Whenever a stranger on the street asks me for directions, I always, always stop and try to help.

Because I am a helpful person.

So yesterday morning, after semi-successfully vanquishing my lousy mood at the gym, I’m heading to work. And up ahead of me on the sidewalk I see this guy talking on his cellphone. And I’m thinking, this poor guy. He has all these freckles, and red hair, and poor eyesight, and obvious problems with his adenoids, and no grasp of flattering fashion. And also, he’s wearing a Yankees cap and jersey, which leads me to suspect that he might be retarded. (I know it’s not very zen of me to keep this running inner monologue that consists mostly of stranger-judging and Death Wish-style fantasies. If I could learn meditation I’m sure the voices would quiet a bit. I have a number of meditation albums on my iPod. I only listen to them on the subways to drown out everyone around me. But I’ve learned that it’s important to remember how strangers are dressed and what they look like because as a Hysterical Feminist®, I believe that all men are potential rapists. As an added bonus, this enables me to follow men’s fashion trends pretty closely.)

But I’m saying this because this guy is standing right in my way on the sidewalk, talking on his cellphone. And me, I’m listening to my Getting Psyched for Quietly Resigned to Work mix, which begins with “Can I Say.” And I’m looking at him because now I’m right in front of him. He’s pretty tall. And he takes his phone from his ear and starts saying something to me and because I AM A HELPFUL PERSON I pull my headphones out of my ears and I’m expecting him to ask for directions to one of the myriad neighborhood methadone clinics (because maybe he’s not retarded, just addled) and I say, “Pardon me?”

And he says, “I said how you doin’ this morning, mama?”

In terms of threat level, dickhead was more along the lines of Annoying Pinstripe Fedora Dude than Schrodinger’s Rapist. But you know what? Fuck that guy. I generally just shake my head and keep walking in situations such as these*, but yesterday? I was irritated. So I say to him, “Is this your strategy? Do you just interrupt women you don’t even know on the street to harass them?”

And he gets all exercised and hoots and says “YEAH!”

And over my shoulder I shout, “GOOD LUCK WITH THAT, DICKHEAD!” What can I say, why should I try, indeed.

But seriously: Fuck that guy, and fuck YOU if you’ve ever been that guy.

*And of course the one time I actually engaged in conversation in one of these situations it turned into some Herzog short. I was in Prospect Heights, running an errand, and this guy driving an ambulette van slowed down to talk to me. (It should be noted that the sole requirements to become an ambulette driver in NYC are that you be a) insane and b) completely unaware of driving rules and regulations.)

Him: “Hello there.”

Me, walking, pulling headphones off: “Hi.”

Him: “Did you know that you’re beautiful?”

Me: “Yes.”

Him: “Can I give you my number?”

Me: “I’m married.”

Him, cars honking behind him: “Does your husband tell you every day that you’re beautiful?”

Me, trying to get him off my case, though clearly the honking isn’t deterring his mission: “Yes.”

Him: “Because I think it’s real important that a woman gets told that she’s beautiful. Every day.”

Me, hitting the street corner and turning left: “That’s nice.”

Him: “Especially when they’re on their period.”

Me: [???]

Him, driving off: “You have a nice day, beautiful.”

Epilogue: I still can’t tell if that was serious street harassment or performance art. Naturally as soon as he was out of sight, I spun my skirt in a 360 in the middle of the sidewalk, just to check…well, you know.

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