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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Monday, February 12, 2007

I keep falling for this

I am starting to realize that I'm a retail real estate sucker.

Retail real estate is what I call that precious square of space in front of a shelf or rack of goods, the spot where you stand so you can get the best view of whatever it is you're thinking about buying.

No one ever wants to give up that space 'cause then you can't sift through what you need as easily. You have to strain your neck or wait for other folks to get out of your way.

Anyway, I have gotten into the bad habit lately of giving up that territory way too easily.

It started innocently enough. Someone walks up and stands conspicuously close to you, so you assume they want to pass you in a narrow aisle. So you step aside to make room, and in the good old days they'd walk by. Or - also in the good old days - they'd approach, see you were looking at something they wanted, and they'd walk back the way they came and browse something else on another aisle until you were done.

Well, lately I've noticed that when I step out of the way to let people pass, they're not passing. Instead they're stepping into the prime spot that I only vacated 'cause I thought they wanted to pass by.

The first time it happened, my jaw dropped, but I let it slide 'cause I figured the person just misinterpreted my gesture to mean I was getting out of their way.

But then it happened over and over and over. There is only one common denominator: the people I'm moving for are senior citizens.

It could be coincidence. But I think subconsciously I'm intimidated by their age. Who wants to stand in the way of someone who looks like their grandmother or -father? So I move, hoping that they'll walk on by and won't take advantage of my kindness. But lately they do...take advantage.

It happened again over the weekend. I was at a store, browsing. An old guy came up and crowded me like we were old friends or more. I took the hint stepped to one side, away from the item I was studying and he jumped right into my space without so much as a blink.

When I grow another set - since I apparently lost my first set in a department store some months back - I'm gonna either start ignoring the prime retail real estate thieves and just deal with them crowding me, or I'm gonna acknowledge them but tell them they're too close, or if I move and they jump in I'm gonna call 'em out and politely explain that I wasn't done browsing. I only moved 'cause I thought they wanted to get by.

We'll see how that works out.

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  • I'm all for respecting one's elders, but if anyone of any age is in my personal space - I say something. Usually I say something like, "are you aware that you're standing really close to me? It's making me uncomfortable.[they move] Thanks!" or "would you give me a bit of room, please? I'll be done here in a minute."

    Respecting someone else doesn't mean putting your needs after theirs. Particularly when this isn't something that elders can't do that we can - they can be polite, that's not age-dependent.

    By Blogger bc, at 4:05 PM  

  • I've seen it happen myself, mostly in the last 20 years. It shouldn't be surprising because these old rude people used to be dicks when they were young too.

    I believe in respecting elders but they need to have a minimal level of behavior to receive my respect.

    It's just not acceptable to walk over people and act rudely just because of some grey hair and wrinkles.

    By Blogger Hammer, at 4:10 PM  

  • You just gotta stop shopping for the same things that old folks buy!

    What would Emily Post say? Probably something like, "Curtly ask the intruder, 'Would you like to get by?' and stand your ground. If they say yes, let them pass. If they say, 'No, I was just browsing here ...' take a half step to the side and SHARE the space."

    If I may add to dear Ms Post: If they say Yes, but don't pass, I'd deck the fogey! But that's just me. I don't write a blog on urban etiquette.

    By Anonymous The Sarcasticynic, at 4:45 PM  

  • This ruins my plans. I noticed this in ederly people as well. I just figured when I reached their age I would just start doing whatever I want when I want.

    By Blogger Winter, at 4:47 PM  

  • I hear that! Thay are typically the same people (at least at the store I frequent) who, when they theive your prime real estate spot, have left their cart a few feet back and turned sideways so the whole aisle is blocked.

    Sadly, I know a woman who exhibits behavior similar to this. She has no qualms about double parking on a busy street, and leaving the area to go into the bank or pick up her kids from school or whatever it is she's doing.

    When you point this behavior out to her, she usually acts surprised: "Oh! I didn't realize! Oh, well. They'll get over it. I mean, what's a little traffic?"

    By Blogger Kevin, at 4:51 PM  

  • JB,

    Your mistake was giving up ground in the first place. Old people who live in Florida have this extreme sense of entitlement to goods and services which makes some of them nauseatingly impatient, rude, and downright anti-social. For some reason, the elderly people who live on this side of the state, especially those retirees from Northeastern factory dungheaps, act as if this place wouldn't exist if it weren't for them. Because, after all, what would Florida be if it weren't for all the jag-offs escaping cold weather like them. No crowded restaurants, no 45 mph drivers on I-95 at rush hour, no waiting behind Granny, Florida Walker, for two hours while she navigates the Wal-Mart self help checkout onlu to put all the items back because she forgot her billfold for a $5 purchase.

    Also, JB, if some of these senior citizens are in their 60's or past, they might not have gotten the memo on civil rights and may still think that a Black man is supposed to Jim Crow out of the way when they walk up. Which, when you act polite and step aside, is what it could look like.

    So when they won't step off you or make room, my suggestion is to give them a little screwface photo session snarl, fake a flinch at 'em and say "WHAT??!!? If they don't shoot you in the store for being skeird and threatened, then at least you can choose your Cheesy Poofs in peace.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 5:12 PM  

  • Next time that happens, just yell "Bingo!" as loud as you can.

    That oughta clear 'em out pretty quickly. Or at least distract them long enough for you to steal any loose change and/or hard candy out of their pockets.

    By Blogger Jon, at 5:23 PM  

  • James, you're not imagining this: it's the way people behave now. Every day, I walk through one particular building at work where people seem to think they're much more important than me (even the janitor) and walk right at me. I'm supposed to get out of the way.

    It's always very political who thinks who should get out of the way on the street too. Last summer I was stacked like a brick shithouse and that seemed to attract enmity from bigger guys who seemed to think I should be more submissive. Sometimes they'd come right at me and, just in the nick of time, wife/girlfriend pulls them out of the way as they pass by w/ their pissy looking face.

    Just the other day a guy tried to do that to me in a store and then in the parking lot he's parked next to me. So the jerk comes to the passenger side of his car (when he could have gone to the driver's side to stow his groceries) and bangs his rear door into my car.

    When I was a kid, I wanted to live forever.

    By Blogger Matt, at 5:38 PM  

  • I can see this is going to be one of those 'I never noticed it before but now see it all the time' sort of things. Maybe this is the cause for one of MY irkings. Drives me nuts when all I want to do is get through and someone will stand there not budging. Happens a lot in stores but even MORE so in a restaurant. Carrying a tray full of food it amazes me how ma ny people will sit there and look at you rather than move. As for your solution I think you used the words......Old days....You gotta go back to the older days yourself. Remember when someone beat your little brother up it was your job to go beat them up and get beatup by their older brother????? I can't condone beating up the elderly, but I DO say in this case you have every right to find this guys son, knock on their door, clock em and tell them to say hello to their folks for you.


    By Blogger briliantdonkey, at 6:11 PM  

  • matt!

    i totally agree... try going to the swapmeet on sunday. i am serious here- one would find themselves with three very irritating situations.

    1. people are standing in the middle of a very crowded aisle and don't stand to one side to let people that are actually trying to get somewhere, or

    2. people are walking very slowly in front of the whole group and is not letting others, who would be walking a bit faster, get through, and,

    3. PEOPLE WALK RIGHT AT YOU! I am like 'WTF'

    Oh, and another thing

    One thing I could never figure out about driving in Vegas when I first moved here was the supposed ''fast'' lane. People sit in this lane going 65 (which is the posted speed limit) which is annoying enough, but when they see you quickly approaching from behind, they tap their brakes so you can slow down! In California, when this happens, people just get the hell out of your way. YOU"RE IN THE FAST LANE! I am doing 95 on the highway. So when you see me, get the hell out of my way! (Luda!) I am all fired up now.

    By Blogger cucuclaire, at 6:15 PM  

  • Oh, man! Fight back James...don't let them intimidate you. I've had this happen too...many times. Now, I pretend I don't see them, and I'll even move closer to them...or I'll look directly at them with a "what do you want?" look. So far, it's worked well..they usually back off.

    By Blogger Claudia, at 7:31 PM  

  • I am interested in real estate too. Sometimes, on my walk around the neighborhood I say, "Heeeyyyyy Ms. Chris, how're ya feelin'?" One day, I know she'll be sickly and I will snatch that little home right out from under her elderly feet.

    By Blogger mist1, at 8:46 PM  

  • Hubby had the same type of experience at an unnamed retailer that has taken over the state of Arkansas. Only his rude confronter was in one of those motorized carts. Now, can't be sure if weight was the handicap or whatever, but I'm not for impeding anyone's shopping experience, regardless of the handicap. BUT...this person wanted to get at an item that my husband HAD HIS HAND ON, and said, "Excuse me, I need to get right there." She then proceeded to bump him with the cart.

    Thank goodness they were in public, or my husband would have probably strangled her on the spot!

    By Blogger Tiggerlane, at 9:35 PM  

  • I just got back from Vegas and experienced the same real estate issue with the slightly older and better dressed gamblers, especially at the table games. Maybe they noticed how cheap I am??

    By Blogger Michael C, at 11:10 PM  

  • I notice this all the freaking time. I try to go shopping as late as possible, sometimes at 3 am, just so that I don't have to deal with people. I get really annoyed at the blatent disrespect people give each other in the grocery store. I am a too-nice grocery shopper. If I'm standing and pondering a product and someone else with a cart is going the opposite way, I'll use all my strength to inch my cart over as far as I can so theirs can get by (in my grocery store, two carts can just barely pass each other in the aisles). But more often than not, they'll push their cart until they're right in front of me, and then stop. So now, my cart is trapped and can't move, but their big fat ass is standing in front of the products I was clearly inspecting! And I also hate when I'm obviously trying to walk down an aisle, with or without a cart. Someone has the way blocked with their cart. They look at me, size me up, and then go back to browsing. Then I'm stuck waiting for them to move their cart. If I so much as touch their cart trying to squeeze by behind them, they get all huffy and glare at me.

    By Blogger hyacinths and biscuits, at 11:24 PM  

  • Hmmm, I see we struck a nerve. Glad to know I'm not crazy. Or maybe I am, but not 'cause of these observations.

    Anyway, BC and Hammer I struggle with this one all the time 'cause I was raised to take elder respect to dang near worship levels. I'm being facetious, but not by much.

    Sarc, you're teasing. But I think you're right. That probably is what Emily Post would say in this case - seriously, good call.

    Winter, I feel ya. Being old will be no fun when we get there if we can't get away with whatever. The only way to ensure it though is to move to South Florida.

    Kevin, that woman needs to be introduced to a tow truck.

    Ha! BD, I'll do that. I'm gonna mean mug seniors when they crowd me. Funny thing is it probably wouldn't faze 'em...not down here, anyway.

    Jon, "bingo!" or "fire!" Either works for me.

    Matt, good point. It is societal. I posted on that getting-out-of-the-way-of-oncoming-traffic thing a few months ago. I find myself sidestepping in malls to keep from getting plowed down. Gotta hold ground sometimes, I guess.

    BD2, I like your idea best. I wouldn't mind pounding on someone's adult kid while snarling "Go teach your parents some manners!"

    Claire, all lanes are like that down here. I'm getting used to 45 MPH on the highway between random bursts of 90 MPH from the outraged drivers trying to get around the 45ers.

    See Claudia, yours is the peaceful way to handle this: ignore 'em. I should listen to you. Briliant's gonna get me locked up.

    Mist1, you are the Grim Reaper. But let me know if two houses open up. I'm looking for investment property.

    Tiggerlane, bumping is where I draw the line. I won't bump back, especially if the bumper was elderly or physically disabled. But it will cause me to dig in my heels and not budge and to throw in a mean mug to boot.

    Michael C., that's hilarious. You were standing in the way of them making money. I might've nudged you over too;-)

    H&B, I hate the cart blocker person. They are the worst kind of blockers, using their carts to trick you into giving ground!

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 12:06 AM  

  • did anyone mention a pack of kids on a narrow sidewalk?

    By Blogger Pamela, at 12:31 AM  

  • I seriously thought I was the only person this happened to. Worse, I actually find myself apologizing as if I were in their way only to find they swoop into my spot as soon as I step aside. Next time this happens to you ask them if they'd jump in your grave that fast.

    I'll let you know what I do the next time it happens to me. I hope to be as brave.

    By Blogger Dayngr, at 12:49 AM  

  • I don't know...the look I give them is usually not a very peaceful one...

    By Blogger Claudia, at 12:56 AM  

  • Pamela, touche! You are correct. This isn't a behavior limited to seniors. I've seen a fair number of folks in their 20s and 30s... and teens do this too. Unfortunately though, in this neck of the woods seniors are who I encounter most often in this scenario.

    Dayngr, it's a deal. I'll speak up next time and report on what happens.

    Claudia, is the look Magnum or Blue Steel?

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 1:21 AM  

  • One thing about being a Neanderthal is the lack of the manners usually reserved for the more genteel. WHen faced with such a situation I usually fart. As a large man with a healthy appetite, and a love of the scatological, I usually have one cooking in reserve I can work up fairly quickly, and nothing clears real estate liek an ogfart.

    By Anonymous og, at 7:16 AM  

  • I have never noticed this before. Either I'm not shopping for the same stuff or (more likely), it's because I usually ignore everyone around me, anyway.

    Two or more people walking toward me, taking up the whole sidewalk or corridor, though, that I see and experience all the time. I refuse to give ground. Driving or walking, if you're out of your lane you run the chance of getting hit.

    That's why I carry a honking big ass purse.


    By Blogger SWF41, at 9:16 AM  

  • I swear one of these days when somebody steps in front of me at the store while I'm looking at something I'm just gonna run them over with my cart. haha

    Gotta be aggressive and refuse to give up your spot in front of the displays that you're looking at.

    By Blogger Jay, at 9:40 AM  

  • Somehow, some people have come to the notion that being old gives them license to also be rude. Probably their way of retaliating against all these whipper snappers. I guess taking that preventative route would be best. Just stay there.

    By Blogger The Dummy, at 9:50 AM  

  • it's a lethal combination I call Magnum Steel...I've been working on it for years.

    By Blogger Claudia, at 11:01 AM  

  • Seniors are THE WORST when it comes to offenses such as this. They figure they've been around longer, they deserve first pick/view/go... no matter how long you were there before them.

    But I'm a sucker every time, and I let 'em.

    This weekend, for example, I was standing in a busy line at a retail store when this woman in her late 50s/early 60s said "excuse me" and walked under the rope to get in front of me next to her friend.

    "That's fine," I thought. "So long as she's buying your stuff for you."

    And when Lady A was called to the next register, Lady B joined her.

    OK. Phew. No reason to get angry. They're checking out as one.

    Or so I thought until another cashier called "Next" and turned to me, motioning me towards her. Lady B jumped away from her friend's side and onto the newly available register.

    "Oh, yeah," said Cashier A to Cashier B. "She [Lady B] was first."

    I was furious, but I just stood there like a good l'il girl.

    Why are people so rude?

    Perhaps I should reserve this query for the next installment of Ask James Anything...

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 11:04 AM  

  • Discretion is the better part of valor when it comes to old people; you don't want them to drop dead with a heart attack when you ask them WTF are you doing?!?

    It's a shame that people aren't as polite as they used to be. I blame MTV and their lack of music videos.

    Oh, I've noticed you visited my part of the blog world a few times. Would you be interested in doing a blog link exchange sir?

    By Blogger Evil Spock, at 12:30 PM  

  • Maybe you have a lot of problems with old people because you live in Florida and that's were they congregate... You are out numbered. That happens to me also but just by regular people, usually women, and it pisses me off too!!

    By Blogger Erica AP, at 12:53 PM  

  • Og, you have to send me a menu. I might try your strategy too.

    SWF41, I'll ask Mrs. B if she minds me carrying a big-a$$ honking purse. Or maybe I can just borrow hers.

    Jay, I'm gonna put up orange traffic cones around me to drop the hint.

    DD, I have no doubt we deserve some retaliation. Maybe we should form a retail store traffic panel, where old and young have to negotiate concessions, like when to move.

    Claudia, you have to take a picture of Magnum Steel and post it.

    ThirdWorst, I can save my detailed answer for the next Ask James Anything Friday. But I would've gone nuts if that had happened to me. How gracious of you to bite your tongue!

    Evil Spock, don't think that hasn't crossed my mind. Last thing I want is other shoppers glaring at me 'cause I yelled someone to death. And yes, let's do that link exchange.

    I have several folks to add to that blogroll yet.

    Erica, you make a good point. South Florida is the center of the angry old people universe.

    And the frustrating thing is I love old people. I prefer hanging out with old people to folks my age 'cause I figure I'll learn something - either how to or how not to live. But this variety of old people that I'm bumping into in stores down here...they're special.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 4:14 PM  

  • I always say "I'm sorry did you want to pass by?" then its up to them to either be a complete and utter jackass or not. lol

    also... dont move until they ask you.

    also... promise me that when i get crotchety you will gather the blogger pals and come out and take me outta my misery???


    By Blogger Yasamin, at 5:29 PM  

  • I was running today, and noticed a woman coming towards me. I figured she'd move to her right to let me pass, but no, she continued walking right down the middle. I realized she was paying no attention, so right as I got close to her, I loudly cleared my throat. She threw up her hands like I was going to attack her and moved out of my way. Um - pick a side, lady. And yes, she was a senior "citizen".

    By Blogger bc, at 7:04 PM  

  • I just like to screw with people, especially on escalators. I'm the guy who stands still on the left side. Can we still be friends James?

    By Blogger captain corky, at 7:31 PM  

  • I'm thinking that while your prettiness needs to be preserved, you should be able to kick some elderly a** without getting too knocked about. Why not give it whirl and clothesline the next oldster who takes up your retail real estate?

    By Blogger Queen of Dysfunction, at 9:34 PM  

  • Another case of seniors gone senile hahaha. I do feel like sometime the elderly are taking advantage of our sympathy but I look forward to doing the same :)

    @ Captain Corky- You're playing a dangerous game. I accidentally did this once in the D.C. metro during rush hour. I almost got crushed.

    By Anonymous Damon Z, at 11:00 PM  

  • I have had this happen in all age groups. I would suggest my best passive aggressive ploy. Just slid ever so slightly closer to them. Pretend you aren't paying attention and don't look them in the eye. Ninety nine precent of the time they will back down.

    By Blogger wordsonwater, at 11:16 PM  

  • Yas, you're lucky you added that last sentence. I was about to gather folks and head over.

    BC, threw up her hands? What, did she think you were bearing down on her in a truck?

    Captain, I suppose we can still be friends. But we might be jostling for that elevator space.

    Queen, seniors carry pepper spray. My eyes are pretty too. I can't risk it.

    Damon, I feel ya. For all my griping, I'll probably do the same things when I'm up there in age.

    WoW, someone else suggested the Seinfeld close-talker strategy...minus the talk, of course. I may have to try crowding 'em in order to compel 'em to back off a little.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 12:10 AM  

  • James Burnett, good, bad or indifferent, this sounds like something Matt would write about.

    If you could manage to grow another set, I think you could live off of your public appearance fees from the state fair circuit.

    By Blogger 123Valerie, at 12:14 AM  

  • I had a very funny (for me) similar thing happen to me at my local Publix. I was bending down to put a case of water in the belt, when this old lady just scoots in front of me, places about 10 items on the belt and skips in front of me. When I asked her what she thought she was doing (I'm 52 myself, so almost a senior myself) she said that she thought I was a polite "young man" and would have let her through anyway. I replied that, politeness, like a sword, cuts both ways. Had she been polite and asked, yes, I would have let her through. But, since she did not learn her lesson when she was young, back to the line she went, then took off her 10 items and placed them on her cart. Carefully.

    Senior citizens are getting cheekier by the moment.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:59 AM  

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