Dealing with difficult strangers
May 29, 2016 11:04 AM   Subscribe

A stranger thought I stole his citybike and proceeded to yell at me. I live in a nice area and this man "looked" to be a respectable middle aged business man, so it came as quite a shock for me. I know I shouldn't care about what crazy strangers say, but getting called a bitch and a fucking c*** really disturbs me!

The city I live in is pretty compact and city bikes are a convenient way to get around. I live about 20 minutes walking distance from my job and on my way to work there is a bike rack where I sometimes rent a bike to get to work in about 10 minutes. This year we had a new system for the city bikes where you can unlock a bike from your phone app as long as you are standing next to the bike rack. A few days ago I went past the bike rack and noticed there was just 1 bike left, and I was feeling pretty lucky. When I tried to unlocked the bike, I noticed that this bike wasn't available (I have no idea why), when I was about to start walking to work, I saw another guy bike up and it was clear he was going to drop off his bike, so I decided to wait 30 seconds to get his bike. As the biker parked his bike, another man walked behind him and was also clearly waiting (it takes a few seconds for the bike to get registered and available for another rental). I know the second man didn't see me. The bike rack is pretty long, 25 bikes can fit on it, and the new bike was parked in the middle while I was standing at one end. Anyway, since I got there first (and the app assigns bikes, first come first serve) I was assigned the bike, even though he was standing next to it. I went over and said "excuse me", and then he said "are you seriously going to just swoop in and take my bike"? I told him I was standing on the other side, and then he called me a bitch. I was surprised and proceeded to adjust the seat and ignored him since I thought the encounter was over. When I was finished adjusting the seat and starting to go my own way, the man had walked over to the bike that was originally at the rack, and when he noticed that the other bike was not available, he then called me a fucking c***. I was really shocked and embarrassed. Also, the man looked to be in his 40s, clean, respectable.. What should I think of this situation? Was I wrong to take the bike? In general, is it better to be more passive and avoid situations where intentions can be misinterpreted? I saw him walk up and I know he didn't see me, should I have just walked away when I saw someone else was waiting? Either way he was crazy to yell at me.. Please let me know what you think and if you had any encounters with crazy strangers.
posted by Dooney to Human Relations (45 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You should think that this man has anger issues and that they have less than nothing to do with you.

You were not wrong to rent the bike. You were there first. In no way did you do anything wrong by getting a bike to go to work.

It is not necessarily better to be more passive and to avoid situations where big angry men may decide to yell at you. He was wrong to yell at you, and his use of terms makes me think that he would not have done this to a man who reserved the bike before he did, and that he was "punching down" at a woman because he felt entitled to and able to.

Sorry you had to experience this.
posted by sockermom at 11:16 AM on May 29, 2016 [74 favorites]

Sorry you got yelled at. This is one of those things you should post to your local Craigslist's Rants and Raves section and then forget about forever.
posted by jamaro at 11:18 AM on May 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think in some cases you just have to imagine that guy's had one of those days where this was just one annoyance in a long string and he lost his cool. Nothing to do with you. Maybe he had learned earlier he had made a decision that resulted in people's deaths. Who knows.

I think "sorry, I've been waiting" and a shrug was all you needed to do, then try to let it go unless he was trying to bully or threaten you into giving him the bike. Sorry, I know it sucks and can't really excuse the guy's behavior, but it's gonna happen sometimes.
posted by ctmf at 11:19 AM on May 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Crazy people where suits too. I'm sorry this happened to you. You were right, he was wrong. In my experience, sharing scary stories like this helps lessen the burden, so share with friends and family what happened.
posted by Toddles at 11:24 AM on May 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Angry people are not necessarily "crazy," and it may be helpful not to conflate the two.

You handled the situation fine. I'm sorry you had to deal with that man's inappropriate anger. That always rattles me, too.
posted by lazuli at 11:28 AM on May 29, 2016 [12 favorites]

Wearing a suit is indicative of wearing a suit. Being respectful is a sign of respectability.

You did nothing wrong.
posted by aniola at 11:33 AM on May 29, 2016 [24 favorites]

Bullies gonna bully; and sexist, entitled, self-centered jerks are gonna be who they are. You handled it well and correctly, and probably --- as sockermom says above --- he wouldn't have pulled that kind of angry meltdown on another man.

Maybe next time, try to stand with your hand on the bike's handlebars? He'd still be a jerk, but it might make your being there first more obvious.
posted by easily confused at 11:36 AM on May 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry this happened to you - it's pretty shocking to be called those nasty names when you are just going about the daily business of living. It's good that you still got the bike and rode away from this jerk. I agree with sockermom that he probably would not have treated another man this way.

I recently finished listening to the book Shrill by Lindy West. She is a woman who has had a lot of online vitriol directed at her, all for having the audacity to voice her opinions. In one of the chapters about how she deals with trolls who use gendered insults and threats of violence at her. Ultimately, she keeps on doing the things she is doing and is living her life. She feels sorry for these trolls, because their comments are a sign of a deeply messed up worldview, one full of pain and anger, not just at women, but at themselves. Hopefully this will change as we chip away at misogyny in our culture.

The same thing happened to me a few months ago - I went into a public restroom and there was a male custodian in there, even though there was no sign saying that it was being cleaned. He was screaming at me to get out, that I wasn't allowed in there, and then another male custodian came in behind me to say the same thing. One of them followed me to my car after I said I was going to report them. The adrenaline from this event took a few days to subside and I still second guess my response to it. But, I had no warning that this was going to happen, and when it did, I did what it took to get myself to safety. It wasn't my fault, and even if I had made a mistake and missed a sign, their response was way disproportionate to what happened.

His comment was a reflection on him and his worldview, not you or what you did. It was disproportionate to his inconvenience. Keep on living.
posted by topophilia at 11:52 AM on May 29, 2016 [16 favorites]

You both were operating on different assumptions. He was the first to wait for that bike, physically, while you were the first to wait virtually. And I think you knew that on some level, or you would have physically walked up to the bike that was about to come to you, rather than letting the guy wait for it and then trying to waltz off with it.

You were wrong to take the bike that he was physically calling dibs on without trying to counter before the bike was available, he was wrong for yelling at you.
posted by corb at 11:53 AM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I live in a nice area and this man "looked" to be a respectable middle aged business man, so it came as quite a shock for me.

It would probably help to realize that whether or not a person has manners has much less to do with their socio-economic status than you seem to think. Well-to-do people in good neighborhoods can be rude. Low-income people in grubby clothes and less-nice neighborhoods can be lovely and polite.

He was 100% wrong to yell at you, that's for sure. Can we cool it with the "crazy" talk tho? However, in your shoes I would have made my presence known before the bike arrived to try and mitigate a potential misunderstanding. Not because you were wrong or impolite at all, but just because I know that unpleasantness can erupt anywhere and I prefer to avoid it.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:53 AM on May 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

You were wrong to take the bike that he was physically calling dibs on without trying to counter before the bike was available,

She had already signed up in the app. If she had not approached when she did and waited for Suit Man to try to physically take the bike, he just would have gotten the "unavailable" message for both bikes. And then had to watch her approach and unlock the bike anyway.
posted by chainsofreedom at 11:56 AM on May 29, 2016 [39 favorites]

From what you're saying about the app, it sounds like you were actually next in line no matter where you were physically standing. It might have been nice to make it clear earlier that you were next, but I can't see where you did anything wrong. Certainly, your actions did not in any way merit his response. This encounter would definitely shake me up for a few days, but I think it's one of those things that unfortunately happens to women occasionally. The world is full of obnoxious, entitled men in suits, and you encountered one. This internet stranger says you have nothing to feel bad about.
posted by FencingGal at 12:02 PM on May 29, 2016 [10 favorites]

When this happens to me, it's much harder to shake because of the gendered nature of the verbal assault as well as the bullying aspect (it's always clear to me that if I were a physically imposing man, these jerks wouldn't be nearly as brave and entitled as they are when yelling at a woman.)

I usually just ignore them or, if I think I'm not in danger of being physically assaulted, I wave my pinkie finger at them or make a crybaby gesture.
posted by quince at 12:06 PM on May 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

You were wrong to take the bike that he was physically calling dibs on without trying to counter before the bike was available,

Except that's not at all how the bike reservation system works, so no, the OP was not "wrong" to take the bike that was assigned to her. Doesn't matter that the guy was standing near it, he evidently wasn't using the system correctly and she was so the person in the wrong is the guy screaming "cunt!" at a woman for following proper procedures.

OP, I'm sorry this happened. It's hard to remember that it's not about you, it's about whatever bonkers scenario is playing out in the screamer's head, but... it really isn't about you. When I'm being screamed at by a stranger, the best tactic is usually to de-escalate and get away. Don't scream back, don't even respond if you can help it, just get out of there. Someone who screams at strangers cannot be trusted at all, so the most important thing is just to get to a safe place.
posted by palomar at 12:17 PM on May 29, 2016 [35 favorites]

Every once and awhile, I have a "magic" moment where someone is SO irrationally angry with me that I find it funny. Like "woah! This is just ridiculous." Those moments are magic because it suddenly is perfectly clear that this their reaction is their responsibility and mine is mine.

There is no right way to deal with this stuff --- sometimes you're going to want to de-escalate the situation, sometimes your going to want to escalate it ("stand up for yourself"). I don't think it's right or wrong to pick escalate or deescalate.

The only rule I strive for is: what if I had to explain this to someone I admire? Would I stand by my reaction?
posted by CMcG at 12:18 PM on May 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

His only real rational beef here is "well, you could have said something when you saw me waiting." Which is not required, and not at all worth screaming at a stranger over. Don't worry, he's either ashamed of himself right now for losing his mind, or a hardcore MRA who doesn't really need an excuse to treat women badly. Either way, you did the right thing in response.
posted by ctmf at 12:24 PM on May 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

You did nothing wrong, in my opinion.

I've found that these sort of angry outburst often happen when someone was taking a short cut or making wrong assumptions and it doesn't work out the way they expected. A recent example from my life was yesterday, I was walking my geriatric and very slow but stubborn dogs around the block. I was standing at the intersection of the alley and the sidewalk, with one dog pulling forward and the other sniffing the ground behind me. A car screeched to a halt approaching me from a left turn on the street. The driver had tried to to cut in front of oncoming traffic and assumed the sidewalk was clear. So she started yelling and cursing at me because now she was blocking all the traffic, and the people she had cut off were honking which pissed her off more. So while I'm turned around, trying to move my slow dog clear of the alley entrance, this other jerk I've never met runs up to to my other dog (to say hi? who knows), my dog freaks and barks at him, so he starts yelling and cursing at me and my dogs. All this because I was where I was supposed to be and a couple people didn't do what they were supposed to, and it blew up on them.

I'm sure the use of c*** and b**** was because you are a woman. I'm not so sure about the fact it would never happen if you were male (certainly my own lived experience is that being a man doesn't eliminate this sort of stuff from happening), the language in my experience yesterday, and generally typically, was more like m******f***ing a**hole f****t.
posted by conic at 12:26 PM on May 29, 2016 [9 favorites]

No he shouldn't have flipped out but you could have said "I'm actually signed for that bike" and maybe shown him your phone instead of just saying "excuse me" and then ignoring him. Honestly, it sounds like it could have been handled better by both sides.

In general, is it better to be more passive and avoid situations where intentions can be misinterpreted?

Of course not. It's better to use your words. Be direct. Be assertive. Be politely firm. But don't just shrink back and hope the situation somehow gets better on its own.
posted by Beti at 12:47 PM on May 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: I really want to thank everyone for your helpful comments! It does help to share the story.
I would just like to clarify about the citybike app. You have to be next to a rack or else it doesn't work, but you can be standing anywhere next to the rack (either end or along the side). It randomly assigns bikes based on some sort of system (first in, first out perhaps?), so there is no "best place to stand". Basically, it takes a few seconds for the GPS signal to work when you arrive and I think this was my advantage since I was already there. When I saw the bike was available I clicked on "unlock" while he was still turning on the app. There is also a key pad at one end where people without apps can type in their numbers and code. The ironic thing is I had a conversation with some friends before the incident and we agreed there could be a potential bad situation if someone was using the key pad, then someone else could potentially "steal" the bike using the phone.. This wasn't that situation since we were both using our phones.
Anyway, I really appreciate everyone's comments!
posted by Dooney at 12:58 PM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Wait, so you saw him physically waiting for the bike, saw him going to his phone to unlock the bike once it was available, and because you had the app already open you clicked "unlock" for the bike he was standing next to, then walked up and took it? Yes, that was a very rude thing to do even if you were technically entitled to do so - especially because your story makes it clear that you were waiting until you had secure the bike to announce your presence.

No matter how rude your action was, it is not okay for him to scream profanity at you. However, it would be best in future to avoid trying to snipe people's spot/bike/what have you if you're trying to /avoid/ confrontation.
posted by corb at 1:05 PM on May 29, 2016

You should think that this man has anger issues and that they have less than nothing to do with you.

This. You did absolutely nothing wrong.

A few years ago, I pulled into a parking spot at the grocery store next to a guy who'd just gotten there himself. He'd turned his truck off, but as soon as I parked, he turned it back on again and moved a few spaces over, so he had empty spaces on either side. When I got out of my car, he came up to me and started screaming at me about how incredibly rude I was for parking next to him - didn't I know that you are never supposed to park in a spot right next to another car if there are other spots available in the lot? I just pretended not to hear him and walked into the store.
posted by SisterHavana at 1:10 PM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I appreciate your response corb. I think you are right. I think I shouldn't have clicked on it, and I regretted it afterwards. I know this will sound defensive, but I did it because I was there already, and I saw the biker ride up, decided to wait for him (I didn't think it was necessary to walk up next to the bike), and then he came up afterwards.. I do regret what I did, and honestly didn't think too much of it at the moment. I was just really shook up by what he said. I'm sorry if my original post wasn't clear about how the app worked. I intended to give a clear definition of what happened that day.
posted by Dooney at 1:11 PM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

You were standing by the bike rack waiting for a bike before the rude horrible guy got there. The fact that he didn't see you doesn't mean you had to leave the bike for him! Don't blame yourself, you didn't do anything wrong.
posted by hazyjane at 1:12 PM on May 29, 2016 [26 favorites]

Best answer: No matter where he was standing, you were next in line having already tried for the bike that was mysteriously there, yet not available and then "next" for the newly returned bike. You were using the system correctly, as it was designed to be used. This yelling dude was just mad because he thought an informal dibs system was in effect. Nope. You were right on both counts and he was wrong to not use the system correctly and then try to bully you when he didn't instantly get what he wanted. You're not responsible for how the system is designed.
posted by quince at 1:18 PM on May 29, 2016 [37 favorites]

Things that people already said and :

Please remember that incident for the future.

You just had an evidence right in front of you that yes, a respectable looking man in nice suit can behave in this way.
It should help you when you might see some "red flags" about your new nice friend or date. You won't think that since the man is wearing a nice suit , he surely can't be bad; instead you'll think that if you see him behaving in a way you don't like, that means he behaves this exact way, and will do more of it in the future.
posted by Oli D. at 1:26 PM on May 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

What should I think of this situation?

That the guy got his just deserts. He's probably still fuming about how you made a fool out of him by "stealing" his bike. (A woman! Probably laughing at him! Isn't that a man's blackest nightmare) He's full of helpless rage.
Have you ever felt this mad? It's its own worst punishment.

I hope you'll feel better soon. You will cause you're a decent person. He'll always be a ragey asshole.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:32 PM on May 29, 2016 [8 favorites]

You did absolutely nothing wrong. That guy was an asshole. And you don't have to invent stories about how he might've had a bad day to try to make yourself feel sorry for him, either. There's no excuse for his misogynistic behavior.
posted by a strong female character at 2:08 PM on May 29, 2016 [8 favorites]

Entitled jerk. It's hardly your fault he didn't know how the reservation system works.

I experienced something similar a year ago, and posted this question . You might find the answers helpful.
posted by rpfields at 2:44 PM on May 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

I take photographs and encounter stuff like this constantly from people who feel I have no right to take a picture of say a church or a store or other building. They are dead certain that I am breaking the law for some nefarious purpose. One time they even called the cops and made me wait until they arrived.
posted by xammerboy at 3:28 PM on May 29, 2016

Wait, so you saw him physically waiting for the bike, saw him going to his phone to unlock the bike once it was available, and because you had the app already open you clicked "unlock" for the bike he was standing next to, then walked up and took it?

No, she was standing there first, saw the bike arrive, waited to see if the app would assign her the bike, and was assigned the bike, probably because she was there first, waiting with the app on, while aggro jerk was still walking up.

Sometimes when a stranger gets unreasonably angry at me, I think, "I'm sorry for whatever is going on in your life that's made you such an unhinged asshole that you'll call a complete stranger a c***." It's not about making me feel bad for them, but a reminder that that sort of behavior is not about me. You did nothing wrong. Even if you'd spoken up earlier, you'd probably have just gotten yelled at earlier.
posted by Mavri at 4:14 PM on May 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

Thankfully this kind of alarming situation is rare. I have held up my cell and offered to call 911 if he/she didn't go away NOW. If I don't get immediately furious and defensive in return, then I stew for days second-guessing myself. I don't think you were intentionally line-jumping or whatever you want to call it, and no one is allowed to call you names like he did.
posted by Lornalulu at 4:57 PM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

You were asking for similar stories. Well, I had one happen just two days ago which really shook me up. I was shopping at the mall, (in Australia, I don't know how it works elsewhere) and the rules for parking say that if you've been there longer than three hours, you have to pay. How it works is that you put your ticket in the meter as you're leaving and if you owe money, you then put your credit card in, it charges you and then the boom gate is raised and you can drive through. Otherwise you can't leave. And there's usually a queue waiting behind you.

Well, I put my credit card in...and it didn't come out. It was stuck. It took me maybe 15 seconds to establish it wasn't coming out. I couldn't drive through without it, and was trying to talk to the people on the intercom. This whole thing took maybe 30, 45 seconds tops. And behind me in the queue people were going absolutely ballistic. A whole 30 seconds of their life had been taken and I was being screamed at, being called a f**** c, you f**** d***h**d, you name it. One man in particular was really scary, honking his horn, sticking his head out the window. I thought he was going to come over and punch me.

Anyway I managed to get through (the people on the intercom raised the boom and let me out) and wait for someone to come and get my card out of the machine but I remember thinking, wow, this guy is terrifying if that's all it takes to set him off. Chances are someone comes home to him at night and what happens to them if they screw up? Also, what's going on in this person's life if this is his reaction to what is a pretty minor incident all up, where he feels it necessary to scare the living crap out of another person for something that's no fault of my own? He clearly had major anger issues. In a way it made me appreciate my own husband who I've never even heard raise his voice at me much less anything else.

I spoke about it to a few people and just talking about it helped me feel better. I'm really sorry this happened to both of us. I think I will try and do something nice for someone else to offset it. Maybe that will work for you too.
posted by Jubey at 5:01 PM on May 29, 2016 [8 favorites]

You did nothing wrong. The man was behaving childishly (at best), and was essentially verbally assaulting you using gendered language. Not good at all.
posted by My Dad at 5:47 PM on May 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Sounds like he was having a bad day. Not your fault, not really about you, don't worry about it.
posted by w0mbat at 6:34 PM on May 29, 2016

He was obviously in the wrong and it's very natural to be rattled by something like that. One thing you can do is to just notice and label your feelings as you're feeling them, e.g., "yes, wow, he is yelling at me and I feel frightened. Okay, I still feel shaky. Now I feel angry. Okay, that's what anger feels like." There's good evidence that labeling feelings does not make them go away, but can make them feel less totally overwhelming. And if you practice doing this routinely, it can help you change your automatic response, whether that's retaliating or shrinking away. (I could stand to take my own advice on this one more often, tbh...)

It sounds like assertiveness training might also be useful to you (there are books, or you can see a counselor or go to a course) -- not because you did anything wrong, but because it might help you practice techniques to de-escalate situations like this without rolling over. One trick I sometimes use is to pair something sympathetic-sounding with something assertive. So something like "mm, yeah, sorry, I reserved it on the app" or "mm, yeah, sorry, I guess I got to it first" or even a sympathetic shrug might take a little of the wind out of his sails (though sadly it's not a guarantee). I also liked ctmf's "sorry, I've been waiting." The point of this is not that you have to mollify a stranger who's blowing up at you for no reason, because you definitely don't -- it's just a tactic you can use if you choose to.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:41 PM on May 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Were you wrong to take the bike? No. If you reserved it and the app assigned it to you, and you had let him take it to mollify his crankypants entitlement complex, then if he took the bike and dumped it into the nearest canal or whatever, you would have had to pay for it. You were obviously correct to take the bike that was assigned to you.

I get where you're coming from, because I would have spent the rest of the day kicking myself and feeling bad for this -- something that frankly doesn't make sense at a distance. He was the irrational one and he was mean to you, but no, you did nothing wrong, you didn't fail to be nice enough, and you didn't deserve such shitty remarks.

Maybe next time, if you're feeling kind, tell the angry person about the app and how he too can save his valuable waiting time by reserving in advance. Then ride off into the sunset and rest easy knowing you'll never have to see him again.
posted by sldownard at 10:46 PM on May 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Just because he didn't see you, doesn't put you at fault for having been there first. You didn't pull a slick jerk move, you were just beneath his notice until you interrupted his expectation of being next in line.

A reasonable response would have been a sheepish smile and 'whoops, sorry, didn't see ya,' not a full-blown sidewalk tantrum. Just because he flipped out, doesn't mean you did something to deserve it.
posted by Fantods at 10:52 PM on May 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

I really have to say that I wholeheartedly disagree with corb. You were waiting first and got the bike first fair and square. I also want to talk a little about feeling that you deserve something. I was taught from a young age to play it safe in public in order not to attract attention and that often meant just letting others have their way. In this instance the dude WANTED to have his way and that is why he started screaming at you. I fully know the felling of just giving in as the path of least resistance/safest path and though it feels like the right thing to do, it just perpetuates the cycle of men taking things from those they perceive to be weaker than them. You deserved to get that bike because you were there first, even if you were not hovering over the bike. That other dude was not paying attention and it does not give him any right to scream at a stranger. I hate encountering people like this because it is obvious that they do not notice anyone who is not like them and he probably did not expect you to take the bike and got mad when you didn't give it to him right away. Stay strong! Fight back! Don't give in! /end feminist rant for the day.
posted by ruhroh at 11:57 PM on May 29, 2016 [27 favorites]

Your question is also about "how to deal with difficult strangers." The challenge is, this guy was being more than difficult, he was being abusive. It's not something you can really, totally prepare for emotionally since he was being so transgressive.

The thing to do is to not respond and seek safety. If the stranger persists, you can say something like "I feel that my safety is being threatened. Stop talking to me." It likely won't work but at least you can tell a police officer that you asked the assailant to stop if the situation escalates.
posted by My Dad at 12:15 AM on May 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Maybe this story will help put things in perspective: a few years ago, I was trying to hail a cab on a boulevard that usually has plenty of them, but where I had been waiting for a few minutes with none in site. Then a woman walked up to a spot a bit in front of me in terms of the direction of the traffic), raised her arm, and got a cab right away. A cab that should have been mine! I said out loud, without even thinking about it "are you fucking kidding me??" She whipped around, completely embarrassed, and said "Oh no, I didn't see you there!" Meanwhile, I was dying of embarrassment myself for having said that out loud, and let her take the cab. Another one came a minute later.

This was a very similar situation, one in which we both did something a little bit wrong (she didn't look to see if someone else was waiting, I swore at her without meaning to but both apologized and moved on with our days, with a funny story to share, no less. This is how adults deal with a situation like this: maybe getting a bit annoyed, but 1. understanding that it's not the end of the world and 2. certainly not screaming at another person about it.

Please don't feel you did anything wrong, or that you should just let big pushy men have whatever they want to avoid conflict (that way lies disaster for you). Honestly, I don't even necessarily know if speaking up earlier, like some are suggesting, would have helped - it might have just made him feel stupid (because he is an insecure bully) and resulted in the same situation. Honestly, the fault here is all his.
posted by lunasol at 12:35 AM on May 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I feel much better about the situation. I don't think I did anything wrong, and am actually glad I didn't say anything more to him on the day because the way he said "bitch" was very aggressive and I didn't want to prolong my encounter with him. Your comments have really helped me gain closure on the experience and I will now stop wasting my time second-guessing my actions and write this off as just a bad experience.
posted by Dooney at 1:46 AM on May 30, 2016 [11 favorites]

Ah I know the feeling. I get pretty up in arms (internally) if someone acts out like that.

I think talking about it helps the most, online or with your friends.

Also, if I can muster it, I try to look at how absurd the situation is and find the humor...and kind of laugh at them/the situation. That's how I dealt with rude/nasty customers when I was a waitress. Just distance myself and laugh that they are so upset over something so trivial.
posted by christiehawk at 11:57 AM on May 30, 2016

It is because you are a woman. He wouldn't have dreamed of doing it to a man, because a man might have punched him. He is a bully. Unfortunately lots of people are bullies. God knows what set him off, maybe he was having a bad day at work, maybe his car broke down, who knows? Whatever it was he decided to take it out on you because he thinks women deserve to be on the receiving end of his strops.

I yell back if there are other people around (I usually say they're a coward who would never dare speak to a man like that and they should be ashamed of themselves, in the hope that the public embarrassment will make them think twice next time). I'm sure that is not massively sensible and will get me punched one day. And even though I yell back I still end up shaking afterwards, it is a very stressful thing to happen. Sorry it happened to you.
posted by tinkletown at 5:18 PM on May 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

The man was an abusive jackhole (sorry, but when I "have a bad day" I'm maybe a little snippy to the cable company over the phone, I don't call anyone a "cunt").

You had the bike fair and square; it would have been ridiculous to give it to him because he had a sense of entitlement and for that reason alone. If I had done what he did I would have said "oh, sorry!" and been confused for a moment, MAYBE annoyed at the cosmos if I was in a big hurry, but holy hell its not your fault. Some might even say technology is a good solution for situations like this where one would otherwise have to assert physical dominance to get their turn; the app system is more fair.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:47 PM on May 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am shocked and disappointed there are people in here explaining away a stranger using the c-word and b-word to berate a woman as "he was probably having a bad day." There is no excuse for this clear misogyny. It's not reasonable, understandable, explainable as anything but rank sexist rage, and no one should be giving him a pass for it. If that happened to me and I was having a bad day (and was immature and entitled enough to displace my bad feelings onto someone I didn't know...) there are a million other things to say: "thanks a lot, jerk!" Or "WTF!" Or "omg I can't believe that!" Or "what an asshole!"
posted by sallybrown at 10:51 AM on June 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

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