Monday, November 24, 2008

Social Misstep

I honestly don't know that I'm going to be able to adequately explain what happened to me this evening. It's not earth shattering or scary or anything it's just so fricking odd I can't stop trying to parse it.

To understand the logistics you need to know the basic layout of my apartment complex. We take up one entire city block and you can enter the courtyard from either of the two streets that flank us. You walk in on a path in the middle of the block to a security pavilion in the center of the space and once you're in the pavilion you choose to go through a door to the right or one to the left, 3 buildings on one side and 3 on the other.

The players are me and a woman who lives on my side of the pavilion. She's older than me, shorter than me with thick glasses and a businesslike little walk I can recognize from a mile away. She has a young dog, Daisy, who is so soft it seems she can't possibly be real and so ill-behaved you know that she must be.

Historically I steer well clear of the woman and the dog. I use Emily as an excuse because I know she would take poor Daisy dog to the cleaners and this woman is incapable of holding Daisy back and eventually someone would get hurt and it'd probably be Em. Selfishly it's because this woman kind of creeps me out. OK, and she pisses me off. She knows that Em has some issues and yet she blunders around the sidewalks and the complex with no sort of awareness of who is around her. So there I'll stand for minutes at a time as she chats or fixes keys or whatever blocking a pathway or exit. She never gives way or helps me out or anything and I hate it when people are oblivious like that. She's not the only one who acts like this but that's no excuse.

Anyway, tonight I was on my way home from work and as I turned down my block I could see this lady and Daisy ahead so I slowed down a bit to give them time to get inside before me. Not surprisingly they dawdled and I was only a few yards behind them as they hit the pavilion. Standing in the first door the woman decided to look for her keys. In the doorway, with it open, letting out all the heat that we all pay for so we don't have security guardsicles! I can't wait for her to go in and I have my keys out already because I am perfect (heh) so I get closer and closer. She finds her keys, looks up and sees me and holds the door. I motion her to go ahead and it's like she doesn't even see my hand. She stares me down and refuses to budge. So I'm stuck at that point and have to say hello and all. I'm a big girl, it won't kill me. I was, after all, brought up right no matter how I come across. I thank her and she moves to the second door.

Note that I said to the door.

She stands smack in front of it, with her back to it even, staring at me. I wait for her to open the door. Protocol here is one opens the door as fast as possible for whoever is waiting. If the person in front has trouble finding keys then the next person steps up in a sort of deferential manner, never brusque, always as though we are simply doing the person in front a favor which they can refuse to accept at any time. I don't know why it's like that, it just is. Between woman and dog I'm completely cut off from the doorway so I can't step up plus I can see that she's holding her key out and at the ready but she won't stop staring at me.

"Is that Emily's leash?" she asks.

She was staring directly at my keys. I'm so confused. I looked down and saw that my cheap Target lanyard was hanging from my keys, the keys I was holding in a place of prominence, ready to unlock any door I can get within arms reach of.

"No," I reply, still baffled and not afraid to let it show. "Just my keys."

She stands. She stares. I look around for assistance. One of the guards started to realize what was going on, or maybe he thought we both couldn't find our keys and were waiting for him so he started looking for his keys.

Daisy finally noticed I was standing there and was so happy to see me. I generally only see her on very special occasions when she's out with the dogwalker and I'm out without Em. She jumped and leaped and flung herself at me repeatedly and let me scritch her a little and we made weird small talk about the dog. The woman ineffectually told Daisy to stop and I talked about how good Daisy is. She's not good but she's so sweet in her badness and I feel sorry for her. She's got good in her but no one thus far has decided to go digging for it.

Giving up on getting Daisy reined in the woman says to no one in particular, "Oh, those are your keys." Wha huh? The boon was that Daisy moved so I could slide past her still unmoved owner and unlock the door.

As per the aforementioned protocol I held the door for them and then followed them out. "I thought that looked too small to be a leash for a....a Emily. Emily is your dog isn't she?"

"Yes she is." I was pulling ahead but couldn't justify a full out run. I began to wonder why she was so interested in my dog and my supposed leash and if she was so interested why she might not also be interested in helping me get inside after a long ass day at work and give my poor dog a chance to pee and stretch her legs!

"How old is she?"

"She's 13 and a half."

"Oh wow, she looks great." I cannot tell you how many times I've had that conversation lately and it's making the superstitious part of me sick to my stomach every freaking time.

"Thanks. She's doing pretty well. Fingers crossed!" I tossed out in that way that you do that means, 'my fingers are crossed.'

After a beat I heard behind me, "Oh I will." (beat) "I promise!" No doubt she will. I can't stop her. I'm not even going to try.

What in the fucking fuck just happened to me? Writing it down I wonder if she has a much more serious sight problem than is apparent and it contributes to her complete inability to feel what goes on around her. Except I'm pretty sure she has a car so I hope to hell her sight problem isn't so bad she can't see my keys on a lanyard 3 feet away from her. On the other hand even if she does have a sight issue just because you can't see stuff doesn't mean you're immune to the procedural issues surrounding the use of public doorways! Or the social protocols involved when you're standing around staring at your neighbor for minutes on end. It's rude! And creepy.

This chick gives me even more heebie jeebies than she did before. Makes me want to rescue that poor dog, too.


  1. My impression is that she is one of those incredibly lonely people who is desperate for contact with another human being, and you are it. You may have that quality (unfortunately I do...) of looking like you are "open" and nice. Therefore, people with boundary issues and who are lonely overstep. Other people might say to hell with the protocol and be rude to her.

    I don't know if that makes sense or rings true, but that is what occurred to me when I read this. Especially since you have the heebie jeebies around her.

  2. I'm playing logic puzzle here... bear with me... she seems to have thought that your keys were Emily's leash... so if you were to have Emily's leash, but no Emily that could mean either (1) Emily's not on leash but nearby, ie about to come barreling around the corner (2) Emily's not on leash, but you don't know where she is, ie (panic!) lost or (3) Emily is in a place where dogs can run free and eat treats whenever they want. Any of those assumptions could make for an awkward moment.

  3. I honestly think she sounds either a) crazy, or b) like she has asperger's syndrome, which would make her extremely socially awkward. I would just keep your distance. But it sounds creepy!

  4. I'm gonna agree with Sassy on the Asperger's. Or something similar. Or you could be right about her eyesight.

  5. JCK, I do tend to attract the lonely talkers so I think she may be a bit of that. She has a history of glomming onto people.

    JRH, I thought she was going to go in the direction of the dead dog, too. I didn't want to lead her that way, though.

    Sassy & Gypsy, I thought about the Asperger's spectrum, too. Not sure. Really don't want to get close enough to find out for sure.