≡ Menu

Rocking Around the Christmas Blather

I was Christmas shopping on Wednesday afternoon at a large department store and a lady and I were browsing knick knacks near each other when “Rockin’, Around the Christmas Tree” came over the store radio. I started humming along then tried to remember who sang it—my mind drew a blank.

I turned to the lady and said, “Do you know who sings this? Peggy Lee?”

She replied, “Nope, I don’t know.”

I chuckled and said, “I know it’s around her era—hmmm Nancy Sinatra? No. This is going to drive me crazy!” Chuckled again, then I continued browsing.

She turned her back to me and said, “I’m really not interested.”

I was really stunned. Is it possible she thought I was hitting on her?

It was BRENDA Lee, btw.    1208-11

Readers should note that the OP in this story is female and the subject line of the email submission pertained to whether the second woman was rude out of fear of lesbianism.  Uhhh, if I were the second woman, that is about the last thing I’d think of so, no, I seriously doubt she even went there in her mind.   Unless you were actually hitting on her which changes the whole dynamics.  It is plausible the woman was a lesbian and simply had no interest in being hit on by you or anyone else.

What you did was “blather” to a stranger.  Look at it this way, you two occupied the same tennis court and you served a soft volley to her as an invitation to “play” this verbal exchange.  Instead of hitting it back to you, she caught it with her hand indicating she is willing to engage you verbally on a very limited scope but she promptly dropped the conversational ball with a very definite closure to this game. She was not interested in playing the verbal volley with you.  You ignored this and served her another ball and she had to be more direct in communicating her unwillingness to enter into a verbal back and forth with you.

We all try conversational openers with strangers.   Sometimes the other person is willing to play, sometimes they are not. It is not rude to decline to enter into a conversation with a stranger.   To expect that people must respond to our verbal “serves” or else they are rude is to manipulate people into behaving the way we want them to for our momentary pleasure.  Sometimes when I shop, I’m in a mood to chit chat with strangers but there are many other times I am in the shopping “zone” and I really do not want to be distracted.  Verbals serves are met with a small smile, an appropriate comment (“I don’t know”, “Yes, those are pretty”) and me continuing on my business.


{ 105 comments… add one }
  • Erica December 20, 2011, 2:01 pm

    I totally agree with the Admin. I work in retail and spend 8 hours every day chatting with everyone from co-workers to customers to the UPS guy. I love talking! However, when I am shopping that is my me time. I usually run a few errands before I pick up my small son from daycare. This time of day is my rest before I become Mom. It is the only time of day I have to myself and it is very LIMITED. It never bothered me before I had children when I would be chatted with but now I actually seethe inside when someone will not STOP talking even after I have made attemps to shut them down. I have been the victim on numerous occasions of someone making silly conversation that is completely inconsequential to my life. However, I do not think the OP should completely stop talking, there are occastions when I enjoy friendly banter in a check out line. However, using the admin’s analogy, the OP needs to be more aware of when the volley has been dropped and be quicker to recognize the signs.

  • X December 20, 2011, 2:03 pm

    I can’t say I blame the woman for saying ‘I’m not interested’: if she wasn’t done shopping in that aisle she was under no obligation to walk away, nor did she know what kind of chatter the OP was. I’ve exchanged pleasantries with people in stores, on planes, or waiting to cross the street, and sometimes it’s fine. Other times, the conversation ends and I put my earphones back in or go back to my book and the other person keeps talking, regardless of whether I continue to engage or just keep reading without looking up. While I’m not shy, I have a hard time telling people I’m not interested out of a fear of offending (even if it means I continue to be inconvenienced). I think being direct and firm is the best response from this story.

    OP, don’t take it so personally: you don’t know what she was thinking, how her day was going, or who has nattered her ear off before. Keep offering conversational openers since there is nothing wrong with that, but recognize when someone isn’t interested and learn to stop before they tell you as much if that will bother you.

  • SJ December 20, 2011, 2:03 pm

    Instead of saying, “I’m really not interested,” I would have probably said. “I still don’t know.”

  • stillinva December 20, 2011, 2:16 pm

    i don’t think that the OP was rude in her initial remark. i’ve chatted with other people in public many times. there’s nothing wrong with making an off-hand remark to someone standing next to you. it’s not a crime, it’s not grounds for public flogging, or any of the other tongue-in-cheek comments posted previously.

    however, it does seem, in the conversation as recounted above, that the other shopper wasn’t interested in a conversation with the OP. doesn’t matter why. she wasn’t interested. not dropping it at that point wasn’t the best way to handle it, IMO.

    and i still don’t get the instant leap from “i’m not interested” to the other shopper thinking the OP was hitting on her. it was pretty clear to me. the other shopper wasn’t interested in discussing who recorded “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”, or anything else. that’s not rude in the least.

  • MellowedOne December 20, 2011, 2:29 pm

    @Gracie C,

    To answer your question, “To those suggesting that the woman didn’t have to say anything, she could have just moved away – why should she? She is clearly looking at the items in front of her. Why should she have to move on, when she’s not done shopping, because the OP doesn’t take a hint?”

    Answer: Because it is a kindness and is gracious. With one simple, tiny act on our part, we can allow the other to preserve their sense of good cheer and our desire to quietly shop. And when she’s moved on, we can move back. I’ve done it a million times, in stores of all sizes, and it works wonderfully.

  • badkitty December 20, 2011, 2:34 pm

    I’m surprised by all the people who suggest that the other woman should have walked away; I don’t think that response would have been rude (though the OP probably would have thought so) but since when do the selfish chatterboxes get to chase others away from their preferred tasks?

  • Ann December 20, 2011, 2:42 pm

    While the OP’s linking any sexual connotation to the exchange is sort of odd, perhaps she was merely looking for a plausible explanation for the other shopper’s utter lack of grace.

  • Angeldrac December 20, 2011, 2:48 pm

    People, I really think the “hitting on me” bit was a little joke from OP. I don’t think she really intended it to be a part of conversation.
    I’m a bit of a chatter. Not a compulsive one (like my grandmother who would happily announce to everyone in the doctor’s waiting room that they were there because of ther daighter’s diarrhea), but if I’m in the right mood, I’ll serve/receive the conversational ball. I’ve had some great conversations, had a job offer, gotten some wonderful quilting advice and, hopefully, made a lonely old lady’s day a bit better. I’ve also been assaulted on a train by a crazy person (not badly, and it was because I disagreed that Mexico was in Europe…?), and been hassled night and day by my hospital roommate while trying desparately hard just to sleep between bouts of pain. But such is life….
    I don’t think OP was out of line….maybe blathering a little. I don’t think the second woman was out of line either, though maybe one volley to early with her “not interested” response.
    When you take the risk of talking to strangers, this is simply what happens. Some people will talk back, some people won’t. The same as sometime you may feel like talking, and other times not. Don’t give up on the casual chat with a stranger, OP!

  • Chocobo December 20, 2011, 3:25 pm

    I agree that the woman was rather unkind in her reply. She has no obligation to engage in unwanted conversation, but being a crank isn’t going to help anything.

    I can’t say that being picked up would be the “last thing I would think of” if someone were to say “I’m not interested” to me in the same situation. Maybe I just live in an area where “out” lesbians and gays are more common, but I might interpret the response that way as well. “I’m not interested” is an odd remark to some casual conversation, it doesn’t even really make sense in the context of the conversation. It is a phrase commonly used as a “No thank you” to unwanted romantic advances. If the OP were a man, it makes perfect sense. I don’t see the difference knowing the OP is a woman, the grump in this story could still have interpreted her conversation as an opener. You’d be surprised how sensitive people are about what they interpret as a possible advance sometimes.

    But honestly whatever this woman was thinking when she replied, she was ungracious. There have been plenty of times I’ve smiled, nodded, made noncommittal throat noises, and backed away slowly when I’m just not up for a conversation with a stranger. How hard is that to do?

  • Jones December 20, 2011, 3:34 pm

    @Calliope, I am sorry to hear about your experience. I know personally how difficult it can be to deal with a personal tragedy while having to shop or run other necessary errands…and a random stranger starts prattling about the magazine cover at the checkouts.
    I don’t think either person in this story was overly rude.

  • Chocobo December 20, 2011, 3:37 pm

    Wow, I’m amazed by some of the comments. People truly think that the friendly-sounding OP is the socially inept one by making a two-sentence conversation, and the woman apparently without enough sympathy to dismiss someone with grace and kindness is socially capable?


  • Kitty Lizard December 20, 2011, 3:44 pm

    I live in an area in the South where we have lots of snowbirds, and an increasing number of them are
    rude and obnoxious beyond belief, which makes holiday shopping an ordeal among the locals. This
    is unfortunate since I tend to hold sotto voce conversations with my little electronic organizer (Ratbert) that my husband bought me a few years back to organize my shopping lists. I like muttering at Ratbert
    because he can’t talk back. However, the other day, in the grocery store, I was in the corner, well away
    from everyone, or so I thought, checking out my list on Ratbert, trying to make sure Ratbert hadn’t
    squirreled something away on me (he does that sometimes), when an elderly lady roundly cursed me
    out for attempting to strike up a conversation with a total stranger (her). Since I hadn’t been speaking
    to her at all, I was considerably startled and told her I was not speaking to her. Which, of course, led
    her to the conclusion that I was standing in a corner, talking to myself. Ummmm.

    She left in a hurry. The store manager, who is a neighbor of mine, couldn’t stop laughing.
    Ratbert can also make rude noises, but I rarely use them because I am a polite person.
    Happy Holidays everyone

  • Lucy December 20, 2011, 4:02 pm

    So . . . it seems to me that I mostly read nowadays about how sad people are that everyone is so wrapped up in their own lives and doesn’t reach out to strangers and isn’t social and etc., etc., and now we’re getting our hands slapped for a little harmless small talk? What do people want??

    I’m absolutely one of those grouchy people who generally wants to be left the Hell alone, doesn’t know her neighbors, doesn’t care that she doesn’t know her neighbors, and likes Christmas–kind of–but dreads the crowds and insanity, but I’ve never bitten a stranger’s head off for a couple of harmless remarks, even though I’m almost never interested. The degree to which something like this inconveniences me is trivial compared to how much I think it could hurt somebody’s feelings, especially this time of year.

  • grumpy_otter December 20, 2011, 4:03 pm

    OP here! I am glad that most of you understood what I was trying to express. I HAD ended the conversation and even stepped away from her as I chuckled. There were a few beats of silence, and THEN she said “I’m really not interested.”

    I didn’t FEAR she thought I was hitting on her; I just thought her final comment was odd in the context and was trying to understand it. The conversation was over, or so I thought, but then she felt the need to end it again, forcefully. That’s all that confused me, and got me wondering if she had felt threatened.

    I’m not clueless–I could tell from her first remark and tone that she didn’t want to converse. My second comment was simply meant to end it on a cheerful, and final, note. I felt sad that she didn’t realize I wasn’t going to continue to “blather.”

  • Jays December 20, 2011, 4:24 pm

    I agree with Cami. This whole thread makes me horribly depressed. Making a simple observation to a stranger in a store is “blather?”

    This is so sad.

  • Kat December 20, 2011, 4:25 pm

    Part of going out in public is not always getting things your own way.

    People in stores are allowed to speak to each other without it being rude. It’s not my favorite either – I don’t really want to have a conversation with some stranger while I’m shopping, thanks – but I don’t expect my preference to be the same as everyone else’s. I think the difference of opinions in the responses to this post show pretty clearly that people feel differently about this.

    I don’t think anyone was rude in this story. The OP wasn’t rude for striking up a conversation, the other woman wasn’t rude for ending the conversation, and the OP wasn’t rude for misunderstanding the motivation behind ending the conversation (though it would have been rude to accuse the other woman of homophobia, or whatever.)

    Admin, I think it was a little bit rude to accuse the OP of blathering, just because you wouldn’t have enjoyed conversing with her. I wouldn’t have liked it either, but part of living in the world is not always getting things exactly the way you like them.

  • Rifish December 20, 2011, 4:34 pm

    Great, now I have that song stuck in my head.

    As for etiquette, I think it’s difficult to tell whether anyone was being rude without knowing the tone or body language. I’m a socially awkward person and prefer not talking to strangers, but I do think there are better ways to cut off a conversation than “not interested”. It sounds like OP may have even finished the conversation with her last little quip. It’s the kind of thing the second woman could have responded to if she felt chatty or just ignored and assumed OP was talking to herself. She could have gotten away just as easily with a smile and nod, and I can see how her reaction hurt the OP’s feelings.

  • twik December 20, 2011, 4:53 pm

    Cami – the OP can attempt to engage in small talk all she wants. But she does have to face that some people will, indeed, not be interested. While the other woman was, I think, rudely brusque, she may really not have known any other way to deflect conversational attempts by complete strangers, including a game of “Name that Singer!”

    The last line in the story, though, where the OP ascribes her response to fear of a proposition rather than, quite simply, disinterest, sounds off to me. Why *should* the stranger be interested in whether not knowing drives the OP crazy? So, maybe the OP was coming on stronger than she realized, and the stranger was desperately trying to circumvent having ipod headphones stuck into her ears as a stranger asks, “Now, the singer here is Doris Day. Sounds close, but her voice is not quite as mellow, don’t you think? Wait, I’ve got another one, I think you’ll find this voice is MUCH closer….”

  • The Elf December 20, 2011, 4:55 pm

    I think it is important to note that we’re not (or at least, I’m not) suggesting that the Chatty Cathys of the world need to STFU. You don’t. Striking up a conversation is absolutely fine. In fact, I think it helps prevent the rest of us from being isolationist. Whenever I leave the DC area, I’m struck by how nice everyone is. One reason everyone is so nice is because they do strike up random conversations. We’re tighter lipped here in DC. But I do think the Chatty Cathys of the world need to recognize a brush off when they get one, because we introverts/goal-oriented shoppers/grieving moms just can’t deal with a random conversation right then but don’t want to tell you to STFU. (Because that would be rude!) If we don’t respond in a way that engages the conversation, please consider that the other party just isn’t interested in conversing.

  • CarolynA December 20, 2011, 5:02 pm

    Thank you Gracie C – that is just what I wanted to say! I completely agree with everything that you wrote.

  • Lucy December 20, 2011, 5:08 pm

    Gracie C: They were in a department store. Some of us talk to ourselves, and we’re free to do so in public places other than, maybe, libraries. That you don’t like it doesn’t mean we have to shut up just to make you more comfortable. We could argue that you should wear earplugs if you don’t like to hear everyone else’s chatter. Or shop online.

  • Huh December 20, 2011, 5:13 pm

    I don’t like talking to strangers. Never have, never will. Had the OP said something to me, I would have probably said, “Hmm, I don’t know,” and ignored her after that. I am naturally a quiet person and unless I know you well, I won’t chat your ear off. Even in large groups of friends, I don’t talk much.

    I don’t think its rude to make small talk with strangers, but it is also not rude to not want to make small talk with someone just because we are in the same space, either. IMHO, it is rude to try to badger someone into having a conversation with you. Not that I think the OP was doing this, but I have been around many people who will almost harass you to make you talk to them. It just makes me angry and even less likely to talk to them.

    I have several friends who are talkers, who will chat with anyone anywhere about anything. And no offense meant to them, I love them and they are great people, but I sometimes wonder if they are not picking up on the social cues that the person they are babbling to doesn’t want to hear all of that. I can see it plain on their faces, but my friends do not until they are done chatting and are ready to move on.

  • Gracie C. December 20, 2011, 5:22 pm

    But NotCinderell – why should she HAVE to walk away from what she’s doing? She’s actually there to shop. She shouldn’t have to leave. I don’t think the OP was rude, but I think she was clueless to the other person’s cues. I also don’t think the other woman was rude. I’m a chatter – at times. But if a complete stranger doesn’t want to chat, they don’t want to chat. They shouldn’t have to change what they are doing to avoid being preceived as rude.

    Cami – one could argue that it was the OP lacking in social skills in this instance for not picking up on the other person’s cues that they didn’t want to talk. And the cues were there, or the other woman wouldn’t have resorted to “I’m not interested.”

  • Library Diva December 20, 2011, 5:24 pm

    Well said, Cami. Add me to the chorus of people who hope that this experience doesn’t dissuade OP from being friendly to people she doesn’t know. I do think that the other party in this story was unnecessarily harsh and unfriendly for what the circumstances called. She didn’t need to respond to OP’s statement, as described here, at all.

    I’ve had many very nice chats with random people in the world, most recently at the cat adoption center at the mall. Another woman my age was looking at the cats through the window and we had an enjoyable 5-minute break from the holiday insanity, watching the cats chase one another and cuddle up in a pile to sleep. I read a New Yorker article a few years ago about people who had killed themselves by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. In the apartment of one such jumper, they found a note that read: “I’m walking to the bridge now. If even one person smiles at me, I won’t jump.” So, although people should certainly take verbal and nonverbal cues when a stranger doesn’t want to be bothered, if they have a friendly impulse towards someone, well, there just may be a reason and they should act on it.

  • --Lia December 20, 2011, 5:50 pm

    A few people have said that there’s a more gracious way to say that you’re not interested than the way the lady in the store said it, but no one has spelled out for me what it is. Let’s say that I’m that lady. Let’s say I’m shopping in a store when another shopper has started a conversation about the music. The first time she asks about who’s singing, I say that I don’t know. Let’s say that the woman continues talking about it. I don’t want to be rude, but I don’t want a conversation with her. What’s the polite, gracious, and kind way to tell her that I don’t want to talk to her but that also gets the point across? My guess would have been that “I’m really not interested” would be the right way to go, but I’m willing to be educated if there’s a better option.

  • jen a. December 20, 2011, 5:54 pm

    @grumpy otter

    Your story made me laugh a little. I can totally see that happening to me! I’m not going to overanalyze your situation, because I did find the other person’s response a little strange. My husband and I were once walking our dog when he (our dog) ran off and went up the trail. My husband ran after him and saw that he had gone up to a woman walking ahead on the same trail. My husband grabbed our dog, apologized, and started walking away when the woman said, “Sure, but nice try anyways, buddy.” He was kind of in your situation – he wasn’t 100% sure what she meant by it, but he suspected she thought he was coming on to her. He thought it would be probably be best just to walk away.

  • SV December 20, 2011, 6:01 pm

    I have been caught in many a conversation I would rather not have been ( as most people undoubtedly have). There are gracious ways of handling it that do not hurt anyone’s feelings or appear to be rude. Sometimes listening to a stranger is simply a kindness and I would rather spend an extra minute or two and let someone blather than potentially ruin someone’s day because I couldn’t bother. You did nothing wrong, OP – imagine a world where none of us spoke to one another?

  • Jessiebird December 20, 2011, 6:49 pm

    I like friendly people. I don’t always feel like talking to strangers.

    Maybe the woman had a Bluetooth on that the OP couldn’t see. She was actually talking on the phone to a telemarketer when she said she wasn’t interested.

    Maybe she doesn’t celebrate Christmas and doesn’t care about it.

    Maybe she was a non-native English speaker who doesn’t quite get how to express things like this with the perfect polite nuance. Plenty of non-native speakers, including my own husband, say things just off enough that it might seem rude, but there is not enough of an accent or grammatical errors for a quick conversation to reveal that English is their second or third language. The most fluent non-native speakers can be the most “insulting” because their fluency makes us think they should know better.

    Who knows?

    I wouldn’t take it personally, OP. I doubt it had much to do with you. Just a misunderstanding.

    And Calliope brings up a good point. We never know someone’s story. I am so sorry, Calliope, that you had to experience that, both the miscarriage and the chastising man. Devastating.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith December 20, 2011, 7:01 pm

    This is one that could go either way. The best way to avoid a conversation is simply not to engage. A small distracted smile and a simple little shrug would be fine. So would a glance of sympathy and silence. All that need be conveyed is a lack of ill will on the part of the person to whom the remarks were (only incidentally) addressed. The OP was simply having a moment, enjoying the convivial glow if the holiday, and wondering about that song. We’ve all done it. We’ve all had some great “accidental conversations” as a result of the person next to us in line at the bank, the theater, the doctor’s office, and even on the plane. It’s sometimes hard when someone doesn’t want to chat. It’s equally disappointing to be intruded upon when one desires that golden moment of solitude and silence when running errands in wonderful anonymity. If we can all acknowledge that time and place don’t dictate that we must speak or must be silent (with a few well recognized exceptions), then we might more easily bear with one another and our changing needs for engagement and disengagement with the world around us.

  • Bint December 20, 2011, 7:02 pm

    I second that the other woman was rude. OP makes a comment, she brushes it off. OP ends the encounter (very clearly, from her wording), the woman then makes a very graceless response that wasn’t necessary.

    It’s not rude to talk to strangers! I can’t believe someone actually said that on here. For goodness’ sake, quel enormous over-reaction. It’s rude to force strangers to talk to you, but that isn’t what happened here.

    And for real rudeness when talking to strangers…people who tell you to ‘SMILE’ on the street. I am not your court jester. Please bugger off.

  • Emmers December 20, 2011, 7:16 pm

    That man was being obnoxious and rude and you where completely appropriate for ignoring him!

    With the OP however, her last comment really was the sort of thing you say out loud to yourself. With no intent to continue the conversation any longer.

    I really cannot possibly discern from this post how the OP could possibly deserve or be welcoming such rude behavior.

    Mind you I am a very shy, very private person. I fumble paying at the registers I get so nervous. But my God I know how to be polite when someone’s being kind to me, I am not obligated to carry on a conversation with anyone and know this perfectly well. Maybe that’s why I am capable of not behaving so blatantly rude to someone else.

  • Sue December 20, 2011, 7:33 pm

    People talk to strangers often where I live — it happens in some places more often than others. I am an introvert, not a big chatter. However, I am also a cheerful person who doesn’t mind at all when others decide to chat with me. If it’s a subject I’m interested in, we can converse a bit. If not, I will make a pleasant utterance or two and perhaps smile, and be done with it. These aren’t high-level social skills and they don’t require more than a few seconds of my time and minimal effort. I found the statement “I’m really not interested” to be rude and the OP not rude in the least. She absolutely did not “blather,” in my opinion. It’s fine to initiate friendly conversations.

  • Colleen December 20, 2011, 8:37 pm

    It seems to me that ‘I’m not interested’ was a just a nicer way of saying ‘I don’t care’. She obviously didn’t care, and saying not interested does sound nicer. A bit blunt, yes, and maybe a more firmly stated ‘I don’t know’ would have been better, but I don’t see how anyone was at fault in this.

  • cece12 December 20, 2011, 8:58 pm

    I can see whereas the OP felt like the woman may have been a touch “rude” or “abrupt.”

    I rarely engage strangers in conversation, rather, I am the one who is often spoken to (I’d like to think that maybe I have a pleasant face!). Due to this, if I don’t want to talk to someone I’ve got a method to try and “close it up” in a way that doesn’t make them feel like they were being an annoyance.

    For example in this situation I might have employed, “You know, I’m not sure either! Well, Happy Holidays!” *walk off to another part of the store* To me, I think it satisfies the “nice conversation with an ending” element for someone like the OP and the “I ended it without any hard feelings” element for someone like me.

  • Goodness December 20, 2011, 8:59 pm

    Good grief! I can’t believe all the downright phobic people on the list! It’s getting so people are afraid to engage others any way but over the internet. And IMO, it’s not rude to acknowledge other people’s presence by a few casually friendly remarks — especially while holiday shopping. We really _are_ all in this together, you know…

  • Cat Whisperer December 20, 2011, 11:44 pm

    What I really want to know is, what is the etiquette when you’re shopping at the store and think someone who is a stranger to you has lobbed a conversational “ball” to you, and you respond, and then you realize that they’re talking to someone on their Bluetooth hands-free cellphone accessory?

    Do you apologize profusely for intruding on their (non)private conversation?

    Do you slink away in embarrassment to the frozen foods section without saying anything?

    Do you not do anything if they don’t acknowledge you?

    Man, it used to be that if you were in the supermarket and were the only person around when someone nearby spoke, you knew they were either speaking to you or were talking to themself (i.e., possibly not completely rational), and it usually wasn’t hard to tell which. But with these new Bluetooth devices that aren’t obvious, now you have option 3: they’re on the phone. And if you guess wrong and think they’re talking to you, and they’re on the phone, some people get really annoyed when you speak to them. Anyone else have that experience?

  • Izzy December 21, 2011, 12:32 am

    I don’t think either party deserves etiquette HELL status for this little incident, but hey, must be a slow news day.
    No question about it, I would have found the OP annoying. My own responses would have been a brief but polite smile, shrug and tilt of the head the first time then a bit more tight-lipped the second time. My second response would scream “not interested” louder than words, so I suppose I’m a rude person too, but how does one respond to perceived impoliteness? I think the woman in this story has a terse, but polite spine. She didn’t tell the OP to go away or anything over-the-line, just made it clear the conversation was over.

    Of course, it’s possible one or both of these people both have must-have-last-word-itis, OP says she knew the conversation was over but wanted to end it with a closing sentence (What sort of logic is this) so the other woman decides her first polite, dismissive answer was too subtle and upp-ed the ante.
    I suppose I didn’t find the OP too bad until I read the lesbian comment, that just smacks me as egocentric. No, no it’s not because she’s a lesbian, and honestly I don’t think that’s even on the top-ten possible reasons why one would respond that way to OP’s blather.

  • ellesee December 21, 2011, 12:38 am

    I think OP is making a mountain out of a mole hill. The shopper didn’t want to engage in what she thought was an imposed conversation. Nobody was rude. Leave it at that and move on.

  • anonymous December 21, 2011, 2:39 am

    I agree that the woman had every right to decline to enter a conversation, and there’s nothing wrong with making that clear.

    I do not agree that the OP was socially clumsy – she said two lines. Saying something after someone says “I don’t know” is not a social crime. She’s made it clear since that after that she had intended to end the conversation and even stepped away, so I don’t think she’s socially inept at all.

    As for the woman, though, while I fully appreciate her right to not want to talk, I think “I’m really not interested” was a graceless comment. Maybe not to the point of rude, but definitely not a mark of social aptitude. Shrugging her shoulders and moving away slightly, saying “Still don’t know” or “Mmhmm” in that “I have no idea and don’t intend to engage” tone would be ways to do it. “I’m really not interested” is a bit brusque IMHO.

    @Kitty Lizard – be careful what you say about snowbirds…I am sure some of them really are rude and obnoxious, because rude people exist around the world (as do polite people). I could say similar things about some (not all!) southerners and Midwesterners visiting New York or other major cities, although the actions identified as obnoxious would be different. So I do find it better to just acknowledge that people are generally similar the world over and that some will be rude and some won’t from any given place rather than identify “increasingly” bad behavior from one group. It’s a slippery slope.

  • Zhoen December 21, 2011, 5:34 am

    Chatterers see themselves as friendly and polite. But they are often so entranced with their own voices they don’t realize how intrusive they are on people content with their own thoughts, busy, tired, worried. I have a hard time tuning out voices, expecting me to stop my ears in public? Really? I’m rude for not letting other people’s thoughts inside my own head?

    I’m with admin, completely. One question, no welcoming response, drop it. Completely, no additional question to make yourself feel better. I promise I will acknowledge, and politely indicate lack of interest. Push me further, and you will get clearer information. Live in a big city long enough, and you know this is the only safe way, con artists and thieves use these social niceties to manipulate people. You are perfectly safe, but you come across the same way. It’s about having a spine.

  • Fraenzi December 21, 2011, 6:34 am

    This is why I listen to music on my iPod when I’m in public.
    I do not like being talked to by strangers, but how are they supposed to know that what seems like a friendly, harmless remark will be received with annoyance and sometimes even fear? (Yes, I know, this isn’t very “normal” and I’m working on it, but I can’t just suddenly start to like social interaction)

    With earphones in my ears, it’s pretty obvious that I won’t talk/can’t even listen to someone and both are spared the embarassment of misunderstandings like this one.
    No, I’m not suggesting everyone who doesn’t want to be talked to should listen to music, I’m just saying that it works for me and I’m glad I have this possibility 🙂

  • Shannon December 21, 2011, 10:29 am

    Lia – I mentioned upthread that a polite response to the OP would have been something along the lines of, “I honestly have no idea. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to my shopping.”

  • grumpy_otter December 21, 2011, 11:25 am

    @Jessiebird You said: “Maybe the woman had a Bluetooth on that the OP couldn’t see. She was actually talking on the phone to a telemarketer when she said she wasn’t interested.”

    THAT WOULD MAKE SO MUCH SENSE! I was standing to her right, couldn’t see her left ear, and she had longish hair that could have covered a Bluetooth. There had been enough time between my final comment and her “I’m really not interested” that your explanation really fits! Plus she had turned away from me, so it absolutely makes sense that she may not have even been talking to me! Since I moved off immediately after her remark, I wouldn’t have heard if she continued speaking.

    Thank you for proposing a very reasonable explanation!

  • Library Diva December 21, 2011, 12:27 pm

    @Lia, in this scenario, I don’t think the other woman had to say anything at all. She could have just ignored OP and continued shopping without offending. In cases where you really are cornered by an aggressive chatter, a response like the OP received might be warranted. This wasn’t really the case here, though, and that’s why people are saying that the other woman was unnecessarily rude. The conversation was so short and light and didn’t seem to show many signs of continuing, so silence was all that was really needed to put the kibosh on it. If OP had been following the lady around, continuing to try to engage her despite her best efforts, then it would have been clear that OP isn’t the type to respond to subtle social cues and needs something a little more blunt, like an “I’m not interested” upside the head.

  • Enna December 21, 2011, 3:36 pm

    Maybe the person meant she wasn’t interested she meant she wasn’t interested in the music?

  • Yvaine December 21, 2011, 4:56 pm

    Ah, the stealth Bluetooth. I had a co-worker who always seemed to be making non sequiturs–and that’s when you’d realize he was on the phone!

  • Jade December 21, 2011, 9:37 pm

    I had a man persistently come up to me while I was sitting with a group of friends in a bar and try to initiate conversations with me and in the end when he came by again and inserted himself into my personal space, I turned my back to him and continued my conversation, because I didn’t know how else to make it clear to him that I wasn’t interested in engaging with him, so I don’t believe the shopper was rude.

    There’s an article floating around on the internet called ‘Schroedinger’s Rapist’ and while it deals primarily with interactions between men and women, one of the points the author makes which I think applies to all situations is that ‘if you ignore the very clear signals I am sending out then you label yourself as a potential problem’ – basically your right to say what is on your mind doesn’t trump the other person’s right to be left alone, so if you make a conversational ‘volley’ and they don’t return it just move on, don’t keep trying to engage them you’ll just come off as irritating.

    I think the OP was clueless rather than rude, but some people do have trouble reading social cues. I don’t think the shopper assumed she was being hit on either, she had just tried several polite ways to avoid the conversation and felt like the OP had forced her to be blunt in communicating her wishes.

  • Bane December 22, 2011, 6:26 am

    I’m fairly sure that this is the same site where I saw a video posted once that showed a bunch of people going about their daily tasks with superimposed text that said things like “This person just lost their daughter to cancer” and “This person struggles to pay their rent and prevent homelessness” etc etc

    To the OP, seriously, get over it. The fact that you took the time to write this story down and submit it astounds me. Maybe this other person was just stressed or sad or angry or depressed for a myriad of possible reasons, and wasn’t in the mood to talk to a complete stranger about such a banal topic as the singer of a Christmas song (that they might not even like!)? Not that it was wrong of you to attempt to initiate friendly conversation with a stranger, not that you were momentarily taken aback at their possibly curt response…more that it just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things! This is the kind of thing you should move on from in about 10 seconds, not something you stew over and then take the time to document and submit to a website. Is your sense of entitlement that entrenched?

    And a final caveat…what’s up with the lesbian angle? Granted, conclusions cannot be fully drawn without knowing the complete context/body language/tone etc, but the way you’ve written this recount makes you sound like a total self-absorbed drama queen

  • Gracie C. December 22, 2011, 11:55 am

    To those saying she didn’t need to use such (harsh?) language to get her point across (and I don’t see how “I’m really not interested” is harsher than ignoring, walking away, or saying, “I don’t know, now I have to get back to my shopping” as have been suggested as all indicate an unwillingness to engage) because it was a short light hearted conversation: the thing is, we know that – because the OP told us. And the OP knew it, because she was the OP, but the shopper had no way of knowing that the OP was not going to continue the chit chat. How would she? So, I ask, for those of you who think the other woman was rude – how many comments does she have to listen to before you think it’s ok for her to express that she’s not interested? As I said earlier, I don’t think the OP was rude, but I don’t think the shopper was either.

  • KTB December 22, 2011, 4:40 pm

    I don’t like small chat (at *all*, I have a hard time talking with friends even), but I at least wait until the third “volley” to brush someone off. Usually with an “Excuse me, I have to ___ now, have a good day/good luck/etc” and a smile. It’s surprising to me that so many people here would cut the conversation so fast.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.