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How to react when the thread eats you alive
June 6, 2013 6:17 PM   Subscribe

A current thread in AskMe is about how to react when someone flips out on you in public, or on public transit over something relatively minor. In my mind at least, it's gone a bit off the rails and it properly rubbed me the wrong way...

I sat on this for quite a while, pretty much since the thread was posted just kinda seeing how it would play out, and wondering what really bothered me about it and whether it was just a couple of people flipping out on the threadstarter.

Pretty much, there's two really shitty things going on here in my opinion.

First of all, treating the poster as an unreliable narrator. Since when is this any sort of standard? there's piles of relationship threads where someone spins up some "chances there's more to this story 500%" yarn and yet we all take it at face value because it's not our job to turn the tables on the poster. If someone posts an ass-half-full kind of thread, it'll probably just get exploded by the mods. Why should we be tearing in to them?

Secondly, and somewhat related to the above, some weird expectation that if someone calls you an asshole it's pretty much automatically valid to the degree that they declare it.

The entire thread is like a Concours D'elegance of hobbyhorses being shined up and ridden out about how this one time this one asshole did something vaguely like you, and oh man, they were such an asshole, so now i'm going to project that on to you.

Has no one encountered the kind of prick the original poster is talking about here? The kind of person who takes some really minor slight that just maybe, a lot of people would come to accept as a fact of life when it comes to crowded public transit like bumping in to them when you sit down or your backpack brushing in to them as you get off and then flip shit on you are in fact not normal people here.

I'm a quiet dude whose ridden transit all my life, and usually keeps to himself and just stares at a book(or more recently, a smartphone) and i've had more than a few memorable nonsensical encounters like this over the past few years. And yes, i've sat down and reflected upon the fact that i might be some inconsiderate asshole and it just doesn't make sense. Some people are unreasonable and like yelling at people.

I just don't really think that these posts are any meaningful, helpful, or reasonable response to the OP here. And there's a lot of them. The entire pile stinks of threadshitting.
posted by emptythought to Etiquette/Policy at 6:17 PM (156 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

I am really not reading the same things into that thread that you are. I think people are saying "Look sometimes people are crazy and it's still best to just apologize and move on..."
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:31 PM on June 6, 2013 [25 favorites]


Looking at the thread, I noticed there are no flags on any comments. If you spot anything particularly egregious, you should go ahead and flag the comments and we'll take a look at them.

That said, looking over the thread, I don't see people attacking the person asking the question or projecting anything onto the asker. I see a few people saying the equivalent of "sometimes getting brushed on the face can freak you out" but for the most part everyone is pretty much saying that the person should say sorry and move on.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:34 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


AskMe threads about etiquette do often seem to bring out a few people who seem to want to be the world's superego, either in general or about some particular thing they get annoyed about. But this post strikes me as kind of an extreme reaction to that thread. There was plenty of useful advice that engaged with the question (city face!) and there really didn't seem to be all that much finger-wagging going on compared to say, the hat thread.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:35 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just read through that thread and I assumed all the nasty comments had been flagged and deleted because I couldn't find anything like what you're talking about.
posted by Brody's chum at 6:37 PM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is the part that's rubbing you the wrong way the handful of suggestions that perhaps the OP could try to be more aware of their movements, so that some of these could be avoided? I didn't feel that was unkind.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:38 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


It seems ... odd to come over to Metatalk, accuse other responders in that thread of projecting, and to say that they are wrong based on your personal experiences?
posted by Catch at 6:50 PM on June 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


I think the reason that people are making comments like that is because she mentioned that these types of encounters have happened to her several times. That seems excessive to me, as someone who takes public transit regularly.
posted by barnoley at 6:53 PM on June 6, 2013 [24 favorites]

Since when is this any sort of standard? there's piles of relationship threads where someone spins up some "chances there's more to this story 500%" yarn and yet we all take it at face value because it's not our job to turn the tables on the poster.
You read a different site than I do. All the time I read about how people say the question is flawed as presented, or things like, "This isn't going to be what you want to hear," or "I know you said no 80's music, but this band is exactly what you are looking for!" or, "Well, if you are going to discount orange that means you can't have sherbet! or even people questioning the actual facts as presented!

Sometimes this is in the asker's best interest, sometimes it's a hobby horse of the person answering. Often that shit gets deleted, but they do happen.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:55 PM on June 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


I just read the whole thread and I don't see anyone doing any of the stuff you're describing.
posted by John Cohen at 6:58 PM on June 6, 2013


Since when is this any sort of standard?

Not agreeing or disagreeing with the practice, as I don't think general rules capture the diversity of the site or questions, but this kind of thing happens all the time. All the time.

And it does not get deleted because of that reason. It sometimes gets deleted for other reasons (not helpful, bad phrasing, derail, etc), but if the answer is deemed helpful - and there seems to be a general consensus with some fuzzy edges as to what qualifies as helpful - then it stays.

Further I would add that anecdote influenced or based answers - like or dislike - are exceedingly common. In questions like this, people tend to answer to their general experiences. This is because the question itself is asked that way (as opposed to hard facts), and is really only answerable in general experience/community consensus kind of way - obviously, there are no statistics about this kind of thing.

On preview, cjorgenson nails it.
posted by smoke at 7:00 PM on June 6, 2013


(the "unreliable narrator" part isn't irrelevant here: the OP specifically says he or she didn't notice hitting the other person, so his or her narration has a gap.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:03 PM on June 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


I count 12 out of 47 answers (so about 1 in 4) that tell OP that she may want to consider whether the protesters have a point. Many of these 12 mention that as a brief aside in an otherwise constructive answer. (And you could make the argument that when someone is asking how to handle confrontation, advice on how to avoid the conflict in the first place is appropriate.) So the thread is overwhelmingly constructive, I would say.

I also don't see where people are insinuating that the OP is an unreliable narrator. OP never denies that her scarf hit someone in the face, just the force of the impact.
posted by payoto at 7:03 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The entire thread is like a Concours D'elegance of hobbyhorses being shined up and ridden out

And just like that, I have a new catchphrase.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:03 PM on June 6, 2013 [20 favorites]


Sometimes a thread really bothers me. This discomfort is not fun, so I stop reading the thread and go do something else.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:04 PM on June 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


This thread "eats you alive"? The thread is innocuous. Figure out why you are having such a visceral reaction to it.
posted by dfriedman at 7:32 PM on June 6, 2013 [20 favorites]


It's almost like the thread hit you in the face with its scarf.
posted by Miko at 7:33 PM on June 6, 2013 [94 favorites]


I read the thread and assumed all the objectionable comments had been deleted as none of them seemed to be as you described. Most of the answers are relevant and have good advice.
posted by arcticseal at 7:34 PM on June 6, 2013


Just so EmptyThoughts doesn't start to feel like he's going crazy, I too found the thread to be noticeably heavy of people suggesting that the subway rider hadn't overreacted, but rather that the OP should be more careful not to let their clothing touch nearby people. It didn't bug me enough to start a MetaTalk about it, or anything, but I noticed it.
posted by escabeche at 7:43 PM on June 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


I noticed it too but I think it's within the realm of helpful responses. It's entirely consistent with responses like "if you never get beyond the second date with anyone/if you always have conflicts with your partner's friends/ etc., maybe it's you." Which are common and can be helpful.
posted by Miko at 7:50 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I saw this in my RSS feed, so I clicked both the link to the MeTa and the link to the AskMe being MeTaed. I started reading the AskMe and about half way through I thought "Okay, this is a pretty straight forward, and epically boring thread, why is it being MeTaed?"

So I came back here and read the original post in this thread and thought "Whaaaaaaa? Maybe I missed something by not reading all the way to the end."

So I went back there and read the thread all the way through, spotted only one post that even remotely seemed to fit the pattern the poster of this MeTa seems to be angry about and thought, "Whelp, that's weird, but I guess maybe the thread got modded and all the juicy bits are gone."

So then I came back here and read the rest of this thread all the way through, wherein I discovered that the mods say no posts have been deleted in that thread.

At this point, I am completely baffled as to how anyone could be reading a pattern deserving of this callout into that thread. The best explanations I can come up with involve mod conspiracies and/or time travel.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:50 PM on June 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


A time travel conspiracy? Nah, that's what they are going to want you to have thought.
posted by Apoch at 7:55 PM on June 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


First of all, treating the poster as an unreliable narrator.

The poster didn't realize they even hit the person with their scarf. How is it out of the realm of possibility they hit them in the face without realizing?
posted by inigo2 at 7:56 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


The best explanations I can come up with involve mod conspiracies and/or time travel.

Like those aren't the single biggest problems around here. And it's "and" no "or".
posted by bongo_x at 7:59 PM on June 6, 2013


I also noticed. A few of the comments seemed unnecessarily harsh. But your reaction does seem a bit outsized.
posted by Glinn at 8:12 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


You should have the awareness in a crowded space not to hit someone when putting on a scarf. You shouldn't be so taken aback if someone gets indignant about that. I thought the OP could have used a bit more pushback.

And, I think, pushback is a feature of this site. This happens much more strongly all the time in human relations questions.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:17 PM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


You know, a little while back I got upset like this about an issue in a thread. I wrote up this long ranty treatise about why I felt righteously indignant, and blah blah blah. And then I sent it via the contact form and was like "look! look at what I am about to post to MeTa!" and taz was like "your reaction is probably a little over the top, dude" (I am paraphrasing) and I was all "but people need a SMACKDOWN!" and taz was like "yeah, it's pretty uncool. You can make a MeTa if you want."

and then I realized I had gotten it out of my system. The contact form is a beautiful thing.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:19 PM on June 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


The entire thread is like a Concours D'elegance of hobbyhorses being shined up and ridden out

And just like that, I have a new catchphrase.


Thanks for saying that in a way which is much less snarky than anything I was able to come up with.

At least now there's a MeTa post with the tag "hobbyhorses" but I wonder why "Concours D'elegance" was left out?
posted by fuse theorem at 8:31 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


How to react when the thread eats you alive

emptythought, if you weren't a long term contributing member I might think this thread was performance art on your part. :-)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:34 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]



and then I realized I had gotten it out of my system. The contact form is a beautiful thing.


The contact form is NEVER a bad idea. MeTas often are
posted by sweetkid at 8:36 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


This ate you alive? She didn't give the other passenger a banjo.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:42 PM on June 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Heh, I see what you're doing here. Getting super worked up and escalating a public situation that just isn't worth escalating. Good one. AskMe poster, take note.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:21 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


yes, mhmm, mmm, yeah, mmmmhmmm, yeaa .... uhunhhhhh ...
posted by benito.strauss at 9:21 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


What's the best response when you accidentally knock into someone in AskMe and they are excessively rude about it?

This has happened to me a few times, and I never know how to react. I live in a large community weblog and answer questions in AskMe quite often. An example would be, I'm answering somebody's question in AskMe & some other guy takes offense at my fairly reasonable & on-point answer. I offer my apology & try to move on but he keeps calling the entire thread a "a Concours D'elegance of hobbyhorses".

I'm a quiet dude whose answered questions all my life, and usually keeps to himself and just stares at an RSS feed and i've had more than a few memorable nonsensical encounters like this over the past few years. Some people are unreasonable and like yelling at people.
posted by scalefree at 9:29 PM on June 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


Some of the answers rubbed me the wrong way, too. But that describes, like, every single human relations AskMe.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:40 PM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Whenever the Internet rubs me the wrong way I go outside and hug a tree.

Usually reminds me how much in life really rubs me the wrong way, gives a little perspective, ya know?
posted by carsonb at 10:15 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're overreacting to a thread about people overreacting?

...is this art?
posted by Jacqueline at 10:18 PM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


I also felt the replies were unnecessarily harsh. I'm often on the receiving end of rudeness in suburban as well as in urban locales like the OP of that question. Many of the answers seemed to suggest that if the OP were more cosmopolitan-- familiar with the customs of the city-- she would not have this problem. That seemed tangential to the OP's concern. I have lived in many different places and in many suburban locations expressing petty anger in public is genuinely more acceptable than in other, even urban places. It's not necessarily a "city" thing. It's not a badge of achievement to tolerate rudeness.

I didn't know what to say as I have the problem myself and others in the thread seemed fine with the answers. I thought about me-mailing the OP but didn't.
posted by vincele at 10:43 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


i agree there were a fair amount of posts telling the OP to watch how much space she is taking up on the bus. that said, she mentioned these sorts of incidents have happened "several times" where people have been unusually rude to her. i think it is just a lot more common for people to take up too much public space and inadvertently bump, hit or scarf slap another than it is for someone to go ballistic so commenters were addressing that likelihood. we really don't know if that is what was happening with the OP though. jmo.
posted by wildflower at 11:04 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's almost like the thread hit you in the face with its scarf.

Or draped its balls on emptythought's forehead?

One man's performance art is another man's histrionics.
posted by discopolo at 11:11 PM on June 6, 2013


Yeah, I noticed it too, but this is far from the most egregious example of this even this week. The "how do I frisk my PTSD dad without him noticing?" thread is like 80% "can't be done," "just uninvite him," and whatnot. (It may well be impossible to frisk him unnoticed.)
posted by salvia at 11:30 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the bus home from work today, a man soundly clocked me in the head with his arm. I said "Oww!" and rubbed my head and turned to look at him, but didn't say anything more. I've had a guy fall asleep on my shoulder and almost fall face first into my lap, and didn't say anything but gently nudged him back into his seat. I've had a few people sneeze on the back of my head, and I quickly moved to another spot but didn't say anything. I've witnessed many other people getting trod on, bumped, jabbed, etc. who didnt sat anything. I could go on and on, but the point is the vast majority of people never say anything. So I have to wonder, if OP has had a few severely angry complaints about her transit etiquette, how many other people has she inadvertently bumped or whacked or otherwise intruded into the personal space of? It could be a situation like for every mouse you see in your home, there are a dozen more hidden...if OP has had a few people snap at her, it's not unreasonable to consider that many more may have been similarly offended but not bothered to say so, you know? So maybe it's not just People Be Crazy, but something that OP should examine about her own behaviors to bring down the number of distressing transit incidents she finds herself faced with.

Some people are just phenomenally ignorant of the way their physical body interacts with the spaces and other bodies around them. It doesn't mean they're bad or stupid, just that they need to work harder at behaving courteously in cramped spaces. One of my best friends is terrible in this regard, and I love her to pieces, but she's just totally lacking in this specific type of spatial intelligence.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:37 AM on June 7, 2013 [20 favorites]


Yeah, that's exactly the kind of condescending response that doesn't really answer the question which annoyed the OP! Good example nice work.

These responses bugged me as well but then I got to "City Face" which was such a good phrase that I started saying it out loud and felt better. Give that thread City Face OP!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:41 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Some people are just phenomenally ignorant of the way their physical body interacts with the spaces and other bodies around them.

Today's MeTa word of the day is proprioception.
posted by psoas at 4:20 AM on June 7, 2013 [14 favorites]


Today's MeTa word of the day...

Can we do this as regular feature?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:12 AM on June 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


The entire thread is like a Concours D'elegance of hobbyhorses being shined up and ridden out

Has no one encountered the kind of prick the original poster is talking about here?

i've had more than a few memorable nonsensical encounters like this over the past few years


It's you. But that's ok. We all bring our baggage to the site. Just please be more careful when you go to stow it next time, you damn near took my head off.
posted by yerfatma at 5:13 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I first moved to Chicago for a school program, and on the first day, one of our teachers taught us about City Face, except his phrasing was "urban attitude." Probably the most useful thing I learned that semester.

I also learned that, if a stranger just won't leave you alone, the best response is to get loud and flaily and generally batshit. I've never had to resort to that, but the city is full of surprises.

I really wanted to respond to that AskMe with "don't block the doors and you had better by god not be wearing a backpack on the train, because I can't tell you how many times I've been bonked by some doofus's backpack," but I figured that would be irrelevant and unfair to the OP, who's likely done no such thing and may just have had a streak of bad luck. Anyway, cities are full of overreacting assholes and unaware backpack-bonkers and scarf-smackers, but mostly it's people in the middle who have the occasional bad day.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:21 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't even think those people necessarily have to be emotionally unhinged or even having a bad day - it's a false characterization. It's OK to want to maintain personal space, and in crowded environments, it really is a good thing to develop the norms of keeping yourself to yourself. I don't think it's pathological, when surprised by a sudden elbow or flying scarf, to say "Hey, watch what you're doing!" There's a way in which this can be assertiveness in the face of thoughtlessness or presumption, not oversensitivity. Jane Jacobs would see this as the urban environment working well.
posted by Miko at 5:29 AM on June 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


I really wanted to respond to that AskMe with "don't block the doors and you had better by god not be wearing a backpack on the train, because I can't tell you how many times I've been bonked by some doofus's backpack," but I figured that would be irrelevant and unfair to the OP, who's likely done no such thing and may just have had a streak of bad luck.

I would vote for Hitler's cloned head in a jar if one of his campaign promises was to make people sling their backpacks on their fronts before they get on a bus, subway or train. I am convinced that that one thing would prevent 80 percent of mass transit rage.
posted by Etrigan at 6:03 AM on June 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


Etrigan: I would even vote for you if you promised to make stepping off an escalator and stopping dead a capital offence.
posted by biffa at 6:09 AM on June 7, 2013 [24 favorites]


Sony should get royalties from these two threads, there is so much projection going on.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:15 AM on June 7, 2013


My "favorite" is when, on a crowded subway, people lean against the pole.

As for the question and its responses, my theory is that there is a broader "policy" issue at work. Would you rather live in a society where you could tell a scarf-bonker to "watch it" without fear of repercussion, or would you rather live in a society where telling a scarf-bonker to "watch it" would result in a comeback? I think most people would pick the former.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:17 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


How to react when the thread eats you alive

You walk away from the thread and find another place to play.

I just don't really think that these posts are any meaningful, helpful, or reasonable response to the OP here.

How do you know this? The beauty of Ask is that the OP will get a whole range of answers from people with different experiences and perspectives. Ask is not meant to be a place where the poster gets their feelings and interpretations indulged and validated. How many times in a relationship question do the answers "turn the tables" on the OP? It happens a lot. I just assume some answers will be helpful and some will not be helpful. And the OP gets to make that final determination.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:18 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


How to react when the thread eats you alive

Release microtoxins into your bloodstream, to poison the flesh eating thread, while putting yourself into a deep coma to activate your healing factor.

Geeze, we talked about this.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:41 AM on June 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yeah, that's exactly the kind of condescending response that doesn't really answer the question which annoyed the OP!

I think you would be correct if the OP framed the question differently. For example, if the OP just said: "In the subway I was putting my scarf on and it hit somebody in the face and that person said X to me. What should be my response?" In that case, saying "be more careful next time" is indeed an unhelpful response that doesn't answer the question.

But in this case the OP was also defending their position and interpretation of what is acceptable behavior in public, even claiming (in the follow up) that the other person couldn't have been hit that hard by the scarf and was therefore out of line in the way they spoke up about it. Moreover she emphasized that she didn't "deserve" to be spoken to that way. So with that framing, a little bit of push back was inevitable and I think an answer that says "be more mindful about your movements in crowded spaces" is within the bounds of a reasonable answer. This is just another way to gently tell the OP that she doesn't get to decide to what extent her actions annoy other people in crowded public spaces. The other people get to decide that.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:45 AM on June 7, 2013 [18 favorites]


Having read through the thread, I really don't see an answer that couldn't be summed up by two or all three of the following sentences:

"Sometimes it's you. Sometimes it's them. In either case, sincerely apologize and move on."

I see one answer that maybe shades that "sincerely" a little sarcastically. It seems like you're responding to the first sentence, "Sometimes it's you." Here's the thing: we have no way to know whether the OP did something wrong or not. We know that she believes she didn't do anything wrong, or at least worse than swiping somebody's face with her scarf. But the advice is fairly consistent regardless: you apologize, you de-escalate to the extent possible, you do your best to make things better and not worse while at the same time respecting your own boundaries, and you learn from it going forward.

I don't understand why you feel like this is a pile-on. I don't see it. Unless you know for a fact (i.e., you were there) that the other person was totally out of line, which is something not even the OP knows for sure, I don't understand what advice you feel one might give that would be more helpful.
posted by gauche at 6:46 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


All I can say is that the next time they hit me in the face with a scarf, one of us is going to jail and the other to the morgue.*

* - not really
posted by double block and bleed at 6:56 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Moreover she emphasized that she didn't "deserve" to be spoken to that way.

I was just about to say the same thing. That sentence really leapt out at me as well. Frankly I was surprised there weren't comments more overtly critical of the OP.
posted by aught at 7:12 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it just means that the action didn't warrant such an outsized response. That's all I think OP meant by "deserve"
posted by sweetkid at 7:14 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


A current thread in AskMe is about how to react when someone flips out on you in public, or on public transit over something relatively minor.

That post was about someone flipping out, to you?

Yeah, people getting their toes stepped on (or whatever) and starting to rant and rave is a common thing on public transportation but this didn't sound like one of those situations. It sounded like it was pretty self-contained and there wasn't that much to manage.
posted by BibiRose at 7:29 AM on June 7, 2013


then I realized I had gotten it out of my system. The contact form is a beautiful thing.

The system works!

And yeah the not deserving being spoken to that way seemed odd to me. I think I deserve pretty much nothing from other people except freedom from harm and (nearly always) harassment, with politeness/decency being usually a bonus. So I was interested in the OPs perspective because I didn't really understand it. I mean I know there are a lot of people who have strong feelings about other people and the proper ways to interact, many of them post here all the time. It's interesting to see when those people's interactions cross over with other peoples' interactions who have strong feelings that go in a different direction because there is often friction; both people feeling that they are doing it right and getting needlessly hassled by someone who doesn't understand how the interaction is supposed to go.

I think in a situation like this AskMe you have people who can identify with both sides of the dynamic described which is maybe helpful for feedback but maybe less so for empathy. Some people here are pretty good at getting themselves in the headspace of someone who doesn't think the same way they do and some are less good at it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:04 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


The thing that confuses me is that, regardless of how anybody framed their answer or any projecting or who deserved what, what else can you do in a situation like the OP describes besides say, "Oh. Sorry about that. It was an accident," and move on?

Like, what was emptythought hoping people would say? "You should have delivered a righteous beatdown"?
posted by Sara C. at 8:10 AM on June 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, that's exactly the kind of condescending response that doesn't really answer the question which annoyed the OP! Good example nice work.

Yeah, this isn't actually the question thread, and I did give an answer in that thread about how to deal with angry people who won't take "I'm sorry" for an answer. I'm allowed to venture away from directly answering OP's question here in MetaTalk, no? I'm allowed to think about the reasoning behind the answers that might seem a tad harsh to OP?
posted by keep it under cover at 8:16 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yea I dunno, it's a rainy day in NYC today, which basically means WORST EVER on the subway, and I get anxious on subways on regular days.

I think I have at various times been the person who unintentionally did the scarf thing, been the person who got outsized upset that someone did the scarf thing to me, been the person who got outsized upset that someone got outsized upset, and also been the person who just healthily let the whole thing drop no matter what side I was on.

It has nothing to do with being a "quiet person" or whatever, most people don't get on the subway or out in crowded areas being all "I'm gonna make me a FUSS!" Unless they're drunk.
posted by sweetkid at 8:16 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


The thing that confuses me is that, regardless of how anybody framed their answer or any projecting or who deserved what, what else can you do in a situation like the OP describes besides say, "Oh. Sorry about that. It was an accident," and move on?

This, along with some of the framing of the question and follow-up, made the whole post seem like properly disguised chatfilter to me. But then, I tend to think everything is chatfilter.
posted by payoto at 8:19 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm also mis-aligned with much of the user base on this, and I completely see where emptythought is coming from.

Not necessarily so much with this one thread, but there are relationship AskMes which do end up fitting emptythought's description very closely. It seems somewhat unpredictable what will turn the "tough love" or "let's mistrust this asker on principle and invalidate their experience" faucet on - maybe just the fact that someone has done it pretty high up in the thread.

The Ask in this MeTa, whilst not half as aggressive towards the OP as some others, had enough of that tone in it to make cringe a little. In fact, I stopped reading after the City Face comment, because I wanted to finish on a good note. To me, the "tough love", the invaliadation of the OPs feelings and narrative etc seem particularly tricky in relationship Asks, since many of them are written by people who are clearly in more or less distress, confused, hurt, depressed, and probably without other immediate recourse, if they turn to strangers on the internet. They (we) probably feel lonely, vulnerable, a burden, like they don't belong. They (we) come here with problems which in their lives have just brought into the foreground how forlorn, lost and helpless they feel, in general and in a particular situation. Frequently, this seems like an amazing place to come to when shit hits the fan - there are so many people here who are intuitive, have wisdom and the right experience etc. But sometimes that wealth of empathy and care seems to fly out the window, and it's like throwing a lamb amidst a pack of wolves (if this seems exaggerated - ask any person who has ever felt like this how magnified the most common misadventures can be).

And it seems particularly ... weird on a site which has so much awareness of these issues (just check the two recent threads on suicide on the blue) to be so casual and thoughtless with the feelings of people who are clearly in some trouble.

This does not apply to Asks where another angle is suggested to the asker, or maybe a better set of questions etc. - quite the contrary, this kind of different perspective, offered with kindness or at least respect seems to be often very helpful to the OP. But there is a specific combination of questioning feelings/experience/narrative, tone and involvement on the side of the answerer (either too much or too little) which comes across as quite dismissive and aggressive. I now understand why so many people chose to ask certain questions anonymously or from a sock-puppett account.
posted by miorita at 8:28 AM on June 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


The thing that confuses me is that, regardless of how anybody framed their answer or any projecting or who deserved what, what else can you do in a situation like the OP describes besides say, "Oh. Sorry about that. It was an accident," and move on?

You can do what I see people do all the time, which is yell at each other for 5 minutes about who was the ruder one and why don't you get out of my face and DON'T YOU DARE DISRESPECT ME, until an old person yells STOP FIGHTING, and then skulk to opposite ends of the subway car, muttering under your breath to hide how embarrassed you probably feel.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:29 AM on June 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


I guess I AM the "kind of prick" you're talking about. When I'm on a crowded bus or train I am always very close to lashing out at people. I don't, but riding transit in peak hours makes me fucking hate everyone. Students with enormous backpacks protruding out 1 foot or more behind them, people with coffees when we're packed in like sardines in a bumpy moving vehicle, people not covering their mouths when they sneeze or cough, people eating egg salad sandwiches making the whole damned place smell like fart, and for the love of god people congregating at the exits when they're not getting off or not moving to the back of the fucking bus without being prompted over the loudspeaker. People, you have failed at riding the bus with others. Kindly stay home and leave this to the pros.
posted by Hoopo at 9:33 AM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm a quiet dude whose ridden transit all my life, and usually keeps to himself

He was a quiet man, kept to himself.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:35 AM on June 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


yell at each other for 5 minutes about who was the ruder one and why don't you get out of my face and DON'T YOU DARE DISRESPECT ME

Yeah, but how likely is it that many people are going to advise someone to do that?

I could see it if OP had the situation you describe play out, and had Asked Metafilter how to handle it better next time. And yeah, maybe there would be people who'd say "no that's life, sometimes you just end up in a shouting match on public transit I guess".

But every single time a stranger has been overly harsh with me in public, I've just let it roll off. Because if you don't, it's impossible to live in a city.

I have this one friend who tends to escalate these weird little confrontations that sometimes happen, and in general I find that he is less well-integrated into urban living for it. Also generally more stressed out, more on a hair trigger about minor things, etc.
posted by Sara C. at 9:40 AM on June 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


The key to dealing with mass transit weirdness is to keep the iPod cranked up and sip from a big gulp cup full of Four Loko.
posted by jonmc at 10:05 AM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I prefer Four Loko in slushy format - saves you when you're on that one car with broken AC
posted by en forme de poire at 10:07 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think this provides a great example of how to generate the space you need while on public transit. Most relevant part starts at 1:30.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 10:09 AM on June 7, 2013


More than the backpackers, more than the pole hoggers, more than the hacking coughers and loud cell phone talkers, the people who drive me completely batty on public transit are the ones who sit next to me and unpack their entire fucking breakfast, mason jar full of sludge-colored beverage included, and start slowly munching away. It should be a federal crime.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 10:14 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, OP, I thought the same thing you did in that thread. "Well have you considered that this is all your fault? But ok, if you insist, just say you're sorry." I actually think apologizing and not engaging any further is the way to go, but what I found unseemly was that how many times that answer was couched in those terms.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 10:16 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


The people I hate on public transit are the ones who, when it's standing room only and people are packed in cheek-to-jowl, proceed to remove their sandals and bite off their toenails, spitting the remains out without so much as a glance around or a, "Hey, would you like a few bits in your coffee?"
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:24 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


The amount of space I am given on public transit is inversely proportional to the length of my hair. When I shave it all the way down I get people apologizing for just standing near me. YMMV.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:28 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


what I found unseemly was that how many times that answer was couched in those terms.

The tricky part, though, is that in order to answer the posed question, it sometimes matters what happened. At least, those who are answering think that it matters, and as such are still answering in good faith. It's not an issue of picking on the asker because it's fun to do so.

So, what you see is people sending out feelers in those directions to inform an appropriate responses to the actual question being asked, and in my mind, it has been done pretty respectfully. I think the thing to encourage is that an AskMe poster always has the privilege, as the asker, to dismiss advice that isn't helpful or not accurate.

As written communication is an imperfect medium, it's probably best to assume that a cooperative sifting process between the asker and those who are answering is often necessary, to discern related variables that might be important but not expressed well. Good back and forth can be a discovery process to refine the original question. If both sides are appropriately engaged, some gold pieces should sift out at the end.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:30 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


As written communication is an imperfect medium...

You take that back, right know!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:49 AM on June 7, 2013


Brandon Blatcher: "As written communication is an imperfect medium...

You take that back, right know!
"

Ok, I wrote "now".

Now what?
posted by Grither at 10:53 AM on June 7, 2013


The tricky part, though, is that in order to answer the posed question, it sometimes matters what happened

Yep. I'm sure I'm not the only one here who saw the bit about the scarf hitting someone in the face and thinking "yeah that would annoy me too and I might have said something, if someone calls you on it maybe just apologize and be more careful in the future".
posted by Hoopo at 10:55 AM on June 7, 2013


Ho bloody ho
posted by Namlit at 10:55 AM on June 7, 2013


more than the pole hoggers

Aargh, the pole hoggers -- my current #1 peeve. I have developed a pole grip with extended knuckles that resembles a ninja punch of death, which I quietly unleash when someone tries to slouch against the pole during rush hour.
posted by brain_drain at 11:01 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know who else was an imperfect medium? That's right: Mina Crandon.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:01 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and that thread looks just fine to me.
posted by brain_drain at 11:01 AM on June 7, 2013


I wasn't in that thread. Reading it over, it does look a bit harsh - I think people got weirded out over the "deserve" comment, but really, who does deserve to be yelled at on a train? Certainly not some dude who accidentally violated the space prohibitions.

I also find the "Excuse me" to ALWAYS be rude, regardless of the provocation. So when people were saying "maybe it's you", reading it now it sounds like, "That person might have been justified in yelling at you." And since it's not justified to yell at people like that, maybe the OP's behavior has put them below the bare minimum standards of civil decency. Also, I think encouraging someone who is in the right to apologize always rubs some people the wrong way.

So I can see why someone might be upset about it enough to post a MeTa. I wouldn't have, but I don't think it's totally baseless.
posted by corb at 11:18 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Well have you considered that this is all your fault? But ok, if you insist, just say you're sorry." I actually think apologizing and not engaging any further is the way to go, but what I found unseemly was that how many times that answer was couched in those terms.

Except that the original asker in fact hit a stranger in the face with a thing. At no ordinary time (outside of a battlefield, an appropriate sport, or fisticuffs) is it actually okay to hit a stranger in the face with a thing. You're never, ever 100% in the clear when you do that. So to my mind it's appropriate to gently suggest that the asker exercise a bit more consideration in her own actions, which are all that she can even control in the first place.

EDIT: I know she didn't do it deliberately.
posted by gauche at 11:19 AM on June 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


I also find the "Excuse me" to ALWAYS be rude, regardless of the provocation. So when people were saying "maybe it's you", reading it now it sounds like, "That person might have been justified in yelling at you." And since it's not justified to yell at people like that, maybe the OP's behavior has put them below the bare minimum standards of civil decency

RESPECTFULLY DISAGREEING IN ALL CAPS
posted by Hoopo at 11:22 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


At no ordinary time (outside of a battlefield, an appropriate sport, or fisticuffs) is it actually okay to hit a stranger in the face with a thing.

New York City subways can actually be worse than a battlefield.

I am still not sure myself whether or not I am kidding.
posted by corb at 11:22 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


New York City subways can actually be worse than a battlefield.

Fair enough. Is peevishly saying "excuse me" when struck inappropriate in a situation that is, let's say, worse than a battlefield?
posted by gauche at 11:27 AM on June 7, 2013


I also find the "Excuse me" to ALWAYS be rude, regardless of the provocation.

What would you have people say instead? "Excuse me, you're standing on my foot," is rude now?
posted by keep it under cover at 11:28 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


OP said the person said "Excuse you!" which, yeah.
posted by payoto at 11:29 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ahh, I see. Sorry, I wasn't clear on what corb was referring to. "Excuse me," is an entirely different thing to say than "Excuse you."
posted by keep it under cover at 11:33 AM on June 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Well have you considered that this is all your fault? But ok, if you insist, just say you're sorry." I actually think apologizing and not engaging any further is the way to go, but what I found unseemly was that how many times that answer was couched in those terms.

Well, yeah. Because usually these situations happen for a reason. It's very rare to find yourself sitting next to a complete psycho who goes ballistic on you for an entirely fabricated reason. If someone says, "Excuse you! Would you please not slap me across the face with that hipster-ass scarf you're wearing, fucking whitey Williamsburg asshole?" There's a very strong chance that you did put your scarf on in maybe not the most graceful way possible. And, yes, this is a hard thing to be self-aware about. And, yes, learning to behave a certain way on public transit, even if it shouldn't be absolutely necessary, will drastically reduce the number of rude encounters that ruin your day.

I didn't see anyone in the thread suggesting that OP had actually bludgeoned this person with their scarf. I saw people saying, "yes, you might have actually touched this person with your scarf and in general it's good to be careful about this stuff."

I had a rhythm for a bit where I found myself getting into a lot of these little tiffs with neighbors about not holding elevators or not saying thank you or the like. In the end I just decided I was probably the one being the asshole, and that I should try harder to be neighborly and kind. Despite the fact that, no, I don't have to hold the elevator, and there are fucking two of them, and waiting an extra thirty seconds isn't going to kill you, etc. It wasn't "my fault" that I was getting attitude about this stuff, and I didn't "deserve" to be spoken to in that way, but it all magically disappeared when I started making an effort to be friendlier. Despite the fact that nobody is obligated to be friendlier.
posted by Sara C. at 11:33 AM on June 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


Once, not even in NYC but Boston, the train lurched really suddenly and I flew forward, almost landing on these people but I caught myself just in time so I never actually touched them.

One of them was like, "Excuse me, can you stay over there?"

Like - did you not just see what happened? Did you think I was trying to sit on your lap?
posted by sweetkid at 11:34 AM on June 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


Yeah, sorry, I meant "Excuse you" not "Excuse me" but the edit window has expired.
posted by corb at 11:35 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


New York City subways can actually be worse than a battlefield

We are done: scarf, face and backpack we're crammed
No pole leans, no wide stance
MTA is a battlefield

We smell strong, but no one can tell us we're wrong
Axe Body Spray and stale bong, all of us glowing
MTA is a battlefield
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:44 AM on June 7, 2013 [22 favorites]


Well, yeah. Because usually these situations happen for a reason. It's very rare to find yourself sitting next to a complete psycho who goes ballistic on you for an entirely fabricated reason.

The point is not whether it was an "entirely fabricated reason." The point is, the person who reacts with excessive rudeness or violence is clearly 10,000 times more at fault than the person who made an innocent, harmless mistake and then apologized for it.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:49 AM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Can we all agree that the people who purchase scratch-off tickets and proceed to scratch them off at the counter, holding up the entire line, are complete assholes?

Because in my head I punch those people in the back of the face.
posted by Sarcasm at 11:50 AM on June 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


Even still--if you've hit someone in the face with a scarf you may have annoyed them and they may respond as if they are annoyed and this should not surprise you.

Put yourself in the other person's shoes. You're sitting there minding your own business and out of nowhere all of a sudden something is in your face. Something suddenly and unexpectedly hitting you in the face even softly is startling. Then the person who did it isn't even apologizing or is totally oblivious to the fact they just whipped their scarf across your face.

"Excuse you!" is not the most polite response, but if I'm the one whose scarf hit the person this is clearly an "oops, my bad, better take that little outburst on the chin." I don't see how it's really worth escalating things if you are guilty of having accidentally swatted them with a scarf. It's not like the person is shouting profanities and getting violent here.
posted by Hoopo at 12:03 PM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is just another way to gently tell the OP that she doesn't get to decide to what extent her actions annoy other people in crowded public spaces. The other people get to decide that.

This is pretty much rule #1 of Conflict Resolution -- recognizing that conflict results not from a slight (or an impact, or a deceit, or a nudge etc) but from someone responding to such. If you smack me in the face with your scarf and I make nothing of it, conflict does not exist. But if I do, it does. Which doesn't make either of us in-the-wrong, it just puts both of us in the ring.

The other day, I was swinging a heavy backpack onto my back (after doing what I always do, which is check the perimeter) when, at the last second, a woman suddenly leaned forward to pick something up off the ground. I didn't hit her but I came within six inches of doing so and thus gave her scare. She took offense. I thought about A. telling her to calm down, B. telling her to take a little more care with sudden movements in tight spaces (ie: it takes two to tango), but decided on C. I said "sorry" and walked away.
posted by philip-random at 12:07 PM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Drjimmy 11 summed up my point. Rather concisely :)

The thing that confuses me is that, regardless of how anybody framed their answer or any projecting or who deserved what, what else can you do in a situation like the OP describes besides say, "Oh. Sorry about that. It was an accident," and move on?

Nothing, that response is fine, and that wasn't my point. My entire point was that once you apologize you're done, and the other person flipping out is now in the wrong and being an ass.

Like, what was emptythought hoping people would say? "You should have delivered a righteous beatdown"?

.... No? As I said, the response was fine. I just think the "maybe you're the cock here" was ridiculous because it carries a tone of "you got what you deserved by being a minor league inconsiderate person by having this asshole flip out on you". It's some sort of weird justice porn-esque orgasm by proxy on the part of some of the people writing comments there and in this MeTa IMO.

That said, I get how this could be read as performance art on my part. Like the upset bus person I overreacted in posting this and writing it with the erm, passion that I did. This was definitely a me thing.

I'm happy to see I wasn't the only one who read this thread and that attitude the way I did, but I don't really think its a MeTa worthy thing(although there's some great comments in here!). It's more of an "oh, that's disappointing. Maybe I'll drop a comment in with my opinion and move on" sort of thing.

I am a bit miffed at how a few people seem to have read weird conclusions in to my post though, as with what I responded to above. But oh well.
posted by emptythought at 12:10 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tangentially, I have seen piss, shit, snot and other bodily eruptions on the train. I've seen pukings and other foulings. I've seen dirty diapers, bandages and other hygeine products left on seats. I've sat next to people who bodily funk would knock out a rhino. Why those improv kids think its fun to ride them pants less, I'll never know.
posted by jonmc at 12:32 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


So it's a "someone was wrong on public transit" thing?

In that case, you have my affirmation that you are always in the right on public transit, forever more.
posted by Sara C. at 12:35 PM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you smack me in the face with your scarf and I make nothing of it, conflict does not exist

Well, yes. Technically, if someone punches someone else in the face, there is no conflict unless the punchee objects.

B. telling her to take a little more care with sudden movements in tight spaces

I'm imagining her telling her friends the story of how she dropped a quarter, checked around before bending over to pick it up, and at the last minute this guy swings his backpack and almost hit her on the head.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:00 PM on June 7, 2013


I'm imagining her reaching for a shiv strapped to her ankle.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:23 PM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Like - did you not just see what happened? Did you think I was trying to sit on your lap?

I am in the oh so joyful position of navigating the T with a stroller. I can't count the number of times I'm standing as out of the way as I can get and the stroller's brake is on, someone walks into it (which, ok, happens when the train is crowded) and admonishes me to "Watch where you're going with that thing!" Um. About that.

I always just say "Oh, sorry" and my tot invariably says "HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!" He so wants to be friends with everyone on the T and it's not always reciprocated.
posted by sonika at 1:24 PM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I totally get that, but sometimes people are legit running people down with their strollers. I think it's probably pretty stressful for the kid, like "sorry! it's not me doing this! I'm not really in a hurry, so sorry!"
posted by sweetkid at 1:28 PM on June 7, 2013


The point is not whether it was an "entirely fabricated reason." The point is, the person who reacts with excessive rudeness or violence is clearly 10,000 times more at fault than the person who made an innocent, harmless mistake and then apologized for it.

Well said. This encapsulates why all of the questioning of the OP was silly - the point is she is trying to come up with a good way to react to someone else's outsized and rude reaction.

I totally agree that the responses in that thread were unduly harsh and I was thinking exactly the same thing.

People accidentally do things all the time in public - though I have definitely overreacted in anger over incidents like the one the OP described I think that was inappropriate and rude of me (and I tend to feel worse about rude and angry responses than any accidental bumping of others on a crowded subway).

City Face was the best comment and genuinely helpful though.
posted by rainydayfilms at 1:36 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am a bit miffed at how a few people seem to have read weird conclusions in to my post though..

Well, you were doing the exact same thing with this post, so there's that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:42 PM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


The point is, the person who reacts with excessive rudeness or violence is clearly 10,000 times more at fault than the person who made an innocent, harmless mistake and then apologized for it.

My entire point was that once you apologize you're done, and the other person flipping out is now in the wrong and being an ass.

the point is she is trying to come up with a good way to react to someone else's outsized and rude reaction.

I think we are creating a fictional story line here. The original Ask OP describes the person's response to being hit in the face by the scarf as follows:

She taps my shoulder and hisses, "Excuse you! Your damn scarf just hit me across my face!"

There is no violence here. Is this excessive rudeness or an outsized reaction? I guess reasonable people could disagree about that. But there was not follow up aggression or rudeness by the person after the apology was offered, as far as we know. So if you are going to critique some of the responses in the Ask, it would be more fair to stick to the actual words used by the OP to frame her question.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 1:45 PM on June 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


The point is, the person who reacts with excessive rudeness or violence is clearly 10,000 times more at fault than the person who made an innocent, harmless mistake and then apologized for it.

My entire point was that once you apologize you're done, and the other person flipping out is now in the wrong and being an ass.


Except, that is not what happened.

1) OP hits fellow bus rider (in the face) with her scarf without realizing it.
2) Fellow bus rider says "Excuse you! Your damn scarf just hit me across my face!"
3) OP then apologizes to fellow bus rider. She did not apologize before the fellow bus rider spoke to her. She did not even realize that she had hit the fellow bus rider with her scarf until the fellow bus rider spoke to her. The OP did not say if the fellow bus rider accepted her apology or if the fellow bus rider escalated the situation after she apologized. If this had happened, the OP probably would have mentioned.
4) Sometime later, OP posts question to AskMetafilter asking how to respond to people who "speak to her in a way she doesn't deserve" after she hits them (in the face) with a scarf but before she apologizes.
5) Metatalk
posted by nooneyouknow at 1:58 PM on June 7, 2013 [23 favorites]


6) Descriptions of various bodily fluids discovered on public transit
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:03 PM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Coincidentally, rubbing someone the wrong way is the fastest way to get someone to flip-out on public transit.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:06 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


And when the OP stated that this has happened a "few times", some folks (including the very first person who answered) used that as evidence that the OP might not be as aware of her surroundings in crowded spaces as she could be. Although maybe a "few times" isn't a bad track record for people who use public transit a lot.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 2:06 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, i missed this from my previous post since i blasted it out on my phone.

I completely acknowledge that i read something in to the situation(very well summed up by nooneyouknow) that wasn't really there; and this was primarily the assumption that the apology wasn't accepted, which is in fact neither confirmed nor denied anywhere in the thread.

I'm honestly just kinda embarrassed that i made this MeTa at all now.
posted by emptythought at 2:09 PM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Coincidentally, rubbing someone the wrong way is the fastest way to get someone to flip-out on public transit.

No shit. I’ve tried rubbing people on public transit every way I can think of, but it’s always "wrong". There’s no pleasing some people.
posted by bongo_x at 2:14 PM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm honestly just kinda embarrassed that i made this MeTa at all now.

Don't worry about it, not a big deal. Things were discussed, jokes were made and animals were injured in the making of this post.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:14 PM on June 7, 2013


I literally just apologized to my dog, because in trying to get out of my chair without stepping on her (since she's pretty much wrapped around the bottom of my chair), I slightly grazed her head with my foot, causing her to dazedly look up with a "wha, wha?" expression. I said, "sorry about that; never mind." And she sighed slightly (can't even be sure about this, it might have been a bit of soughing breeze through the window) and returned to her contented wrapped-around-chair-doggy-zombie state.

In summary, public transportation would be better all around if it had more sleepy dogs.
posted by taz (staff) at 2:15 PM on June 7, 2013 [19 favorites]


and animals were injured in the making of this post.

I would love to know what that scarf was made of.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 2:25 PM on June 7, 2013


I've seen dogs riding the Moscow Metro. They didn't improve the system.
posted by Area Man at 2:26 PM on June 7, 2013


I think we are creating a fictional story line here. The original Ask OP describes the person's response to being hit in the face by the scarf as follows:

She taps my shoulder and hisses, "Excuse you! Your damn scarf just hit me across my face!"

There is no violence here. Is this excessive rudeness or an outsized reaction? I guess reasonable people could disagree about that. But there was not follow up aggression or rudeness by the person after the apology was offered, as far as we know.


Exactly. The best course of action here is to apologize and not engage further. Anything more than a "sorry about that" is going to escalate things, and dude, you did do something wrong if even by accident. No big deal. Things could get to "big deal" though very easily.

Last year I'm walking home from work, and I'm about 10 feet from the entrance to my building. So I am naturally on the side of the sidewalk closest to my building, because I'm going to turn in to the entrance in about 3 steps. Trouble is, there's another guy coming directly towards me on the same side of the sidewalk. I figure I can make it, so I don't change course. Aaaand, I miscalculated. I totally can't make it. But rather than either of us stopping or moving out of the way, we both take the asshole "fuck it, why should I be the one to move?" approach. Worse still, this guy decides he's going to throw an elbow! I have probably 6 inches and 50 pounds on him, and he pulls this elbow move and bounces off me without breaking my stride. It took a moment to realize what just happened, and I turn around to look at the guy like "Really dude?". He was about 2 steps away, and just so happened to also be turning around to look back at me. We make eye contact, and now it's "I guess we're doing this, then." I walk up to him and he's clearly hopping mad or scared or I don't know what. I take the diplomatic approach and say "what the fuck was that elbow for?" (OK maybe diplomatic more in the sense of North Korea). He goes off on an animated screed about how I need to share the sidewalk and I can't just walk where he is and he has every right to be on it and yaddayaddayadda, which is all true and fine but sort of glosses over the fact that he is just as guilty as I am of not sharing the sidewalk and walking into a guy and that he is the one who opted for violence by throwing an elbow. Kinda makes his whole point "you need to share the sidewalk but I don't, also here's an elbow".

At this point, I realize this guy is basically just as sick and tired of Vancouver sidewalk bullshit as I am. People in this part of town fucking suck at the sidewalk. I don't know what it is. They'll walk in a group 5 abreast, they'll make eye contact with you, and not one of them makes any room for you to get by. Your options are walk in the mud, a passive-aggressive "EXCUSE ME" and hope they figure it out, do some crazy contortions to try and fit through whatever tiny gap may exist between them, or plow into one of them. I usually go with the first two, but I have also plowed into people once or twice on a bad day, thinking I'm making some kind of point. Today, this guy opted for the plow option with gusto. I'd even guess he could have experienced the "5 abreast" situation right before this altercation. We should really be sitting on a patio drinking beer together and complaining about this sidewalk shit, but here we are. We're all in, in the "DON'T DISRESPECT ME", "NO YOU" mold described earlier in the thread. After he was done his rant, I told him he was a douche and went home. I'M CLASSY.

Ugh. The whole thing was so dumb. The elbow thing makes this a bit different, because basically I am not apologizing now no matter what. But ultimately it would have been a lot better all around if I or he had not decided to literally walk right into a conflict on some stupid "YOU CAN'T DO THAT TO ME" bullshit. In the subway example, you made a mistake and someone was rude, that sucks, but do you want to risk a shouting match now? Somebody's going to have to back down at some point, and your pride is not going to hurt less as a result of anything you add after the incident.
posted by Hoopo at 2:26 PM on June 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


I would love to know what that scarf was made of.

razor wire
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:26 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would love to know what that scarf was made of.

Russell Brand.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:30 PM on June 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


Okay, now I'm torn. On the one hand, you just hit me with Russell Brand! You douche! On the other hand, you just killed Russell Brand and turned him into a scarf. Here is $500.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:33 PM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]



I would love to know what that scarf was made of.


turtles turtles all the way down
posted by sweetkid at 2:34 PM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


-Hoopo

That is a crazy, funny story. Also, stay the fuck out of my way on the sidewalk.

Seriously, my attitude is whoever backs down first wins. The more the other person wants to be a dick the more polite I am. But it has to be pure, genuine politeness, no snark. Politeness is my Fuck You.
posted by bongo_x at 2:43 PM on June 7, 2013


Thank you very much.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:44 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


/obvious joke
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:45 PM on June 7, 2013


The pleasure was all mine.
posted by bongo_x at 2:47 PM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Indeed.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:50 PM on June 7, 2013


Clearly, the proper response would have been for the OP to complain about the burrs that got irreversibly stuck to the scarf when Other Rider rubbed her face against it, and insist that Other Rider replace the ruined scarf.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:13 PM on June 7, 2013 [14 favorites]


I totally get that, but sometimes people are legit running people down with their strollers.

This is a thing that people say all the time and use as an excuse to be awful to me and I have never seen it actually happen.
posted by sonika at 3:26 PM on June 7, 2013


carsonb: "Whenever the Internet rubs me the wrong way I go outside and hug a tree.

Usually reminds me how much in life really rubs me the wrong way, gives a little perspective, ya know?
"

Dude. Splinters.
posted by deborah at 3:30 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a thing that people say all the time and use as an excuse to be awful to me and I have never seen it actually happen.

Ok. I've seen it a lot. It's an actual thing.
posted by sweetkid at 3:37 PM on June 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


I totally get that, but sometimes people are legit running people down with their strollers.

This is a thing that people say all the time and use as an excuse to be awful to me and I have never seen it actually happen.


Oh I used to do it all the time. Especially with the carriage. Not with her in it, though, just for breaching sidewalk crowds.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:04 PM on June 7, 2013


Also, stay the fuck out of my way on the sidewalk.

heh, yeah I probably sound like a menace based on that comment. It's not something I've done many times, maybe twice in the 7 or 8 years I've been here. But some days it really rubs me the wrong way when people make no effort at all to accommodate other people on the sidewalk and pretend the 6'4" 220lb man coming up the street is a mirage or something. If they won't make room sometimes you gotta make your own.
posted by Hoopo at 4:44 PM on June 7, 2013


See also: tourists with maps. Guys, one side, alright?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:47 PM on June 7, 2013


maybe they are checking the map to see where the designated map checking area is located
posted by Hoopo at 4:51 PM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


One day, shortly after I'd moved back to New England, I took the bus to the grocery store in Portland. I was without my glasses, due to a lens loss. The bus let me off a few blocks from the store. When I came out, I was looking around for the stop in front of the store.

There were a couple of guys sitting on a bench, so I asked them if this was the bus stop. One guy said yes. Then he said, "Nice scarf! Where'd you get it?"

I said, "Thanks! I got it in Scotland," because I was really happy with my non-itchy wool scarf. I wore it for years and I still have it, even tho' it's got a few holes and I only paid £10 for it, tops.

Then he started walking toward me and said, "Give it to me."

I think I did the finger snap thing, and then put my hand up and said, "Dude! Step off! I am from Rockford, Illinois, and you DON'T want to mess with me!"

His mouth dropped open and he stopped in his tracks. I ran into the store to report him, but he and his buddy had decided to take off by the time the security guy was summoned. Security Guy showed me his little camera room and told me he'd seen those guys before and would keep an eye out for them. But I took a taxi home, totally worth the $4.

Little did they know I had moved back from the hinterlands of Wisconsin, and maybe I did spend some time in Rockford, but thinking back on it, how the hell would those guys even know Rockford has a reputation for badassery? I was just so pissed off that someone would want to steal my scarf, because it has great sentimental value for me.

Also, we have turtles in the road here. We are constantly dodging them or sometimes stopping to herd them across. Turtles all the way down indeed.

That's probably the only time I really snapped at someone in public like that, I tend to keep to my spot on public transit and yes, put my backpack in front of me. I might just not say anything about scarf flinging, but scarf thievery, that's another matter.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:20 PM on June 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


If someone said 'excuse me, but you just whipped me across the face with your scarf,' I would have apologized effusively, but if some woman tapped me on the shoulder and hissed "excuse you...", I would have said 'please keep your hands to yourself, madame' in a voice loud enough to swivel every head on an articulated bus.

Once years ago I'd crossed a busy street onto a college campus and was walking up a sidewalk cutting through an expanse of tree-studded lawn when I caught motion out of the corner of my eye and realized someone behind me, walking a lot faster than I was on a sidewalk intersecting mine at a sharp angle, was going to crash right into me.

I managed to stop dead, literally with one foot in the air, and only our clothes really touched, but I saw then that he was kind of a big guy, and he made absolutely no attempt to take evasive action, and those two things together offended me, so without even consciously realizing what I was doing, as he strode by I reached out with my right foot, which was still off the ground, and guided his right foot as he stepped along so that it went behind his left ankle instead of forward onto the pavement.

He stumbled about ten feet, wildly flailing his arms and incidentally flinging something he'd been carrying way out onto the lawn, and as he wheeled to face me I saw that the thing he'd been carrying was some kind of big sandwich he'd been concentrating on eating, and knew in that moment that he hadn't been aware of me at all.

I thought nothing I could do would be able to head off a huge and dangerous fight, and I was in full pre-combat mode, but he had no anger in his face. He seemed just really sad and like he was about to cry, gave me a long searching look that said 'why did you have to do that to me?', turned his head toward his sandwich, which was already being fought over by the resident crows, kept turning and walked on.

It took awhile for my adrenalin to subside enough for me to see how truly horribly I'd treated him, and I did go back there the next day at about that time with a thought of apologizing and trying to buy him a week's sandwiches, but I never saw him again.

And I hope and trust I'll never be that quick to take offense again.
posted by jamjam at 5:23 PM on June 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


-jamjam

The thing is, that’s what’s happening in 93.6% of cases. The other person the we imagine to be offending us on purpose, the one with the attitude, the one starting it, does not give a shit about us and may not even have noticed us.

A friend of mine relates how driving in L.A. (where we both lived, and where driving can provoke rage in the mildest person), he was honking frantically at some asshole who was fucking with him on purpose, going really slow, changing lanes in front of him, etc. My friend was boiling over, had had enough of this shit. He finally gets around the offender, honks to get their attention to flip them off, and sees a little old lady scared shitless because some manic is following her and won’t leave her alone. He’s now an incredibly mild driver.
posted by bongo_x at 5:43 PM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Terms: deserved, rude.

Did she deserve it? It doesn't matter. Apologize and move on.

It's not about who deserves what. It's about interaction between two strangers. I don't have that particular etiquette book--the one that describes the various rudenesses one may employ when dealing with assholes. Rudeness among friends sometimes makes sense. Rudeness to strangers seems....well, like stepping through a dark doorway without knowing if there's a floor on the other side. You may not get much help from insisting that your rights not be trampled. Your rights are largely your own invention anyhow. Even legal rights, well defined and enforceable, won't be sorted out until after you've been discharged from the hospital, or jail cell, as it were, and you get up in front of Judge Judy to have them validated.

Faces on buses are masks, and you can never know what's behind the blank stare. It might be prudent to avoid digging for clues, especially without employing effusive courtesy. Anyhow, culpability isn't the real issue. One needs to rethink his mission to put rude fuckers in their place. The tart remark won't be overtaken by the snappy comeback until the combatants run out of superlatives. Then it's sticks, knives, guns, or automobiles, or maybe even cousins at your door in the middle of the night. Best is to try for the high ground, and interact with your fellow traveler with as much grace as you can muster.

Many years ago I was stuck in traffic in downtown Honolulu, bumper to bumper, so thick that for a while I forgot that I was living in Paradise. The guy behind me began to honk at me: or I thought it was me, because I was in front of him. I look in my mirror and see him giving me the old single-digit salute, which I return. The next few minute we exchange motherfucks and waving hands, and eventually we pull over to the curb and get out of our cars (it so happened that we both drove little convertibles, which made the semaphores all the more effective, and I guess, entertaining to drivers by). I am ready to kick his ass, he's ready to kick mine. We approach each other, then halt just outside what, by tacit agreement, was our reaction bubble. To step over the line was to start the rumble. We were both of a size and age that a fight was a real possibility, and for a few minutes I was willing, even eager to fuck him up. But we paused, as I say, at the reaction bubble. Neither of us wanted to back down, but neither of us wanted to start. Finally he shrugged and said, "Fucking Traffic," and I shrugged and said "Yeah." We shook hands and walked away.

I was not satisfied, but I let it be what it was--done with. Years passed before I realized what a perfect object lesson that encounter had been.
posted by mule98J at 6:10 PM on June 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


sonika, should I ever run into you (figuratively or literally) on the T, I will totally be your tot's BFF for as many stops as it takes.
posted by maryr at 8:55 PM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


sonika, should I ever run into you (figuratively or literally) on the T, I will totally be your tot's BFF for as many stops as it takes.

Yeah! So it's possible to be pro-kid and also anti people who run down strangers with their strollers. Sonika (and you) might not believe that but it's not made up, some people gun for your ankles with their damn strollers. It doesn't seem very pro- kid ( I am pro-kid).
posted by sweetkid at 9:22 PM on June 7, 2013


Bongo, I bet that old lady ducks with someone's mind like that at least twice a day. Don't be fooled.
posted by biffa at 1:16 AM on June 8, 2013


Because in my head I punch those people in the back of the face.

...Can someone explain how punching someone "in the back of the face" is physiologically possible?

Mule, your story reminded me of one of the only times I was the target of someone else's road rage, but had the perfect comeback...I was on a two-lane highway somewhere in California, moving really slow up a hill. I was in the line of traffic, not in any rush; and then I noticed two women in a convertible behind me, angrily waving at me and gesturing to the curb, and they were shouting "move your fucking car!"

I shrugged, and pulled over to let them pass - so now they were the ones stuck directly behind the pickup truck full of hay and chickens that was causing the backup in the first place.

A couple more cars got into line behind them before I could rejoin the traffic, so I unfortunately was not able to see their immediate reaction. But I spent some very pleasant few minutes imagining it. (Remember - they were in a convertible. With the top down. Stuck behind a truck full of hay and chickens.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:46 AM on June 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


In NYC,way too many block the subway doors with their SUV strollers and won't move out of the way when people need to get in/out. I have read( and agree) that the polite thing is to use an umbrella stroller, fold it and hold your kid while on the subway.

I don't see snuglis anymore, what happened to them?
posted by brujita at 7:48 AM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


You don't ever see Ergo carriers? That's what we use, and I see them around town a lot.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:01 AM on June 8, 2013


The elbow thing makes this a bit different, because basically I am not apologizing now no matter what.

Yeah, I think this is my basic issue. If someone says the magic words "Excuse you!", I am not apologizing, ever, no matter how wrong I might have been, because that person is starting off a confrontation of dickishness and I refuse to reward dickishness.

If someone says, "Excuse me, you just hit me in the face with your scarf/backpack/child/attack hair/chest", I will apologize profusely and sincerely mean it.

But I'll freely admit that this is probably because I'm walking around with my own transit rage on a quick switch, and I've had too many people yelling at me on trains for no good reason (usually religious crap), and t takes effort on a daily basis to avoid being That Guy. There's probably also a little, "If I, who have every good reason for flipping out on people on the train, am not flipping out on the train, what the hell is your excuse?"
posted by corb at 9:34 AM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


TPS, I see baby bjorns and similar, but I haven't seen slings since the backpacks became popular.
posted by brujita at 10:01 AM on June 8, 2013


I think a lot of people look at politeness as submission. I don’t. Manners are a predetermined system of negotiation dealing with human interactions so we don’t have to work it all out every time, having to decide what reaction this person deserves, whether or not we’re going to fight, etc.

If I say to someone (whether they "deserve" it or not) "excuse me" "I’m sorry" or the like, or take responsibility for a problem encounter, I’m really saying "I respect you as a person, but I don’t really give a shit about this petty conflict or other drama that might be attached, I’m moving on".

Refusing to engage in politeness says pretty much the opposite, "I don’t respect you, and would love to get in the middle of some petty bullshit since I’ve got nothing more important going on".

Being polite = flag it and move on
Trying to figure out who deserves my politeness and who doesn’t = "Why was my comment deleted?"
posted by bongo_x at 10:21 AM on June 8, 2013 [20 favorites]


Being polite = flag it and move on

I love this.

Being able to maintain politeness under duress is an excellent superpower to strive for. It's a sign of strength.

"I *could* rip your head off and holler down your throat, but instead, I choose to let you live another day."
posted by nacho fries at 11:57 AM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's my retail training but my response to duress is to get even more polite, so overwhelmingly helpful and polite that it annoys the piss out of them. Yelling back at them just gives them satisfaction, but throwing on your brightest smile and being as chipper as a Disney princess to them as they watch their cannonballs bounce off your metaphorical hull, that is real fun.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:31 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


One of the most interesting studies for "justice" in interpersonal relationships I ever read was done by the University of London using "pressing a finger down on another person's finger" as the metric [source] [referring link]. What they found was that perceptually, we register the amount of pressure put on us more than the amount of pressure we put on other people, so both sides percieve themselves of returning the same amount of pressure, while the other side percieved them as escalating the pressure.

I think evidence is coming in slowly that similar patterns show up in other interactions - where each side percieves themselves as retaliating in kind while the other side sees them as escalating the conflict. This perceptual difference can make it hard to step down aggression, as culturally (and perhaps neurobiologically? I don't know) it is seen as being weak.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:45 PM on June 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


...Can someone explain how punching someone "in the back of the face" is physiologically possible?

That part is easy. It's getting it off them that's hard.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:50 PM on June 8, 2013


Being polite = flag it and move on

I want to favorite that a lot of times.
posted by ctmf at 10:08 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


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