Man asked to practice social distancing grows aggressive

Published 2:23 pm Friday, June 12, 2020

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DEAR ABBY: I encountered a frightening man in the hardware store the other day. I was standing at the counter paying for an item when a man behind me came at me, inches from my face, in an aggressive and threatening way. When I asked him if he could please step 6 feet away, he became even more hostile and accused me of asking in the wrong way.
In hindsight, I suppose I should have ignored him. But his words shook me. I didn’t speak disrespectfully to him. Although I was alarmed, I was polite. When I said I was just asking for the required space, he said he was showing me how thoughtless I am because I wasn’t wearing a mask or gloves. Neither was he, nor were the employees and some other shoppers. When I pointed that out, he countered even more loudly that I was the problem. I just shook my head and left. As I was leaving, he yelled after me that he hoped I got the virus and that he worked in a hospital.
The man was huge, at least double my size. He was clearly going out of his way to threaten me, if not to infect me. I know I should not have responded, but for my own safety, I needed to politely ask him to back away. If I’d had a smartphone, I might have called the police.
I go for a walk every day for exercise and to shop for necessary groceries. I have experienced people in aisles coming very close to me. I step aside to give space for others. Generally, most people are careful, respectful and even give a thank-you. This man was aggressive for no reason. What should I have done other than just walk quickly away? — THREATENED IN OAKLAND, CALIF.
DEAR THREATENED: You did the right thing. I seriously doubt the person worked in or even near a hospital, because if he did, he would have taken the proper safety precautions. In these stressful times, people sometimes act out over perceived slights. With someone so angry, aggressive and clearly looking for trouble, the right thing to do was to get away as quickly and safely as possible. The man was lucky the store management didn’t eject him.
DEAR ABBY: Several months ago, a friend of mine behaved badly and offended me and another dinner guest. His wife shut him down fairly quickly. The next day, when I tried to explain to him why what he did was inappropriate, he misinterpreted my comments and, because of his low self-esteem, became offended even though he was the offensive person. I immediately apologized but got no response. Anyone who understands basic psychology will recognize this defensive and deflective self-defense mechanism for what it was.
Abby, these are people I love dearly. Now they no longer speak to me, and I’m at a loss about what to do besides continue to pray for them. Advice? — MISSING MY DEAREST FRIENDS
DEAR MISSING: Your former friend appears to be both aggressive and hypersensitive. Continue praying, but be careful what you pray for because this person appears to be very high-maintenance. Surely you can fill the emptiness with friends who are easier to get along with and who are willing to talk out difficult situations like adults. If you do, I guarantee your life will be less stressful.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.comor P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
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