The other day I was walking through an indoor shopping centre on my lunch break. There are some stalls in the middle of the walkway, and when the people selling skin care products offer me a pamphlet, I'm used to just saying no thanks and continuing on my way. But this time the woman had a different tactic, she said, "Can I just ask you a question?"
I knew - of course I knew - this was just an attempt to get me to stop in the hope that I would become interested in the products after all. I also knew there was no way I was interested in buying or even finding out more about them. I should have said no. But politeness obviously runs deep, and I stopped and waited for her question. I think it was something like "what kind of skincare products do you use?" At that I said I'm not interested and started to turn away, but again she said "can I just ask you a question?"
She already HAD asked me a question. Why on earth didn't I just say no?
She peered at my face and said, "What products are you using? Because your face is looking a bit sensitive."
Finally, at that, I was offended enough to say "I'm not interested" and walk away quickly.
It was only thinking about it later that I realised why I was so offended and annoyed. It was so much more annoying even than the 'clipboard people' (paid workers who hassle people to sign up for charity donation programs - they don't accept one-off donations). I've learned to say no to them straight away. My arrangements for charitable donations are my own business and I don't need to be pressured on the street about it.
This woman caught me off-guard because I was expecting her to take the usual polite 'no thanks' for an answer. She took advantage of my (and I'm sure many others') basic politeness - it's very hard to ignore someone who addresses you directly. What made me really mad was the intense scrutiny of my face. I hadn't even entered a shop, let alone requested advice or a makeover, and I found myself being examined and the appearance of my skin judged!
I wished I had said as much to her, but of course I wasn't quick enough and anyway, I just wanted out of there.
And yes, OK, my skin might have been a bit thinner than usual (metaphorically speaking) due to a recent milestone birthday, one of the ones requiring a new driver's licence. And my new licence photo is fine but I liked the one from five years ago better. I think my skin was a bit less 'sensitive' then.
I'd say I might even be old enough to be a bit less polite. But I don't actually want to be less polite, I want people selling things to behave themselves!