Stranger danger
March 4, 2013 8:49 PM   Subscribe

Was I being creepy / out of line when I offered this girl a ride?

Tonight I was eating alone at the bar of a local Mexican restaurant (not drinking). Soon after I sat down a girl about my age, maybe a couple years older, sat down besides me and seemed rather upset. I heard her mention something to the waitress about missing her bus and trying for find someone to pick her up. Didn't look like she was having much luck and was kinda down in the dumps. She wasn't drinking either.

I finished eating and payed, and noticed she glanced at me while I was putting on my jacket. I smiled sympathetically and said "Hope you're not stranded here?" She said "yeah kinda", so I offered to give her a lift if she lived nearby. She kinda just stared at the table and said "That's okay, I don't mind the cold, thanks though". Keep in mind it's about 10 degrees F outside and the restaurant is closing.

I totally understand that it's not the 1960s and most girls are not comfortable getting in a car with a stranger. But for some reason I felt kind of shitty afterward and I can't shake it. The way she said it made me feel like a creep. I really wasn't trying to pick her up or anything, I was just trying to be nice.

So was this socially unacceptable on my part or am I just over-thinking this? It bothers me that she might have thought I was trying to take advantage of her.
posted by WhitenoisE to Society & Culture (46 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
You're over thinking it.
posted by empath at 8:50 PM on March 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


It was not socially unacceptable. I'm a woman, and for various reasons I probably would not have taken you up on the ride, but I would have been grateful for the gesture. Keep on keepin' on.
posted by eenagy at 8:53 PM on March 4, 2013 [49 favorites]


Did you say "Ok then!" and walk away? Because that is the non-creepy end to the story. Pressing it further once she's declined would be creepy. Just making the offer isn't, necessarily.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:53 PM on March 4, 2013 [31 favorites]


IMO, you're a good person for a) offering the ride and b) over-thinking it afterwards.
posted by puritycontrol at 8:57 PM on March 4, 2013 [23 favorites]


Nope, not creepy at all. I probably would've taken the ride!
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:00 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


As long as you took no for an answer, not creepy and actually very nice. It's the kind of offer that is unlikely to be accepted because honestly it would be foolish, bordering on reckless, for her to accept a ride from a stranger. But that's just because the world is a dangerous place for women, not because it' automatically inappropriate to offer a ride to a stranger in need.
posted by whoaali at 9:04 PM on March 4, 2013 [17 favorites]


Socially acceptable.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:06 PM on March 4, 2013


I think it was a kind thing to offer, and you should feel good about offering. Because the woman in question doesn't know you, it was probably wisest for her to decline, but that doesn't mean it wasn't kind to offer. Perhaps the shitty feeling is best understood as a reaction to the way the world is - that despite her genuine need and your genuine desire to help, no help was possible because of the risk of violence that attends every woman's life and daily decisions? If so, I sympathise - it totally sucks.
posted by Cheese Monster at 9:14 PM on March 4, 2013 [52 favorites]


One time, when I'd just moved out on my own and didn't have the art of grocery shopping totally down yet, I was trying to carry a couple of way-too-heavy sacks of groceries home, obviously having a really hard time, resting every block. A guy pulled up next to me and asked if I needed a lift home. Now, I'd been carrying these groceries for a mile, it had taken almost an hour, and I still had a mile to go. So I said ok. I got in the car with him... and the whole time I was thinking "oh jesus christ I'm an idiot this guy is going to murder me what was I THINKING?!"

And then he dropped me off at my house and waved goodbye and that was that.

I still think I was foolish for blithely getting in a car with him. He was a decent guy, but that doesn't mean I made a wise choice- it just means I wasn't unlucky. But at the same time, I am grateful that the guy stopped and offered me a ride.

You didn't do anything wrong, and in fact she COULD have wound up really needing your help, so it's good that you offered.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:26 PM on March 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


It was a nice offer, and if it had been offered to me, while I would have never accepted it I would not find it creepy in and of itself.

I would say even if her tone made you feel shitty, it's probably best to extend her a little bit of grace here. It sounds like she was in an very stressful/unpleasant/scary situation, stranded somewhere she was about to be kicked out of in weather that cold, with no known safe options for getting home. It would be a perfect world if she could have overcome that enough to reply with a tone that didn't make you feel bad, but we don't live in a perfect world.
posted by cairdeas at 9:26 PM on March 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Kind of you to offer.

Wise of her to refuse.
posted by 26.2 at 9:29 PM on March 4, 2013 [15 favorites]


Yeah, I just nodded and walked away. I guess I'm just trying to figure out why I feel so bad over so trivial a matter. I don't normally consider myself oversensitive and it's not like I was disappointed she didn't take me up on the ride (totally understandable and I kinda expected her not to anyway).

It's just my own personal feelings afterwards that took me by surprise. I actually got a little teary eyed when I got home (gimme a break, I know). The world is a shitty place I guess. Like she could stand outside in a snowstorm at night for a few hours or risk getting raped to get back home. wtf.
posted by WhitenoisE at 9:34 PM on March 4, 2013 [15 favorites]


You were not creepy. She probably appreciated the offer. I would have in her position-- but I wouldn't have taken the ride either. It sucks that the world is scary and that people have to be suspect of genuine offers of help. Unfortunately, the world is a scary place, and sometimes suffering an inconvenience to stick it out on your own feels like the only reasonably safe decision. Thank you for being awesome, though. You did a good thing.
posted by headspace at 9:40 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another vote for not creepy, and while I would not accept a ride home from a stranger, I would gladly accept an offer for help with cab fare from a good samaritan if I was stranded somewhere in the middle of a snow storm at night.
posted by tanuki.gao at 9:41 PM on March 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you want to help someone in a similar situation ever again here's two ways to not sound creepy.
1. offer to call her a cab and pay for it,
2. make your offer in front of other people, in this case while the waitress was still there and could get a good look at you, and also offer bona fides. Like, I work across the street, here's my ID card or I eat here all the time, Sue over there knows my wife.
posted by fshgrl at 9:42 PM on March 4, 2013 [19 favorites]


Whatever tone she had, it might've been because she was mad at herself for being in that situation to begin with, to the point that a (kind) stranger offers her help.

And I hate feeling like the slightest burden on others, even people I know well. Even if the unlikely case she thought you were being sleazy, you know you weren't, and you did what you could.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:45 PM on March 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Socially acceptable, nice of you to offer, but count me as another woman who would have said no. Nothing to do with you in particular, but you're a random dude in a restaurant who she knows nothing about. If she had gotten in the car with you and gotten safely to her destination, she'd still probably end up thinking about it less as, "that one time a nice guy I didn't know offered me a ride" and more as, "that one time I desperately/stupidly accepted a ride from some random guy and luckily did not get raped and/or killed." It's really, genuinely nothing to do with you in particular, it's just that women are cautious about this kind of thing for a reason. It's a shitty kind of catch-22.

I think tanuki.gao's suggestion of offering cab fare is a good one, if you're ever in a similar situation in the future. Basically, you want to do something helpful that does not impose an obligation on her (for her time or attention) or make her feel unsafe. Maybe call her a cab, pay the driver in advance, and duck back inside to say something like, "Hey, I noticed you seemed like you were in a tight spot, so I called a cab for you. Don't worry about paying for it, I've got it covered. Have a nice night."
posted by yasaman at 9:48 PM on March 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I guess I'm just trying to figure out why I feel so bad over so trivial a matter.

When that kind of thing happens to me, the bad feeling I get is suppressed frustration and rage at the tiny minority of nameless arseholes who make it genuinely unwise for somebody who doesn't know me to accept my no-strings and generously intended offer of help.

Miserable fuckers who take advantage of the vulnerable are why we can't do nice things.
posted by flabdablet at 10:03 PM on March 4, 2013 [24 favorites]


You were being generous and she was being prudent. You both did the right thing in the context of where you were coming from.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:04 PM on March 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I guess I'm just trying to figure out why I feel so bad over so trivial a matter.

If you were me, the answer would be due to emotional contagion. She was upset, and so you ended up feeling upset. Especially when you're offering something to another, it's hard to keep firm the boundary between their reaction and yours.
posted by meese at 10:46 PM on March 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Not creepy and she's probably feeling residual badness as well, as in "I hope that guy doesn't feel bad now; I know he was 99% likely trying to be nice but it's just not a great idea so now I bet he's sad and so now I'm sad too."

This is how I felt when a seat neighbor on an airplane offered me half of his Snickers. (I just feel weird taking someone else's planned food plus it would've made a mess and and and. I ended up then feeling so bad about rejecting his kindness that I engaged him in a good 10 minute conversation as we landed in an attempt to convey, without belaboring the actual issue, that I appreciated the offer and just didn't want to take him up on it was all.)
posted by vegartanipla at 10:51 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're not a creep and you weren't being creepy. You were genuinely nice and that's all that matters. It's okay to over think it a little and worry about it a little. That just means you care how other people feel, and care about being good to people. A few nights of sleep should help settle it.
posted by wam at 11:46 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah emotional contagion.

I wish it would have been non-pushy of you to have shown the waiter or manager your ID or something, as a way to convince her it woulda been OK. But that is not reality *sigh* it woulda been creepy.

I'm so sorry. I long for a friendlier world, too.
posted by jbenben at 11:48 PM on March 4, 2013


I've been offered rides by random strangers a few times when it's raining really hard or something (I walk a lot). I always say no but I'm happy enough that they offered. Her tone of voice was more likely to do with how she was feeling about her situation and nothing to do with you at all, because really most people care more about themselves than about random other people (I sure do!). Whereas your feeling bad is good old human empathy, you feel bad for her situation and hope you didn't make things worse for her. This is a nice thing, you're a nice person. But through no fault of your own there just isn't anything else you could have done for her. Hopefully the people running the restaurant were able to help her out more, or at least let her stay while they clean up and stuff until she found a ride.

Maybe call her a cab, pay the driver in advance, and duck back inside to say something like, "Hey, I noticed you seemed like you were in a tight spot, so I called a cab for you. Don't worry about paying for it, I've got it covered. Have a nice night."

I would not feel at all bad about someone casually offering a ride then leaving but I would be both angry and creeped out by someone calling a cab and paying for it without asking me first. I may be stupid enough to miss a bus or get caught walking in the rain but damn, I'm still an adult able to make my own decisions. This girl was caught in a shitty situation but it was *her* shitty situation, and it was totally her right to turn down offers of help that she didn't want to take.
posted by shelleycat at 12:24 AM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Not creepy.

Two angles:
1. I had a public transit + low drinking water snafu very late one night, and an older woman offered me a ride -- I accepted and was glad I had after seeing how far I would have had to walk. It was kind of you to offer.

2. Rejection is rejection, no matter how wise or normal or expected, and it's fine for it to rankle for a bit.
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:29 AM on March 5, 2013


I would not feel at all bad about someone casually offering a ride then leaving but I would be both angry and creeped out by someone calling a cab and paying for it without asking me first.

There are also people who include cab drivers in the set of strangers they don't feel safe taking rides from. So yeah, it's best not to assume.
posted by cairdeas at 1:25 AM on March 5, 2013


She had a bad day, perhaps might have preferred not dealing with people in general, even before we get into gender and social expectations. You're not abnormal in taking a strong reaction to people's negative vibes; it happens. In fact, I believe that we officially "become" adult only when these two things happen:-

1) When we learn to isolate our moods separate from others': It's _very hard_, trust me, but part of growing up. (I notice that you're 23)
2) [This will happen soon as well, if it hasn't already] When we have consistent (what I call as) Chosen One Moments, situations where everyone around you is freaking out, internally even you as well, but you retain enough composure to calmly sort things out because no one else there can.

You hit #1, and almost hit #2. You're doing fine, trust me.
posted by the cydonian at 2:55 AM on March 5, 2013


Not creepy at all. Just empathetic and powerless to help.
posted by gingerest at 3:05 AM on March 5, 2013


Not creepy at all. But this thread depressed the hell out out me. How did we get to a place where a simple act of compassion has to be looked at as possible threat?

Sigh....
posted by COD at 5:56 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


This bothers you because you're a sympathetic human being who is saddened by the hostile and dangerous place our society has become.

There's nothing you can do to assure this particular stranger that you're not the kind of person who would take advantage of her.

Join the next Take Back the Night or Walk A Mile In Her Shoes event in your area.
posted by mibo at 6:36 AM on March 5, 2013


I am a woman, and I offer people rides fairly regularly. Because I'm a woman, they're usually accepted. You were rejected probably solely because you're a man, and that's got to hurt. It's not like being a man is a bad thing, but there is a tiny number of men out there who make it dangerous for women to accept rides from men, and you were rejected because of those creeps. So the creepy feeling has stuck to you.

I apologize for how this makes you feel, because you're a decent and normal person. Feeling like someone thought you could possibly be a creep is not at all what you deserve, and I am sorry it happened to you. Thanks for making the offer, and for letting her reject it without arguing.
posted by Capri at 7:04 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer. Do not turn this into a discussion.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 8:13 AM on March 5, 2013


You did the right thing and you shouldn't feel upset that she declined. It would be a beautiful world if we could accept acts of kindness from strangers without suspicion.
posted by wolfnote at 8:29 AM on March 5, 2013


I don't see anything wrong with what you did. In fact, I think what you did was totally right. And of course it's totally understandable why she declined, and so she she did was right too. It's too bad this aspect of society is as it is (one person needs help and the other can provide help but something precludes that from happening), and yeah, that state of affairs is worth crying about.
posted by Dansaman at 9:32 AM on March 5, 2013


You're not creepy. Unfortunately, she couldn't be sure of that.
posted by Doohickie at 9:54 AM on March 5, 2013


You were rejected probably solely because you're a man, and that's got to hurt.

Yeah, this. You were rejected because someone thought you might be a rapist, based on something about you that you didn't choose and can't change. I think that's the part that would viscerally get to me at first.

Then layer on the other answers here -- your empathy for her, and the fact that it wasn't an unreasonable call on her part, and the fact that the effect this had on you is just a pale echo of the larger harm rape causes in our society. If it's not too preachy to say this, I'm glad you're taking time to think about it and process it -- it's something really important that we as men too often manage to be totally oblivious to.
posted by jhc at 10:33 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Speaking as someone who happens to be a man but, more importantly, as someone who was voted Most Courteous in my graduating class in a southern high school:

You're not creepy. More specifically any perceived residual creepyness is not yours to own but instead is a function of the society we live in. Being sad about that is not something you are alone in.

One thing I haven't seen mentioned is that you could have dropped cab fare* down after she politely refused. I don't know if that's rude in a sense of forcing a handout, but you could offer anyway, but I'd avoid the potential, and very possible, actual creep factor by just dropping the fare and saying pay it forward then, cya.

*I really hope this option doesn't get flak for being macho or creepy or that it implies she's weak or whatever because damnit paying it forward should always be an option and a person's sex doesn't play into this so ok now I'm done.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:10 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's all fine. You did the right thing to offer - it is totally acceptable. She sounds pretty nice in the way she thanked you.

I really would hesitate to read more into her situation - we honestly do now know what was going on. I probably would not have accepted your offer just because I don't know you, but there may be a lot more going on than you know even if perception of threat is one factor. For instance, it could be that she wasn't really 'stranded' but just had a nonpreferable option like waiting for a later bus. It could be that she lives farther away than you think. It could be that she'd left three messages with people already and was pretty confident of hearing back. She could be an introvert at the end of the day with little social energy left who just didn't want to have to sit in a car with a stranger making awkward conversation (believe me, I have turned down nicer offers than yours because of precisely this factor). There are really too many personal variables to assume "it's because of rape fear" although most likely that is part of the reason that it takes more than a simple one-time, relatively anonymous casual offer for someone to find a way around the internalized prohitions of going somewhere alone with an unknown man.
posted by Miko at 12:13 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, and she's smart for refusing of course, that's her call to make. Sucks to miss the bus but she was playing it safe or had her own reasons, no harm no foul all around.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:15 PM on March 5, 2013


For instance, it could be that she wasn't really 'stranded' but just had a nonpreferable option like waiting for a later bus. It could be that she lives farther away than you think. It could be that she'd left three messages with people already and was pretty confident of hearing back.

She could have a boyfriend or parent who would freak out on her for accepting a ride, either due to safety concerns or possessiveness.
posted by fshgrl at 12:32 PM on March 5, 2013


Its got nothing to do with you, she didn't even know you. She just did what most women would do, which is not accept a ride from a stranger. Rule 1 to stay safe.
posted by pakora1 at 12:35 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


(I thought about the cab fare thing, too, RolandOfEld, and my reason for not mentioning it wasn't to do with macho or whatever, it's just that I don't know what the taxi situation is where OP was.)
posted by gingerest at 3:22 PM on March 5, 2013


This suggested response on your part just might help in diminishing the hopelessness you're feeling.
posted by cynicalidealist at 7:49 PM on March 5, 2013


I saw this question had tons of responses and I expected there to be a pile on and your question to be something like "Hey I was driving down the street really slow and saw this fine babe and asked her like ten times and she wouldn't get in the car with me and called me a creep, what's the deal yo?" and your actual question is pretty much the exact opposite. offering help to someone who needs it, casually yet not objectifyingly. +1 for humanity!
posted by ghostbikes at 12:05 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a former askee - please don't feel bad. Years ago I took a bus to a job interview, was dropped at the wrong stop, and had no time to wait for the next one, because interview.

The man I stopped on the street for directions said it was way too far to walk and offered me a ride - I declined, then walked a mile & a half in heels. I still think of him very fondly.
posted by wheek wheek wheek at 3:09 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nthing you did the right thing and she did the right thing.

In college a female friend and I stupidly got ourselves into a very scary situation involving being driven off campus to a *party* many miles away. The party turned out to be four guys and us. As soon as we got in the house the guys became very creepy and pushy. We ran but had no where to go and, being totally new in town, knew no one to call (we didnt even know where in LA we were for sure). A guard at an LAX security gate offered us a ride back to campus when his shift ended. We took it and got home safely. I still thank him in my head to this day, and to this day still cant believe I got into a car with total strangers twice in one night and came out unscathed. I would never do ANY of it again.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 5:35 PM on March 6, 2013


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