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How to Annoy a Stranger in Public

July 4, 2016

We’ve all had those moments when we wanted to escape the presence of a stranger who trapped us in a conversation.  As a keen observer of human behavior, I’ve experienced all of these in the past month. That led me to a list of things not to do if you want me to like you.

  1. Sit too close. Nothing is more uncomfortable than someone sitting on a bench right next to you when there’s plenty of space a few inches away.
  2. Lean in. Unless we’ve been introduced, I don’t want you leaning into me. Not that I think you have cooties or anything like that. More, it’s a matter of giving me a little space to breathe. And possibly not be overwhelmed by sour coffee breath.
  3. Spray spittle. Some people have moist mouths. If you are one, please recognize your spit zone and keep outside of it. I may need a bath, but I’ll choose the time, place and method for it.
  4. Talk incessantly. Want to turn me off? Say, “Hi. Let’s talk about me.” I’ll ask questions, but I don’t want a treatise for an answer.
  5. Ask me a question and then answer it. Yup. We’ve probably all done this. We’ve certainly had this done to us. See #4, because #5 is a variation on the theme.
  6. Ignore everything I say. See #4 and #5 above.
  7. Maintain a total focus on yourself. See #4, #5, and #6.
  8. Look around while your talking. I think you’re looking for someone more interesting than I am if you continually look over my shoulder for your next victim. Look at me when we are talking. You may move on in a few sentences. I’ll give you my total attention; please do the same.
  9. Check your Apple Watch or smart phone constantly. Nothing says I’m not important than you checking message on any smart device. I end up thinking I’m less interesting that your local weather report that just buzzed your wrist.
  10. Respect my time. If I’m sitting at my laptop in a library or coffee house and typing happily away, I’m working. When I look up or take a break, that’s a good time to chat. Same thing holds true for social media. You may think I’m active because certain apps open automatically when I boot up my laptop. I may be; I may not be. Ask.
  11. Floss. That’s right, floss. A woman sat down across from me in the library the other day and pulled out her floss. In mid-back-molar floss, she had to tell me something. The floss dangled while she spoke. Hard to look away from waving white string.
  12. Last, but not least, fart. Please step away. It’s impossible to ignore wafting abdominal gas.

These won’t make me many friends, but I will be your friend if you remember to mind the manners your momma taught you.

Peace out.

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  • Reply Jan Bowman July 4, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    Great advice Betsy. I agree and suggest an additional one. If you’re in a ladies restroom with a limited number of available seats – and all are occupied – you do not hang out in your stall talking on your cell phone or texting or whatever friends do on the phone in a bathroom these days, while a line forms and others are stuck waiting for you to end your stupid phone visit. Don’t do this. If I’m waiting in line I might do something we’ll both regret.

    • Reply Betsy Ashton July 4, 2016 at 8:16 pm

      Public bathrooms should be phone-free zones. Anything I do in there is my own private business and not for public transmission.

  • Reply Dean Robertson July 10, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Betsy, I’ve been dealing with some serious health problems and have been awol for a while. Glad to be back to reading your blogs when time permits. When I saw the title I had hoped for a small list of instructions for annoying strangers. Having read your list a couple of times, I believe I might be able to use it 🙂

  • Reply Betsy Ashton July 10, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    Dean, I’m sorry you’ve been unwell. Sending healing light and prayers. I hope this post gave you a giggle and a couple of ideas you can use. Be well.

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