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Showdown on Merry St.

September 4, 2010

I live in a very friendly neighborhood. People mow their lawns with smiles on their faces; children play with chalk and ride scooters up and down their driveways. Joggers pass each other with friendly nods or waves, out-of-breath mutterings of “How ya’ doin’.”

Imagine my surprise, then, when Saturday morning, I came face to face with a psychopath.

Okay, maybe she’s not a psychopath. I really hope not, for my sake.

Backstory: On Friday, I took my kids for a brisk morning walk in a double stroller, weaving up and down familiar streets, my forehead sweaty and my legs enjoying a familiar bright burn. Nearing the end of our walk, we approached a woman with a fit but stocky frame. She was heading toward us, walking determinedly, and crossed the street onto our sidewalk. I continued pushing the heavy stroller, planning my strategy to move a bit to the side so we both could fit. But here’s the thing: she didn’t move. She kept walking toward me, her eyes focused on the distance beyond my feet, and stayed firmly in the middle of the sidewalk. We got so close to each other that she stopped, and it wasn’t until I was through struggling to get my stroller onto the grass and around her that I looked back with a furrowed, angry brow. “What the hell?” I thought.

Manners are really important to me. I get very frustrated when I hold the door for someone and they don’t say “Thank you.” (I’ve been known to pointedly utter, “You’re welcome,” anyway.) I feel the same way about drivers of cars who don’t usher a friendly wave when you let them in. (Again, “You’re welcome!”)  If someone is not polite to a waiter, I will never dine with him or her again.

By and large, my experience with carting around kids is that people are friendly and helpful. They hold doors for me. They smile and wave at my cute baby. I don’t need someone to give my adorable family attention, but I do expect decent manners, an acknowledgement that we’re sharing the same sidewalk.

The woman who I passed yesterday had a striking, stiff look. Her high cheekbones hid any humanity in her eyes. Her sure walk made her look like she had been through fire and survived. But surely, she knocked some people down and stepped over the pleading, struggling bodies in her path. Her whole aura said, “You will not fuck with me.”

What she didn’t know is, that’s the same thing my aura says.

So.

Saturday morning on my jog, sans cumbersome stroller, I decided that if I ran into her, I would not move out of her way. I’d walk head on and see who shied away first. It wasn’t going to be me. We’d have a game of Exercise Chicken, if you will.

Early in the jog, I passed her on the other side of the street. Oh well, I thought. No Chicken today.

But then, as I wrapped up the morning’s exercise and headed home, there she was, turning the corner.

A-ha.

I walked proud and confident. (Thank you, endorphins.) She walked proud and confident.  Finally, we came face to face. Except her face kept looking at some random spot beyond my feet. We stopped. She wobbled, one foot stepping into the grass before she finally looked up. Since I wasn’t going to move around her, it became imperative to say something. (See, I have not been through the fire and stepped over dead bodies; my humanity still forced me to communicate.)

“Do you have a hard time going around people?” I asked.

She paused for a minute.

“What d’you say?”

Damn, I thought. She doesn’t speak English. Who’s the bitch now?

I didn’t repeat myself. I decided it was time to move on. Then I heard:

“SHIT.”

Huh?

It was now that I realized–as I should have before–that this woman is not right in the head. She was angry. Very angry. I had awoken some demon that maybe she tried to keep at bay during her morning strolls around the neighborhood.

I walked around her, my shoulders tall, as she shouted after me. I looked back and smiled broadly. She mimicked me smiling broadly, then shouted some more. I kept walking, deciding that if she did run after me, I could take her. I took out my headphones to be sure I’d hear her approach.

Now, when I go for my early morning jog, I fear I may need pepper spray.

Image: “sunset runner” by Grant MacDonald via Flickr using a Creative Commons license.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

TheKitchenWitch September 6, 2010 at 7:28 pm

I fear for you Jana! I probably would have done the same thing, though. I HATE people who don’t give “the wave” when you let them into traffic and those cretins who don’t move for mamas with strollers!

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Carrie September 6, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Oh man, nothing ruins the running routine like a fire walking enemy. As an early morning jogger myself, NEVER leave home without the pepper spray! That said, I have almost accidently sprayed a few dogs I wasn’t prepared to see come my way at 4:30 in the morning. I didn’t, of course! Hey, do you have a dog to run with? Or an imposing one you could borrow?

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Allison @ Alli 'n Son September 7, 2010 at 1:11 am

Honestly, this story has me chuckling just a little bit. I can just see the confrontation.

But yes, she is totally rude. Even if she isn’t right in the head.

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Finola September 7, 2010 at 1:16 am

Wow, you rock!
I have also said ‘you’re welcome’ to people who haven’t thanked me for holding the door.
Honestly, what is the matter with some people?
But be careful, some people can be really nasty, so maybe pick your battles!

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Liz@Loving Mom 2 Boys September 7, 2010 at 3:03 am

Oh my goodness how scary!!! Good for you for trying to stand up to her though, I have a big issue when people walking on the sidewalk don’t even try to make room for others/strollers.

on a side note – thank you for giving me another reason to not get out more for walks :) my neighborhood isn’t quite as friendly to start with, I could only imagine the crazies I’d run into here!!

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dusty earth mother September 7, 2010 at 4:05 am

Yikes, that’s downright scary. If you go missing on your blog for a while, we’ll send out the cops.

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Corinne September 7, 2010 at 6:29 am

Good for you for saying something :) I wouldn’t have been able to, and I would have just gotten out of the way and given a dirty look.
But that doesn’t make for any interesting stories!!
I fully expect an update in the next few days! Be careful!!

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Christine Larocque September 7, 2010 at 6:04 pm

OH MY GOODNESS!! Good for you for standing your ground. I hope you don’t see any more of her, but I would have done the same. Totally.

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Jana September 7, 2010 at 6:40 pm

I’m so glad you would have done the same. More reason you should move to the U.S. We could take on the neighborhood together.

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Jana September 7, 2010 at 6:38 pm

You all really don’t think I have reason to be scared, right? It’s just one of those crazy, quirky things…right? I don’t watch that much local news so I don’t think I’ve been overly inundated by the “culture of fear.” And I’m hoping I don’t have much reason to fear.

Like I said, I can take her.

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Kameron September 7, 2010 at 10:30 pm

She doesn’t sound “right in the head” I’d just stay away from her and you’ll be fine! Kinda freaky though!

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Jane September 8, 2010 at 8:54 am

You sound just like me, saying “You’re welcome” when the meanies forget their manners! Of course, it mortifies my teenager – which only makes it all the more fun!

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Kerry September 8, 2010 at 6:25 pm

I think you have three choices;
1. Change your route/Avoid any contact.
2. Stand your ground and take on any confrontation.
3. Engage her in conversation by asking if she wants to welcome our Lord Jesus Christ into her life… and does she know that he is coming back soon on a little spaceship just behind a meteorite…..and communicates with you via cheese.
Hope your morning jogs are soon back to normal, and as first time reader – loving the writing! x

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Jana September 9, 2010 at 1:28 am

Thanks for visiting, Kerry, and thanks for the compliment. I like your choices. Read my update and tell me what you think of my newest plan.

I’m going to hang out at your blog for a bit now.

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Sarah September 9, 2010 at 1:29 am

Oh Goodness! What a weird scenario that is. What was she yelling after you? The woman is definitely not right in the head.

Okay. Off to read Part Deux now. :)

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Leslie September 10, 2010 at 6:55 am

HOW did I miss this the other day? Jana, though we haven’t met formally, I just know you can take her. Way to confront the sidewalk tyrant! Very impressive. I’m always good for a voluntary/compelled “you’re welcome.” And I have the same standards for dinners out.

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Jana September 10, 2010 at 7:10 am

I’m glad that my writing conveys the message that I’m tough, Leslie. (But inside, a ball of mush.) Anyway, hopefully one day we’ll meet and “take” each other out for some wine or food or something. Wouldn’t that just be awesome?

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