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Dear Todd Parker - 07/23/14

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Dear Todd Parker,

I'm not someone who generally cares much about the people around me. People are going to do whatever it is they want to do; as long as it doesn't have any sort of negative impact on me, I tend to just shrug my shoulders and move on. It's an attitude that has served me well.

Recently, I was forced to deal with the questionable choices of another person on a direct level. I was standing in line at a local convenience store. The woman in front of me was purchasing one of those big cans of beer (I think it was PBR) and a pack of generic cigarettes. This warrants mentioning only because when she turned to leave, I saw that she was very clearly pregnant. We're talking six months if she was a day pregnant.

Anyway, so I make my purchase and walk out of the store. It turns out that the woman is still standing next to her car; she sees me come out and approaches me. She asks me if I have a lighter.

Here's my dilemma: I do have a lighter. But while I believe that everyone has the right to make their own choices, this was simply too much for me. What I should have said was 'No, I don't have a lighter.' What I actually said was 'I'm not giving you a lighter.' Judging by her reaction, my tone made my feelings about her choices very clear.

Her response was instant and angry: 'Fk you! Fk you for judging me!' She then promptly went back into the store I assume to buy a lighter.

What else was I supposed to do? Should I have made more of an effort to distance myself from judgment of this woman's choices? I hate confrontation and I do my best to not concern myself with what other people do, but this was just too much.

How would you handle something like that?

Disturbed in Bangor

Dear Disturbed,

Sounds to me like you handled it just about right.

Judging the behavior of others is a natural impulse I do it all the time so we shouldn't feel bad when we succumb. The truth is that some actions should totally be judged. We should judge the hell out of people when they're doing things that are stupid or detrimental to the well-being of others.

I understand the impulse to go 'can't' instead of 'won't.' Don't lose any sleep over it. It might not be your place to tell that trashball how to live her life, but it's clear that no one else is. It sucks that you got cursed out for doing the right thing, but that's the world that we live in. There are awful people making awful choices every day; you just encountered the phenomenon in the wild.

There's no doubt that she has some sketchy rationalization behind the decisions that she's making, but that's not your problem. Nor should you be held responsible for enabling her ignorance. Regardless of her reasons, it's not your job to make it easier for her.

There's no doubt that the whole interaction left an unpleasant taste in your mouth. That's good. Just because you tend to ignore the actions of those around you doesn't mean you can't have a sense of right and wrong.

You were confronted by a sad reality and you refused to participate in carrying it forward. That's the best any of us can do.

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