A woman pushed in front of me at the fruit shop today. I was waiting at the counter, behind a customer who was being served, and she came along with her grandchild and dumped her shopping on the counter right in front of mine.
Its not the first time this sort of thing has happened at my fruit shop. I have been pushed in front of in the queues on a few occasions now. The worst incident was a few weeks ago. A woman moving around the aisles at approximately the same pace as me kept pushing her trolley into me. It was so full of people in the pre-Christmas rush that as I moved around I had to keep stopping and waiting for people infront of me. Whenever I would do this, the woman would shove her trolley into me and push hard, as if she was trying to force me to move along. At first I couldn’t believe she was doing it at all, then I thought it must be an accident – but surely, even if you’re not looking where you are going, you’d stop pushing once you meet an obstruction. This woman didn’t. She kept at it for much of our journey around the store.
I didn’t know how to respond. Part of me was convinced she knew exactly what she was doing, but part of me thought she might have been totally oblivious. I didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable by pointing it out to her and asking her to stop. In hindsight I know that is ridiculous as she was making me not only uncomfortable but also furious. Instead I just fumed. Later I fumed at myself as well for being so appallingly unassertive because I was worried about embarrassing a stranger.
So today, when the woman pushed in front of me at the counter, I decided to say something. “Excuse me,” I said, ” Do you realise you just pushed in front of me in the queue?”
The woman turned to me and apologised, saying she saw me there but thought I was just looking at the display at the end of the counter. However, instead of moving out of the way, she went on to say that she was only buying one thing anyway – AND JUST STOOD THERE.
I calmly picked up my 5 items of shopping, pushed ahead of her, moved her single item back to the end of the counter and put mine down. I told her that I would have been quite happy to let her through if she’d shown some manners, but pushing in front and then assuming you have a right to be there because you only have one item is just plain rude.
She repeated her apology for not having seen me in the queue, and repeated the fact that she was only buying one item – as if that gave her some sort of a right to queue barge. I ignored her, so she stood there silently for a few moments, then quietly moved off to another counter.
I felt bad briefly, wondering if I had done the right thing. I felt as if I’d been rude and I’m sure she felt embarrassed by our little confrontation. However, If I had let her have her way, I would have felt trampled on – my fear of making strangers feel uncomfortable shouldn’t give them a licence for lack of courtesy.
Anyway, I’d be very interested to hear what others think. How would you have handled that situation? Other than ignoring it, is there a polite way of handling the situation? Would it be better to just ignore this sort of behaviour?