I might be venturing into dangerous territory here; but I wonder whether meekness in the face of obnoxiousness and rudeness is partly accounted for, by Christianity's influence on Western culture, and / or individual Christian instruction received by people at a young age. It is enjoined on Christians: "Turn the other cheek"; "Do good to those that despitefully use you"; "Render unto no man evil for evil". It strikes me as imaginable that many people may, at various levels of consciousness, feel that this is the proper way to behave; and in fact do often behave thus -- whether they are believing / practising Christians, or not.
So far as I understand the matter, it is not basically in order to make life run more smoothly, or to improve the offender's behaviour, that this way of responding is enjoined upon Christians. Being a Christian is seen as, overall, making a person over into a new kind of creature -- in many ways, not carrying out standard / normal human conduct or interaction; which can make interaction more difficult and less agreeable. This last, seen as part of the cross which every adherent of the faith has to bear.
I think this is absolutely spot-on for a lot of us. Combine this with the aforementioned "social conditioning," and it is very hard to not be a meekly overly-polite when you are both female and raised Christian.
Personally, this is why I found a balanced spot between "retaliatory rudeness" and "shocked silence." It is important for me, in many cases, to at least draw a person's attention to their rudeness with a pointed, calm question, asserting myself while letting them know that a certain comment or behavior is totally unacceptable. Especially since I spent the first decades of my life being a "good Christian girl," which meant I was stricken with guilt at the thought of hurting others' feelings or being thought of as rude or a b-word, even if the other person was being rude or cruel to me
An example of this is when someone makes a comment about my physical appearance, be it catcalling, or someone telling me to "smile!" When I was younger, I was once hurrying to work. As I passed a group of young men, one loudly exclaimed, "Look at her [rude word] bounce!" Then, I turned red, felt ashamed, and hunched my shoulders. The thought of "escalating" the situation with a "confrontation" was unthinkable. Now, when someone makes a comment like that, I usually stop, go back, look them in the eye, and ask, "Why would you say that? You claim you were trying to compliment me, but how is yelling a comment like that a compliment?" I keep up with a calm, focused question until the person realizes that no, I'm not backing down, and yes, their behavior was unacceptable. Usually they bluster about what a humorless female dog I am, but the point is, I feel better.
So if I had been confronted by Crazy Shoe Lady, personally it would be important for me to engage, not just ignore, after the first comment. "Ma'am, I don't know you, and I'm not spending your money. Why do you care what kind of shoes I wear? That's an interesting assumption. Why are you so invested in other peoples' attire? Why would you bother a complete stranger about something like that?"
You can turn the other cheek once, but if you keep turning it back and forth, it's just someone repeatedly slapping you.
So I absolutely understand why other eHellions might be more comfortable ignoring a rude person and not letting it affect their day, or engage in any way. But for me, it is very important to respond to certain situations after a lifetime of being trained that, as a girl and as a Christian, I was not supposed to.