Creative Ways To Deal with Assholes Who Want to Ruin Your Day, Part One: In Public

You Can Control How Assholes Affect Your Day

Cover of "A$hole: How I Got Rich & Happy...

Cover via Amazon

Yes, you really can. First, we need to distinguish between assholes who want to ruin your day and people capable of doing actual harm to you. I’m talking about trollish behavior, the sort of thing designed to shut down conversations, embarrass you, and change your emotions for the worse, not the sort of thing that can actually hurt you. That’s a different post.

Sample Assholes Who Want to Ruin Your Day:

  • That guy who wolf whistles or shouts insults at you as you’re walking down the street.
  • The one who steps into your personal space in a waiting area and won’t back away.
  • The woman who cuts in front of you in line with her toddler in her arms, daring you to say anything.
  • The store clerk that pretends you don’t exist because you don’t look like that store’s usual customer.

You know, the person who invades your space with their words or their body in an attempt to dominate, intimidate, or annoy you, or for reasons which assume that his or her needs are more important than yours in the situation. The Asshole.

The basics of handling assholes who want to ruin your day in public:

  1. Assess safety. If you have any fear of violence, avoidance is far better than snark, and will save the day. Walk away from anything likely to turn into violence.
  2. Don’t lose your cool. Maintain a soft half-smile on your face and work hard at gentle eyes.
  3. Don’t speak until you find your sense of humor again and are ready to wield it.
  4. Practice for these situations at home. Snark takes work. Do you think Stephen Colbert was born being able to let those zinger fly?
  5. Try to see even these assholes that want to ruin your day with compassion. Yes, I know it’s hard. But believe me, compassion is an extremely powerful weapon.
  6. Know the difference between intentional assholery and unintentional assholery. Snark is only recommended or required for the first. The second is a situation where compassion is your best weapon.
Smiley from the sMirC-series. laughing

Smiley from the sMirC-series. laughing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Specific Creative Solutions for Dealing With Assholes Who Want To Ruin Your Day:

  1. Penis jokes are always in order in cases of sexual harassment. Even better, walk up and ask him for his mother’s phone number. When he asks why, tell him you think his mother needs to know how he behaves in public. (This is even more effective if the man in question is old enough to be your father).
  2. When instead of sexual harassment, you are getting insulted based on your appearance, pause, walk up to the person, and tell him or her, ‘I’m so sorry’. When they ask why, tell the person that he or she is clearly unhappy, and ask if you can help. This is not snark. It is very cruel, however. Kindness often is.
  3. For people who enter your personal space you have a couple of options, none of which involve snark. The simplest is simply to give up the space and move away. If you can’t or won’t, try moving so that you are standing at right angles to the person. You will find your ‘threat level’ drops drastically. This is an intimidation move, so it’s important to not let on you’re intimidated, lest the person increase the intimidation. Sometimes picking a random stranger in the area and striking up a conversation can cause the space invader to back off.
  4. For kicks and giggles, if you feel completely safe, turn to the asshole and start babbling to him, taking care to make no sense whatsoever, while smiling eagerly and gesturing a lot. This is not effective if the asshole is actually someone with a serious mental health problem and is already doing so.
  5. Line cutters are assholes. Full stop. They always have a ‘special snowflake’ reason as to why they deserve to be ahead of you. Ask them for it. ‘Excuse me, ma’am. Can you let me know why you don’t have to wait in line like we do? You seem pretty ordinary to me.’ or, talking to the child in tow. ‘Sweetie, I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, but your mommy just did a pretty naughty thing. I’m going to ask her to follow the rules like the rest of us, okay?’. If it’s a group of high energy, possibly intoxicated young adults, you might be better off ceding this argument, however. That’s how fights start.
  6. When you are being ignored at a store where you a) have money to spend or b) have frequent business, this is one of those situations where cool and classy wins the day. Ask politely to speak to the manager. If the person ignoring you is the manager, ask for the corporate complaint line. Nicely. With a smile. Now that you have the clerk’s attention, explain that you are a customer, and that you expect to be treated with respect and courtesy. If this doesn’t get their attention, follow through with calling ‘up the chain of command’ until you are satisfied, and if you continue to be unsatisfied, write a detailed review of your experience with the company on a prominent review website, and find an alternative place to do business.
  7. If you are in the unfortunate position of having to do business with the company and your complaints are getting nowhere, this is when it’s time to call in the lawyers. Find one, if possible, that works on contingency, and give them your business.

Assholes suck. It’s important that you keep in mind that your time is yours. If you are focusing on what that person did to you, you are giving up your power to control your time. The asshole wins if they are able to ruin your day. If, on the other hand, you were able to defuse the asshole’s power or create a memorably funny incident that did not result in violence or tears, you win.

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About Maureen O'Danu

Maureen O'Danu is the webmistress of Am I the Only One Dancing? where there is a new discussion every day on any one of dozens of topics and ideas, as well as reviews, geekery, family, fun, and enough politics to season the pot.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/jacqueline.demuro Jacqueline Tierney DeMuro

    I love this… it is so well thought out! Thanks so much for highlighting my blog post.

    • http://amnottheonlyone.com/ Maureen O’Danu

      You’re more than welcome. And welcome to my space ;-)