I didn’t see you at first, I was lost in thought, having escaped the domestic churn of kid appointments and activities to be dragged around outside by the dog. I was also wondering if walking there was smart – it was starting to get dark and I didn’t know the area.
The dog noticed you, then I did too when he started pulling in your direction. He’s supposed to be taking it easy, resting a strain in his hind leg so I held him back and tried to continue on our way but you saw us, and changed direction too.
I thought it was okay that you asked if we could talk for a minute. I actually appreciated you asking me if it was okay because it let me answer honestly. I said “no thanks” because I didn’t want the dog jumping all over you and I truly just wanted to fly solo in the world for the 15 minutes I had right then. Cue #1 – she doesn’t want to talk to you.
When you didn’t take no for an answer the prickle started at the base of my neck. That’s a thing people get when instinct is starting to kick in in lieu of solid evidence something is amiss. You said you just wanted to ask me some questions, asked why that wasn’t okay… The rapid fire sequence of thoughts in my head went something like this:
- I said I don’t want to talk but he’s still asking me questions
- why does he need to walk towards me if I said I don’t want to talk
- why isn’t my dog more intimidating
- I wore a hat to avoid people, note to self: bad plan
- why. why why why why now why me why won’t he just go away
I said I just wanted to walk my dog. You asked if I lived around there. I didn’t answer. You said you just wanted to know the name of the street near the park. I said I didn’t know (truly don’t, for the record). You said really? Aren’t you from around here. I said (rudely, I admit) “LOOK. I said I don’t want to talk and can’t help you. Walk thataway a bit, there’s a store and people there can help you.” Cue #2 – she doesn’t want to talk to you. You (while still stepping towards me) said “Oh, you can’t talk and help for a second, but you know there’s a store up there?”
I used the tone of voice I did because you hadn’t taken my demure in the first place as an answer. I spoke as I did because no matter what planet you are from, the rules of engagement are this: you try to talk to someone, and they don’t want to talk – you accept it and move on. If you’re a backpacker trying to meet people on the road, or a person having a beer in a bar it’s all the same. Factor in closing darkness and the person seems to seriously wish you would leave them alone, and your persistence will be interpreted as nothing other than badness.
I had already said I didn’t want to talk and that I couldn’t help you. I said you were making me uncomfortable by persisting and to stop weirding me out and that based on what I had already said I had to wonder why you kept trying to talk to me. Cue #3 – she doesn’t want to talk to you. You called me rude, then said something I didn’t catch, then asked me if I am Canadian.
I yelled at you then. I told you to stop being a jik. I was trying to say “jerk” but my voice cracked. Something snapped in me like the bounds of the Grinch’s heart when it grew that day – something bad and something good.
The bad is that I’ve been there. I’m #MeToo and I’ve smiled through it and just go along with it. I tell myself it doesn’t define me, being so far in the distant past it’s blurry now. I’m onwards in good cheer and don’t dwell and shush tut but nights like tonight show me how close to the surface old discomfort and triggers lie. The bad is also the feeling I got about your motives. Even if you wanted to just bum a ride, you didn’t take no for an answer and your persistence made my hackles rise to the point of emotional upset. Add on your attempted guilt trip that I wouldn’t help you? Consider yourself lucky I only got shrill.
The good is that I am going to post this. I rarely publish things that aren’t categorically sunny. The good is that in the face of unpleasant persistence I didn’t do something I didn’t want to. The good was also a truck turning into the park, that you moved out of the way of. Without that I might still be there sputtering. Lastly, good is the surprising peace I feel knowing someone out there thinks I set a poor example as a Canadian.
Sorry your perceived opportunity for conversation progressed to snarls. Sorry your attempt to guilt me into helping you didn’t work. Sorry my attempts to give you options to get what you needed were ignored. See? I am Canadian. I apologize for things I don’t have to. I actually did a very Canadian thing tonight. The next time you see someone and they decline a chance to talk to you, respect their answer and move along without trying harder to get what you want. Doing so will mean tonight helped you know your cues.