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Shaking Hands Would Be So Much Better Than A Strangling

As an avid reader of eHell, I’ve contributed short “me too!” stories in response to other’s tales, but never had an original post for you. Until this morning.

I was at the local coffee shop having a meeting – what about isn’t important. But I was concentrating on what another person at my table was saying and not on what was going on in the rest of the room. Suddenly, a pair of hands came from behind me and closed around my throat. I screamed like a banshee, whirled around and yelled, “Don’t EVER do that! I can’t stand having my throat touched!” (I’ve always had this; I think I must have been hanged for a horse thief in my last life…)

Everyone in the room stopped dead except the one who came out of the kitchen to see what was wrong and then went back in. The perp, one of the owners of the coffee shop, looked at me like I’d lost my mind, mumbled “sorry…” and went back to his table. The lady I was talking with actually started laughing, and when I told her I didn’t think it was funny, she said, “He didn’t mean anything, he was just being friendly,” while I sat there shaking in fright and rage. I finished jotting down the last of my notes, told the other ladies I needed to go home, and left. As I did, the perp called out something about being sorry and only kidding around, to which I muttered, “Yeah, right,” or something, and I came home and poured myself a glass of wine.

Perhaps I should have been more gracious about his apology. He had no way of knowing about my particular sensitivity. But Jeanne, this man is at least 60 and in addition to co-owning the coffee shop is a volunteer firefighter with EMT credentials. You’d think he’d know better than to put his hands around anyone’s throat. I’m still shaken, still angry, and still flabbergasted. What is WRONG with some people?10-14-11

Regardless of his intentions to be “friendly”, I believe most people would consider having a stranger place his hands around the throat from the rear to be a rather bizarre mode of greeting and certainly not a humorous one.     It definite presumes he knew you better than he did and that he made an error in judgment.   He’s fortunate it wasn’t me he did this to because my reaction may have been a swift elbow to his abdomen or groin.   He’s apologized, in a somewhat clumsy way, so I wouldn’t hold it against him forever and I bet he thinks twice before doing to anyone else.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Colleen April 24, 2014, 6:54 am

    This has nothing to do with your sensitivity around your throat. The man was, for all you knew, going to strangle you. That’s not funny and no half-made apology would suffice. I would not meet in that coffee shop again if that’s the sort of behavior of staff, and especially the owner. Highly inappropriate.

  • Sammy April 24, 2014, 7:12 am

    Yeah, I don’t think your reaction was wrong or over the top, after all, hands around throat are generally very threatening move. Sure, someone might not mind (I would), and as a jest between siblings or something like that it might go down well. But from an owner of a coffee shop you are visiting, even if you are regular and kind of know the guy, not so high changes. After all, the victim has no idea who the perp is at the moment.

    But I do agree with admin, based on what you told I doubt it was done in mean spirit, if there are no other reasons to believe so. I could see something like “oh, I must tap LW on the shoulder as I pass by and say hello… ooo, now that my hands are here anyway, would not it be fun to do *this*”. Stupid idea (like licking steel in winter just because it’s there), but maybe not malicious.

  • Jewel April 24, 2014, 7:39 am

    I have heard that the only acceptable place to touch a complete stranger ONLY IF ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY is a quick, one finger tap on the shoulder. I can’t imagine what the coffee shop owner, a comparative stranger to you, was thinking by wrapping his hands around your throat. Based on your reaction, though, I bet he never ever ever does that again to anyone.

  • Cherry April 24, 2014, 7:44 am

    If that happened to me, I’d freak out too! I agree with Admin, I’d probably react on autopilot and do harm to his hands to get them away from me. Putting your hands around someone’s throat is threatening, especially doing so from behind so they have no idea it’s about to happen.

    What is it with some people and thinking they have the right to touch others, even complete strangers?

  • Lo April 24, 2014, 7:47 am

    Even a friend doing this to me as a joke would infuriate me and freak me out. I can’t imagine a total stranger doing this and thinking it was appropriate.

    I don’t think you reacted badly at all. That’s a stupid, stupid thing to do to someone. He deserves the reaction he got.

  • Brit April 24, 2014, 7:52 am

    That is NOT being friendly! That is NOT ‘only kidding’! Pretending to choke someone? Really?

    I’m glad you screamed at this moron, maybe it will stop him because that is totally unacceptable. Horrifying. I’d never go back there ever again.

    I’ve had similar things happen in the past and have instinctively hit the person to get them off me. What on earth do they expect?

  • Shannan April 24, 2014, 8:01 am

    That is truly bizarre!!!!!! In what world is this an appropriate greeting? It doesn’t matter if you are “extra-sensitive” about your throat being touched. That’s just weird……….

  • Cecilia April 24, 2014, 8:12 am

    I totally understand your reaction. That is indeed a very bizarre way of “kidding” with someone, especially a customer of your business. I might have even shoved/pushed him away because I would have definitely gone straight to “fight or flight” mode.

    P.S. I must have been hanging next to you on the gallows because I also cannot stand to have anything against my neck. I can’t even wear turtleneck sweaters!

    • just4kicks April 25, 2014, 4:20 am

      I had an “a-ha!” moment a few years ago at Christmas when I opened a beautiful sweater from my parents, which was a lovely V-neck. My mom mentioned they had another in the same fabric and color, but it was a high cowl neck, and she knew I wouldn’t wear it, because I too, cannot stand anything around my neck. As I reached for a cookie, I casually remarked, “probably because the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck twice when I was born and almost died!” My folks and I just looked at each other and went “Ohhhh……!”

  • bloo April 24, 2014, 8:17 am

    I can’t believe anyone wouldn’t react the same way in the same situation. Who would be blasé about being unexpectedly grasped around the throat by an unseen assailant? I would assume I was being attacked and respond accordingly – screaming and elbowing.

  • Salamandrix April 24, 2014, 8:20 am

    I too hate having anyone put their hands around my throat! I would have reacted just as you did, which, from your story, sounds like exactly the right thing to have done.

  • Bibianne April 24, 2014, 8:25 am

    Someone did something similar to me (as in surprise *attack* from the rear… but my reaction was more Admin’s. I can laugh about it now.. .but when it happened… I was livid.
    I was at work, cleaning a computer screen on a slow and quiet part of the day (thus not many people around me) , and bending forward (wearing a baggy sweater). A colleague and friend sneaked up behind me to tickle me and misjudged where my waist was… and grabbed chest. My instinctive reaction was to turn around and slap his face (before I even knew WHO was behind me) and said in a loud voice… “How DARE you !” HE apologized profusely, and said something like: “I just wanted to tickle you, I didn’t mean it, but I am so sorry. I’ll never do that again”… . I forgave him… and he gave me a wide berth for a while (I can really slap the you know what out of someone 😉 ) It’s been almost 30 years ago… but I bet he still keeps his hands to himself. 😉

  • AS April 24, 2014, 8:50 am

    OP: did this man even know you?

    Regardless of your personal feelings about someone touching your throat, I think it is just a human instinct to defend themselves from an “attack” from behind, on a vulnerable spot like the throat. What was the man thinking? Close friends sometimes do that as a prank; but I thought that stopped after undergrad days.

  • Phoenix April 24, 2014, 9:03 am

    I was working at th register at a grocery store when the owner sorta did the same thing to me too, except it was on my shoulder. Still freaked me out.

    People need to find a better way to grab someone’s attention than to suddenly grab them. A gentle pome in the shoulder would have faired better imo.

    Also, neck grabbing? Ummmm no, that aint normal and I had freaked out too.
    Not even my closest buddies do that. That’s just a bad place to touch unless it is intimate or it is to fix a tag/flyaway hair.

  • Miss-E April 24, 2014, 9:03 am

    Does this guy know you or something? Because it sounds like a complete stranger walked up behind you and wrapped his hands around your throat and thought that was a perfectly acceptable?? That is insane! You didn’t overreact at all! What IS wrong with people??

  • Wendy B. April 24, 2014, 9:11 am

    I used to do that with my best friend…but ONLY her and ONLY because we were best friends and could get away with it! You simply don’t do things like that…what if the sensitivity extended to vomiting if pressure is put on the throat, or passing out? THAT would have been very entertaining for everyone else, I’m sure.

    I think I’d avoid that coffee shop in the future if possible…

  • JWH April 24, 2014, 9:32 am

    Somebody actually did something similar to me once. I had no idea who it was (given that they were behind me), and the person barely dodge the elbow I sent behind me.

  • Mechanistika April 24, 2014, 9:38 am

    Not to diminish what you felt or to demean you, but do you think he may have mistaken you for someone else, someone whom he often does this to, who is more or less used to his antics?

    I mean, yes, it’s not right that he wrapped his hands around your throat, considering how close to STRANGLING that is and I’m sure anyone would have reacted the same way you did in that situation, your compatriots be damned. Basic survival instincts would have kicked in, I’m impressed you didn’t maim the man in your panic. (I would have! Years of self-defense training has made me jumpier than a squirrel.)

    It’s not right to do that to anyone, yes, but maybe he was just joking around, thinking you were someone else. I know I’ve done the same. (Well, no, I didn’t STRANGLE anyone, but I did come up behind them and give them a hug, only to be horrified when they weren’t who I thought they were. I nearly burst into tears from embarrassment, I can’t IMAGINE what the other person must have been thinking!)

    I’m only in college, and we’re all a little bit foolish there, so it could just be a difference in age or maturity, but that could have been the reason he touched you in that way.

    Nonetheless, I’m sorry that happened to you… And I sympathize.

  • Argentina April 24, 2014, 9:44 am

    I am definitely a touchy person. I love giving and receiving hugs and kisses. I get teased all the time at work. But those are people that I feel very comfortable with and have known for years. Anyone else, I definitely have a “hands off” sign on my forehead. You were absolutely right to be upset for someone putting their hands on you. Especially in a threatening gesture. As the admin said, don’t hold it against him. I’m sure he was truly embarrassed and will keep his hands to himself on the future.

  • Charliesmum April 24, 2014, 9:45 am

    What the huh? That’s a weird thing for a close friend to do, let alone a person you barely know. And any apology that begins ‘he was only’ really is not any sort of apology.

    And you are not alone in having that kind of phobia! I feel the same way (and also joked I must have been hanged in another life).

  • --Lia April 24, 2014, 10:14 am

    He did not apologize. “Sorry, I was only kidding around” translates to “I’m sorry you over-reacted, but I still consider myself blameless.” That does not contain the necessary elements of an apology which include thinking about how the other person feels, considering how one contributed to causing that feeling, and making an in-faith promise never to do the same again. That was a guy who wanted to get off the hook, not to apologize in reality.

    There is nothing funny or friendly about the sort of practical joke that makes someone fear they’re being strangled. Not liking being crept up on from behind and having hands around one’s throat is not an unusual quirky dislike. Maybe there are people who don’t mind, but that’s hardly the norm.

    The coworker who laughed was probably uncomfortable having been taken by surprise herself. She owes you an apology too.

    I agree with the admin that it doesn’t serve anyone to hold a grudge, but I wouldn’t be running back to that coffee shop to give them my business either.

  • Devil's Advocate April 24, 2014, 10:21 am

    I think you overreacted. This man–whom it sounds like you do know–was in the wrong there is no doubt about that. The behavior he exhibited is weird, I have never had someone “joking around” grab me by the throat. I think your initial reaction was fine especially given the situation. If you have elbowed or punched him, I would not have faulted you. However, beyond that, I think you went overboard.

    This wasn’t a life or death moment. The man tried to apologize, even if it wasn’t well done. However, you have taken it to extremes but letting the event ruin your meeting and the rest of your day. In fact you are probably still letting it bother you today. We can’t choose how other people act, but we can choose how we react.

    • catherine April 24, 2014, 10:58 pm

      How do you feel she over reacted? Have you never been terrified of something that happened to you? Your heart is racing, your whole body is shaking, it’s hard to collect your thoughts, and if it were me, I would be on the verge of tears. These are not choices that we willingly make. It is our bodies response to massive adrenaline flowing through our system that didn’t get used up in the “fight or fight” response. Your body doesn’t differentiate between life or death situation and a “maybe he isn’t going to kill me” when you have the crap scared out of you like the OP apparently did. It is an automatic reaction to ensure human survival and it is beyond the control of the person involved. Also that was NOT an apology. Doing an injury to someone and then saying “I was just kidding” is a seriously passive aggressive in the very least…

    • Cat April 24, 2014, 11:08 pm

      If you have never been in a situation like this, you don’t understand the need for an immediate reaction. Those of us who have survived being attacked did not have the luxury of choosing how we would react. If our reaction is not automatic and does not give us an over-whelming advantage, we may not get a second chance.

      She was fortunate that this man was simply a fool who lacked good sense. If he was mentally ill or under the influence of drugs that changed his perception, he could have snapped her neck. If it is still bothering her, it is the realization that it could have been much worse and her reaction would not have saved her.

    • Brit April 25, 2014, 3:39 am

      Victim blaming.

      You can’t always choose how to react – ever heard of instincts or reflexes? He triggered her phobia, didn’t apologise (‘just kidding’ isn’t an apology), and she left because she was badly shaken. Like a lot of us would be if some nutter got his hands round our throats without warning.

    • Yet Another Laura April 25, 2014, 1:18 pm

      This was a life or death moment. How was she to know that the man who was strangling her was joking around? Strangulation is a lethal assault. How is that not a deadly attack?

      By the way, what is the maximum permissible heart rate in BPM before it becomes overreacting to a deadly assault? What is the maximum amount of adrenaline in the bloodstream? Please let me know so I can calibrate my involuntary physical responses appropriately.

      Oh yes, can you hook me up with a telepathy implant so I know the intentions of everyone who assaults me in the future so I know who actually wants to kill me versus who is just jokingly trying to kill me?

    • Tracy W April 25, 2014, 3:37 pm

      It would feel like a life-and-death moment, in the moment though.
      And the adrenaline rush, and its after-effects, aren’t entirely choice. I had a summer job once working as a nurse’s aid at a secure unit for people with brain injuries, and I had my fair share of incidents, and while I learnt how to think in the middle of an adrenaline rush I also learnt I just had to ride out the after-effects.

      I agree with others that the man’s apology was a fail too.

  • Dee April 24, 2014, 10:23 am

    It was an assault, of a mild form to be sure, but an assault of your person all the same. How does anyone know the past experiences of a person that would preclude a surprise in the form of unsolicited touching or grabbing? If a person doesn’t know if the action will be welcomed then they shouldn’t do it. The attacker is a boor. Well-intentioned, but a boor. Your reaction was an honest one. He earned it. Hopefully he’s not an idiotic boor and he will learn from this. In the meantime, what’s with your companion laughing at your distress? That’s an insensitivity that can only be excused for the very young.

  • Cammie April 24, 2014, 10:23 am

    Or you could have called the police and had him charged with assault. Then maybe he would understand the seriousness of his error.

    Your story makes me very uncomfortable. If he’s willing to assault a customer in front of a room full of people I shudder to think what he’d be willing to do to his employees behind closed doors.

  • manybellsdown April 24, 2014, 10:26 am

    I don’t blame you in the least! I can’t stand having my throat touched either; even crewneck shirts can be uncomfortable. I’d have freaked out and screamed as well. And probably never gone back to that coffee shop because seriously what the hell?

  • Wild Irish Rose April 24, 2014, 10:28 am

    I hate it when people come up behind me and touch me. I don’t mind a little tap on the shoulder or some such thing, but a little warning is always welcome. A long time ago, my now-husband’s roommate came up behind me and poked me in the ribs. I don’t know why people think that tickles or that it’s funny, but I find it painful and uncomfortable, and just the idea that people think it’s okay to put their hands on someone without their consent baffles me. Anyway, I turned around and slapped him so hard that all conversation in the room stopped. He stared at me, dumbfounded, and I REMINDED him (because I had told him this before!) NOT to touch or poke me in the ribs. He never touched me again, and word got out and NO ONE ever touched me like that again! I may not have handled it properly, but he’d been warned before.

  • Jazzgirl205 April 24, 2014, 10:31 am

    I would love to know where the OP lives. I have recently moved to a rural mountainous region where I am witnessing an odd cultural phenomenom.

    Let me start off by saying that in the region where I was raised, when men reached 60, they took their position in the community a bit more seriously. They dressed a little better, they used less profanity in speech, and gave wise advice to younger people.

    Where I live now, when men reach 60, they don a prankster jokester persona. It drives me crazy! They feel they can misbehave and ask questions such as, “Why is your daughter prettier than you?” They always want to give me huge, tight hugs, when we meet on the street. The first time I wore a hat to church, a man kept playing with it – while I was trying to play a musical instrument! Once, I and 2 other ladies were volunteering at a reception. We decorated the food tables with nice linens, flowers and silver and crystal. One man came into the kitchen with a folding chair, sat down and started eating the food out of the bakery boxes. He explained that he didn’t care for all this fancy stuff and would rather be in the kitchen. He was in the way and it was hard to keep track of what we had. I said as politely as I could, “These ladies worked very hard on this reception. It would be a compliment to them if you enjoyed it in the other room with your friends.” There’s one man who thinks it’s funny to try to put his hands in your hair and mess it up.

    The locals seem not the mind, though. They laugh like it’s hilarious. The weird thing is, these men are pillars of society. They generously give their time and talents to the less fortunate. They take children into their home. They raise money for their church and community. I really don’t feel that I can get angry at them. But I still find it annoying.

    • Cat April 24, 2014, 10:56 pm

      Those pillars should learn to keep their paws to themselves. Good behavior towards the unfortunate does not give one a free pass to bully others.
      “Why is your daughter prettier than you?” should be met with, “Aren’t you glad that your son has better manners than you do?”
      Putting hands on me or in my hair will result in a scene in which he will be told in no uncertain terms to keep his hands to himself.
      The man stuffing his face in the kitchen should be shown the door and told he can help serve or get out, but he cannot serve himself in there.

      • Jazzgirl205 April 25, 2014, 8:45 am

        My dd and I are the only ones who seem to mind. It makes me feel like Margaret Dumont in a Marx Bros. movie.

        • Cat April 25, 2014, 1:29 pm

          You have fallen into a community of rude idiots. Are you certain you should be there?
          I am glad to hear that they are flocking together rather than roaming around annoying the rest of us.

  • Ellie April 24, 2014, 10:35 am

    I think he’s lucky that all you did was scream. Some people (me) would have stepped hard on his instep whilst making an attempt to jab him in the ribs. Actually, these days, I probably wouldn’t be able to do that, but I could turn quickly and whack him with my cane. There’s nothing “friendly” about hands around one’s neck.

  • Lisa April 24, 2014, 10:39 am

    Please don’t be too hard on the lady you were meeting with; I’m sure she laughed out of nervousness and was not trying to be callous to your feelings. That being said, I’m sure I would have reacted much like you did. I can be in the kitchen cooking dinner and if my hubs walks in unannounced and I don’t hear him, when I finally do see him I shriek like a banshee.

  • Joanna April 24, 2014, 11:00 am

    You did NOTHING wrong! The person who snuck up and grabbed you by the throat was WAY out of line; especially in today’s world, where so many awful things happen all the time, it’s natural that we are taught to be on our guard 24/7. The guy’s lucky you didn’t automatically go into fight mode.

  • La April 24, 2014, 11:01 am

    Since when was throttling someone a ‘friendly’ gesture?!

  • Tiffany April 24, 2014, 11:06 am

    I’m at a loss for words that someone thought that was an appropriate way to greet someone ever for any reason. You most certainly did nothing wrong. As admin said, you don’t have to hold it against him forever, I guess, but from my standpoint, if it was a reasonably easy thing to do, I wouldn’t go back to that coffee shop again. I just wouldn’t feel comfortable, apology notwithstanding.

  • Harley Granny April 24, 2014, 11:11 am

    When I say this I am in NO way dismissing your fear of your throat being grabbed….and while I find sneaking up behind someone and grabbing them around the throat odd, you have acknowledged that he had no way of knowing of your true fear of this.
    (I’ve never understood the hands over the eyes from behind either.)

    From reading the reactions of the people around you I feel he felt he knew you as one of his regulars and as he’s probably done this countless times before without a reaction like yours, he thought it would be OK.

    I’d like to suggest that you go back, explain your fear and give the man a chance to give you a proper apology (without an audience) and you can take it from there.

  • DGS April 24, 2014, 11:20 am

    OP, you were entitled to your reaction (completely reasonable) – the reaction you got from others was a reflection of their own discomfort. What this gentleman did was inappropriate, even if it was done with the best intentions.

  • MrsL April 24, 2014, 11:24 am

    I worked in a small cell phone store years ago and one of my co workers sold two phones to a man who claimed to have been a professional spy. He said that his new phones had better work or he would come after my Co worker. My Co worker replied that he wasn’t comfortable with the sale because he had a wife and baby and didn’t take well to threats. The customer said he was kidding and the sale continued. He bought the two least expensive phones we had. My Co worker recommended one but he insisted on buying one other model too just in case he was being pushed to buy the recommended one because we may have made more commission by selling that model (we didn’t). A few days later he came in quietly and sneaked up on my Co worker and put him in a full headlock because the phone that he had insisted on didn’t work very well and he demanded that it be replaced immediately with more threats. Luckily, everything was caught on camera though and from that point on he had to contact the head of our corporate security to arrange an escort to visit any of our stores.

  • JD April 24, 2014, 11:35 am

    I think you gave the perfect response! Scream away — it’ll teach a person not to be forward in placing his or her hands on someone, regardless of where. I used to have very long hair when I was a kid, and the number of people who walked up behind me and fondled my hair…. ugh. No one is to be touched without permission if one isn’t in a situation in which touching is clearly approved of by both the touchee and toucher. Sorry for the awkward wording. You know what I mean.
    Yes, I’d accept his apology, once I’d calmed down, without defending myself, if he truly was sorry. You need no defending however, and should not explain yourself or give excuses to anyone.

  • lolkay April 24, 2014, 11:43 am

    I have the same sensitivity towards my throat…and I would have reacted violently myself.
    I think the worst offender is the lady laughing insisting it was a joke and how it was funny. I probably would have probably said something along the lines of “telling an abuse victim her trauma is a joke is a sure sign of something being wrong with you.” But then, for me, its the actual truth..

  • JackieJormpJomp April 24, 2014, 11:47 am

    I don’t have a “throat thing”, and I would react almost identically, I’m sure, as would most humans, because we would be instinctually defensive of one of one of our bodies most vulnerable zones. It’s you’re THROAT for pete’s sake. Humans actually subconsciously shield it/bear it to display dis/comfort in many situations. Grabbing it from behind is absolutely not normal behaviour.
    The fact that everyone else was laughing is pretty insensitive, too.

  • Lindsay April 24, 2014, 11:57 am

    OP, how traumatic for you! The only one who should be mortified should be the perp here, and to a lesser extent, anyone who laughed along with him. I’m assuming you don’t have any relationship with him, in which case this is bizarre and creepy. I can’t fathom any instance where this would be kidding around, even within my family. Admin is spot on; many men and women would have responded assuming they were being assaulted, including an elbow to the gut, throwing over the shoulder, breaking of the offending fingers, etc.

  • ohboy April 24, 2014, 11:58 am

    I’m thinking they did know each other a little better than you post, Admin. She knows he’s an owner, his age, an EMT etc. and NO ONE would walk up to a stranger and do that. He failed to realize how sensitive she was to this type of thing (and I can’t blame her) but he didn’t know and apologized. I’m not sure though if OP didn’t lose some etiquette points by abruptly leaving her meeting with these women for a pretty innocent (if stupid) gesture on somebody else’s part.

    • catherine April 24, 2014, 11:17 pm

      Even if they were familiar acquaintances, this was a totally inappropriate thing to do. You don’t manhandle the customers in your establishment, no matter how regular they are.
      I totally understand why she left. When you get the crap scared out of you like the OP did, you have a massive amount of adrenaline flowing through you that was supposed to help you with the “fight or flight” response. When neither happens, your body responds with a rapid heartbeat, your whole body shakes, you can’t collect your thoughts, and sometimes you will burst into tears.
      You can’t control this, it is your body trying to use up the extra adrenaline. Why would you want to continue the meeting feeling like this? Also I don’t think this gesture was all that “innocent”. It was very passive aggressive to say the least.

    • Tracy W April 25, 2014, 3:44 pm

      I’m trying to figure out what sort of circumstances it would be appropriate to do this to someone, no matter how close a friend. A senior level martial arts course perhaps?

      And what’s innocent about wrapping your hands round someone’s throat?

  • Hillary April 24, 2014, 12:16 pm

    What a bizarre way to be “friendly” to a stranger! I think I would have screamed too. It’s probably for the best that your reaction humiliated the man – maybe he’ll think twice about touching people this way in the future!

  • Cady April 24, 2014, 12:16 pm

    Putting your hands around someone’s throat like that is, at best, a gesture meant to “humorously” convey to others: “I can’t stand this person; don’t you just want to strangle her?” Seriously, there’s no cultural context (at least not in the U.S.) in which putting your hands around someone’s throat is a positive gesture. Completely inappropriate of the coffee shop owner.

    • catherine April 24, 2014, 11:18 pm

      Definitely passive aggressive.

  • WMK April 24, 2014, 12:27 pm

    I’m with you, OP.

    No one has the right to put their hands on me unless I invite them to do so.

  • Yet Another Laura April 24, 2014, 12:33 pm

    Wow. That’s not a greeting, that’s an attack. You could, if you were so inclined, press charges. Perhaps you may want to let the perp know whether or not you plan to do so.

    Something like that happened to me. My startle reflex upon being approached from behind and choked/grabbed/jabbed/hit/touched is to go into self-defense mode. I nearly elbowed the guy in the face but had the control to stop an inch from his nose. I hope I scared him. I explained why he should never ever ever do that. The five or so friends I was with all took his side and defended him. Kind of says something about them, doesn’t it. I lectured them for several minutes.

    A few rules of the road:
    1. Never approach quietly from behind. Do not do this to anyone. You do not know someone’s startle reflex.
    2. Don’t touch without permission.
    3. Stop excusing people who commit assault. It’s not funny.

  • Ashley April 24, 2014, 12:56 pm

    Oh my gosh if that had happened to me, not only would there have been yelling and screaming, I probably would have started flailing around trying to hit whoever had grabbed me simply because it would be SO startling.

    That is NOT an okay thing to do. I can’t even begin to think how that could be perceived as any sort of friendly/joking greeting.

    Hopefully your reaction makes him think twice about doing it again to anyone

  • violinp April 24, 2014, 12:59 pm

    Quite frankly, if someone tried that on me, I would think they were actually trying to murder me. How exactly is pretending to strangle someone ever considered a normal mode of greeting someone?

  • The TARDIS April 24, 2014, 1:06 pm

    I’ll admit to putting my cold hands on the backs of my friends’ necks as a joke, however it’s only to the friends who find it funny. Grabbing a total stranger by the throat is a threatening violation of personal space. If it were me, that man might receive an elbow to the gut or private bits.

    You were not wrong to feel frightened, but I agree with not holding it over him forever unless he does it again. (Which I hope he does not!)

    • e. April 25, 2014, 2:13 pm

      I can guarantee you, none of your friends finds it “funny.” They find it annoying, then they grit their teeth and fake a laugh when you do it. I repeat, surprise cold hands on one’s warm neck is unpleasant all the way around, and I would suggest you stop doing it immediately.

      • Shalamar April 25, 2014, 4:12 pm

        I have to agree with e. I had a boss who would suddenly ask “AREMYHANDSCOLD?” and jam them against the back of the nearest person’s neck before they could move away. Lord, that was annoying. I learned not to sit close to her.

  • Karen L April 24, 2014, 1:16 pm

    I want to mention that perverts count on people’s not wanting to make a scene, and a “scene” is exactly what is called for. Remember the guy in the grocery aisle that wanted to pay a woman $100 to touch her breasts?

  • Leslie April 24, 2014, 1:25 pm

    We had an employee who was fired for doing exactly this, also in a joking manner. Frankly, I don’t think the muttered apology was enough. It is immature behavior and there are a thousands reasons to not grab someone by the neck.

  • babs April 24, 2014, 2:02 pm

    OP, I feel your pain! Something like this happened to me in a shopping center parking lot. I was rushed, grabbed from behind and picked up as I was walking to my car! Scared the living daylights out of me. Turned out, it was my grown son who happened to see me going to my car thought he would surprise me! He’s really fortunate that I didn’t react a bit quicker, or he wouldn’t be a father today! This was probably 10-15 years ago, and it still gives me the willies to think about it!

    • Cat April 24, 2014, 11:00 pm

      There was a case in which a young man came home unexpectedly from college on Halloween and decided to prank his mother by putting on a mask and jumping out at her when she came home from work. She had a gun and promptly shot him.
      Fortunately, she was a poor shot and he survived. He learned not to try to frighten women. We don’t faint anymore-we open fire.

      • Cecilia April 25, 2014, 8:34 am

        “We don’t faint anymore-we open fire”- EXACTLY. With .380 Cobras.

  • Yellow Rose April 24, 2014, 2:06 pm

    OP, I’m very sorry this happened to you. I can’t imagine your terror. That man is so very fortunate he didn’t do that to a/or in the presence of a citizen who has training and credentials for the ultimate in self-defense, a carry permit. It would have been a justifiable act of self-defense, meeting all four requirements in any jurisdiction: reasonable and articulatable fear of death or great bodily harm, no way to retreat with hands around the throat, the OP did not instigate the action and they weren’t sure if he would have stopped.