarification you have expressed INTEREST in knowing what they said... you are now OBLIGATED to listen... and what if they say something really BIZARRE—what do you DO? (or worse, what if you STILL don't understand them and now have to ALSO agree to something you didn't catch?


My two examples this week come in the form of two men.

Example ONE: Walking toward me on the sidewalk. I was editing and walking. This, for me, is not unusual, but when I see movement peripherally, I look up, He said something like:

“...you didn't see that bicycle coming...”

I smiled and agreed and kept going, but... There was no bicycle that I could see. The last one I'd passed, this man couldn't have possibly seen me pass—it was a block back... had it nearly run over HIM, so he was just conjecturing? Had he seen me another day when I nearly had to leap out of the way (this happens now and then) or when a bicycle rides into the grass to avoid me as I don't see them coming? (This happens too—I am an Oregonian who believes bikes belong in the road following road rules, but in Michigan, that is a good way for a cyclist to DIE since cars don't look for them even a little—but bikes come too fast for the attention I am giving the sidewalk). Whatever the case... at least my agreement didn't form any commitment...


Example TWO is Slim... On Wednesday, walking home, I got hit on. I think Slim has hit on me before, but I can't be sure, as last time the guy was missing several front teeth... so either two men look similar or Slim has had some dental work. Anyway... I was walking home, minding my own business and a man asks if he can walk with me. That was clear enough.

Hating to be rude, but not wanting to encourage him, I said, it's a public sidewalk, he could walk by me if he wanted to. He proceeds to make suggestions that I THINK were related to my husband's ability to satisfy me... that perhaps he could help out if I wasn't happy... I am not sure enough of what he said to scold him, but I definitely don't want to encourage this. I said I was happily married. He suggested maybe marriages didn't stay happy and I told him you had to stick through the tough stuff or it wasn't a marriage. He suggested--mumbly again... maybe he could be my friend and said something to the effect of 'that's how it starts'...

I got on the bus. I normally walk home, but I didn't really want him to see my route and there was a bus going to the high school which is close to home, but also has enough connectors that I thought it was vague where I was headed. He doesn't scare me—I believe him to be harmless, but I HATE being in a position where the only option left on the table is rudeness... Especially when I'm not REALLY sure what he said...


Any of you get roped into anything through a mumbler? Had suggestions you weren't sure were suggestions?  Any nut magnets?

And just a teaser—I have exciting personal news for Monday (not publishing news and not HUGE, just fun)


Ih!  And Have a nice Autumnal Equinox!!!

16 comments:

Cold As Heaven said...

You look friendly, for sure.

In most cases, I find it nice and interesting to meet new people. But obviously there are not-so-pleasant situations like the examples you give

Cold As Heaven

Old Kitty said...

They are drawn to your shiny NAKEDness!! Yay! Take care
x

sue said...

I suspect it's when I ask them to repeat what they just said for the fourth time, that they begin to wonder if striking up a conversation was worth it in the first place. Do they mumble because they're ashamed of what they're suggesting or are they slovenly speakers all the time?
Sue

Jan Morrison said...

Yep ... happens to me all the time. Might be because we're both tall. Not sure. Also, not sure about you but I look people in the eyes and that is not good in some towns. It's a joke in our family - someone asking directions, being the one called on to participate by the busking clown, hit on for money, sometimes ... nice stuff. Someone telling me they need me to know they love my hair or my skirt or something. We are magnets. We have to learn to roll with it. Guys hitting on me ... not so much. I am sixty though.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I live in the south and some people it doesn't matter how many times they repeat something - I still have no idea what they said.
Glad my wife doesn't go for walks by herself. I'd have to hunt that guy down.

Tamara Narayan said...

I have this problem all the time with family and friends, not strangers. I think my hearing is bad. Plus I'm a southerner and my husband is a Yank. He talks low and about 100 miles per hour.

If a stranger says something to me, I pretend I didn't hear them and go about my merry way, slight smile intact so I don't look rude.

jaybird said...

Strangers approach me all the time. I guess I'm very approachable, cause I smile at everyone or I look like I'm just as lost as they are, LOL. But in either case, it has led to similar situations that you found yourself in. It is never my intent to be mean or rude to anyone, so I would have probably done the same thing you did, and took the bus the long route home :)

L.G.Smith said...

It does bother me when "crazy" people pretty much force me to be rude to them, because there doesn't seem to be any other way to get rid of them. This used to happen to me a lot when I rode the bus into the city. The mumbler who hadn't bathed in a week always seemed to sit down next to me.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That last guy would've creeped me out.

Sometimes you have to wonder if the mumblers are talking to you or just themselves.

Sylvia Colette Branch said...

all. the. time. Probably because I smile when I'm nervous...and that could be mistaken as being friendly...but one of these days I will end up in a ruffled shirt like Seinfeld - #1 is my method of choice ... smiling and agreeing is not always a good idea.

Matthew MacNish said...

That second guy's behavior is completely unacceptable. You can't talk to people like that.

I ignore strangers in public.

February Grace said...

Glad you got out of that situation okay...that would have scared me! HUGS!

Hart Johnson said...

Ha! I think it IS the smiling. Glad I'm not the only one.

Funny that the guys find Slim so out of line--I told my husband and he was like "Well of course he hit on you! You're beautiful!"--this is one of those 'he is a good match for me' signs... he knows I can take care of myself. Someone trying to take care of it for me would make me crazy.

KT Moreis said...

In inherited the "nut magnet" gene from my mother. She has attracted them for years (which probably explains my father...)

Anyway, yes the mumbling, wow, it drives me up the wall. Of course, I'm slowly losing my hearing, so now it sounds like EVERYONE is mumbling.

Eye contact, man, you gotta watch that stuff. It's plenty powerful. There was this one guy who didn't say a word, but he did LICK THE WINDOW where I was sitting having my lunch at a nice little cafe. Needless to say, I spent the rest of my lunch staring down my mushu pork.

Mustang Sally said...

Some of us are just crazy magnets ... yes. And pervs OFTEN talk that mumbly way just so you don't QUITE understand, that way when you give them what for they can act all offended and misunderstood. IDK, it seems to give them some sort of feeling of power.

I've found that the creepy ones count on your 'good manners' so these days I just refuse to feed their issues. There's a lot of gray area between rude and friendly.

I don't like to be rude either, but I can ... and WILL if a guy doesn't want to take no (or I'm happily married-which is just a more polite way of saying I'm not interested) for an answer. I figure if they keep it up after I tried to be nice, then they need to be convinced in no uncertain terms.

Helena said...

I don't get mumblers so much, but I definitely get comments and talkers and I'm more of a magnet for panhandlers than most people. Probably 'cause I look like a Nice Lady. You must have an especially sympathetic aura about you, Hart (and you look great!), to get so much attention, though it's not fun when it's very unwanted attention.