Sidewalk Etiquette: Excuse Me or Excuse You?

What’s your response when some self-absorbed Facebook profile marches into you because she’s looking at a phone?

As a general rule, I (very clearly) say, “excuse you.” The same goes for when I’m blatantly cut off or elbowed. And especially at holiday time, my amusement grows in direct proportion to the indignation of the offender.

Today, on a sidewalk between Barnes & Noble and Banana Republic, a woman and I collided when her UGGs continued to trudge as she texted. Her eyes were still on the screen when she heard “excuse you” as I stepped around and away from her.

Inside B&N not four minutes later, I heard behind me an indignant voice saying, “…and this asshole son-of-a-bitch said, ‘excuse you,’ to me – shuh!” Having angrily brushed past me with the phone now at her ear, she’d pulled a U-turn outside and followed me into the store. Now she stopped and awaited the reaction to which evidentially felt entitled. She was suddenly a victim and was hissing the details of her ordeal to a friend – if there was anyone on the other end of her phone.

I met the emotional gimp’s glare head on and matter-of-factly said, “Yes I did. That’s exactly what I did,” and stepped away. That’s when she shouted for all to hear, “Well then you’re a fucking dick!” Heads turned, I smiled, and the passive-agressive case study just boiled all the more.

She couldn’t be bothered to watch where she was going and now she’d short-circuited like a bad toaster. Did it somehow infuriate her that I would dare call her on the lapse of sidewalk manners in under four syllables? Did she find exhibiting courtesy equal to a kind of conformity that she believed herself to be above? Was she angry over my getting in a last word for common sense? Judgmental on my part? Gleefully yes.

But this isn’t sidewalk rage. I’m not Mel Gibson and I didn’t call her sugar-tits, so I know I’m not a bully. Male or female, bigger than me or not, I’ve been challenging people’s lack of regard with “excuse you” for as long as I can remember. When applied appropriately and timed well, it can stop someone in his tracks. It gets under people’s skin like you wouldn’t believe. If it happens to inspire a millisecond of reflection on how we affect those around us, all the better.

But who am I, you ask, to so condemningly say “excuse you” instead of “excuse me?” Eh, just a guy who got bumped into when you weren’t paying attention, and a guy who’s still laughing at how upset you got when I called you on it.

Have fun in the stores this season. I do.

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