Is this an individual quirk or the norm for some group?
June 19, 2013 8:23 PM Subscribe
Something very strange happened to me yesterday, and I'm trying to figure out whether this sort of behavior was an individual quirk or if I've run afoul of some obscure but very strong taboo. More detail inside, but basically I asked somebody to step aside by tapping her shoulder and she ended up shouting at me and slapping me several times with both hands on my shoulder. I don't understand quite what happened there.
posted by d. z. wang to Human Relations (77 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Toward the end of a dance class, I went to the back of the room where somebody was in front of my water bottle. The teacher was still talking, so instead of saying "Excuse me" I tapped this person on the shoulder. As she stepped aside, she said something like, "You know, you can just talk to me and I'll move. You don't have to touch me." (I use quotation marks, but of course I'm paraphrasing from memory.) I said, "I'm sorry, I didn't want to make noise." I meant to continue, "while the teacher is talking," but she interrupted me to shout, "Well, that's how I communicate. By talking, not like this." And then she slapped me repeatedly with both hands on my shoulder, not hard enough to bruise but much, much harder than I had touched her. I said, "I'm sorry. I had no idea this was offensive. I won't do it again." She said something in reply, but she mumbled it while walking away, so I could only make out a few isolated words. Not enough to repeat here.
As I was walking out, another student approached me and said, "Don't worry, she does that with everybody." I didn't have the presence of mind to ask what exactly this person did with everybody. I assume the other student meant that this person had shouted at and/or slapped somebody else, although that doesn't make much sense. I would expect that tapping people on the shoulder is a common enough convention that if this person reacted like this every time then I would have heard about it by now, if only by being in the same room the last time it happened.
The weird part is, she seemed merely annoyed that I had touched her. It wasn't until I said, "I'm sorry, I didn't want to make noise," that she starting shouting and hitting me. Usually, people take offense before I apologize, not afterward. So I don't know what to make of this. In particular, I don't know if this is just a random fluke or if it's an individual quirk or if there is some group of people out there who reliably take great offense at some part of this interaction. Hopefully, in the last case, at least one member of that group reads AskMe?
In case it helps, this happened in New York, this person was middle-aged, some variety of "white," and spoke English fluently with one of the American accents.