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Friendliness vs. Nosiness

Maybe I'm being too sensitive, but for at least the third time in the past week or so I encountered a stranger who asked too many questions.

In keeping with my total sellout to technology that has not improved my life in any way I Tweeted about this earlier today.

Anyway, when I meet a friendly stranger I expext the first minute or so of conversation to consist of "hello" and some small talk about weather or the economy or the Miami Heat or the Dolphins...or the lovely headline on the Miami Herald I'm reading when the stranger says hi.

After that, if the conversation carries on another 10 or 20 or 30 minutes it can get gradually more personal if both parties are comfortable with it.

Those are the unwritten - except for here - rules, right? They're reasonable, no?

So why last weekend when I was browsing the clearance rack at my favorite top secret men's clothier, did a guy approach and overdo it?

And no, Sarcasticynic, before you even speculate, he wasn't hitting on me.

He started with hello, followed not 10 seconds later with "nice sun glasses," followed not 10seconds after w/ you live around here?" And so on.

In the course of three minutes he wanted to know where I lived, rent or own, what I did for a living, what my wife did...

I dodged some of the questions but eventually had to stop him and ask questions of my own: Do I know you? Why are you asking so many personal questions? Are you writing a book? If so could you leave out the chapter about me? You a cop?

He seemed flustered and hinted that he was slightly offended at my reaction to his frielndliness. I thought he crossed the bound of friendliness.

What do you think?

I learned later my instincts were sorta on. Turns out he was feeling me out to see if I might be interested in selling Amway or bowling balls or vacuum cleaners or something.

It happened again, minus the sales pitch, a couple days later in the grocery, and then again a couple hours ago at the dog park. This morning the "offender" wanted to know my neighborhood, street, rent/own status, and what state I'm from, among other things. This was all in about one minute's time.

I don't think I'm overreacting.

Friendliness is like flirting: gotta go slow or you're gonna spook the object of your attention.


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Ahh the dogpark. A very relaxing place where lots of people only want to know about your dog.


Is this why you never answer my tweets?

James B.

Mickysolo, normally I'd agree with you. But this morning's pushy person was at the dog park.

Monty, sorry my friend. It's not personal. I'm just still trying to develop good tweeting habits, like being on it 24/7. I'm kidding. But I really need to be more vigilant, 'cause frankly I exchange more conversation with you than some people who live mere miles from me. So no, it isn't why I don't answer your tweets. I'll do better!

ɔıuʎɔıʇsɐɔɹɐs ǝɥʇ

As more and more people find themselves delving into new careers, expect to see more of this.


I would have had the same reaction, and I'm one of those sort of people who walks up to strangers and talks to them. The difference it that I like to have casual conversation, and don't try to interrogate them. I've spent a lot of time yakking with people from all over the world, and never had any of them get upset. Some people just don't seem to know where the social and personal boundaries lie.

James B.

Sarc, you mean more people querying other strangers about what the strangers do for a living, so the questioners can gather ideas about what to do for their next career? Or more people getting into pseudo-media careers, thus the need to grill everyone they meet as a potential interviewee?

BobG, exactly. Folks don't know where to draw the line in conversation. It really is an art.

ɔıuʎɔıʇsɐɔɹɐs ǝɥʇ

Neither, James. Back in the '60s my Dad found a job going door to door selling junk to harried housewives. It was a dead end job to say the least. He had a great job, but he lost it and had to find work - whatever was out there.

By your descriptions, it looks like the first and third guys turned to selling real estate. The middle guy is trying to recruit salesmen - because the real money in vacuum sales is to get more salesmen - not to sell vacuum cleaners.

Look at the data:

He wanted "to know where I lived, rent or own, what I did for a living, what my wife did..."

He wanted "to see if I might be interested in selling Amway or bowling balls or vacuum cleaners or something."

He wanted "to know my neighborhood, street, rent/own status, and what state I'm from, among other things."

My guess is these guys had a good job, lost it, and now have to turn to other forms of employment. That doesn't make it right or less annoying, but a guy's got to do what a guy's got to do to put food on their family's plate.


This is not new to me. Years ago, I drove a clunky old '74 Toyota Corona(not a misspelling, before Toyota sold Corollas in the States, they had Coronas). I had taken a trip to Nashville, TN, a couple of years before, and bought an "Opryland USA" bumper sticker which I applied in the usual place. One day, while my female acquaintance and I motored around the city, an older gentleman, seeing my sticker, raced ahead of my car, hopped out of his as I jammed on my brakes, and asked, "You been there? Isn't that something?" What else could I say, but, "Yes" to both questions. If you're interested, flag me down, don't jump ahead of me in traffic. It's dangerous. (There's no guarantee I'll talk to you, though.)

Jeni Hill Ertmer

Although, when I am out and about in the public realm, I am generally very friendly -conversationally speaking -but the questions you say these guys were asking -well even I would consider them as being a bit over the top and nosy. Unless something had been said somewhere that could easily lead to a need or desire to ask about where you live. But to ask things like that kind of out-of-the blue, well, it would tend to make me very uncomfortable and feel the need to withdraw then too!

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