When The Snarky Retorts Fail, There Is Always Silence

I love a blog post that builds to a dramatic conclusion– that moment where the hero (me) says the perfect thing to the jerk at the gas station or when I finally summon the courage to ask for another breadstick, even though they’re slathered in butter and I’m surrounded by skinny people who won’t touch ’em.

This isn’t one of those blog posts.

There will be no crescendo of righteousness or perfect final quip, but it will be the truth and the truth is that I don’t always have a snarky retort.  Sometimes I just have silence and whatever look is on my face in the moment.

That’s what I had Sunday morning when I picked out a bike for spin class.  I’d brought along a piece of bona fide literature, but dumped it as soon as I saw the People magazine with that guy from Glee on it.  My nose buried in Cory Monteith’s pain, I didn’t see one of the gym regulars come up beside me– too close– and start talking to me. Sort of.

“That’s my bike,” I heard her say, while I was still reading about Cory’s Canadian childhood and the odds he beat to end up on a hit show.  She stepped even closer and repeated. “That’s my bike. I’m always on that bike.”

First I stared at her, then I stared at the 15 empty bikes in the room.  Then I went back to People.

“That didn’t even phase you, did it?” She never stopped staring at me.

I looked up again and couldn’t think of a single thing to say.  Had she asked me directly to move, there would be something to negotiate, and honestly, I would have done it. Because I get it.  I get routine and claiming shit at the gym and feeling attached to stuff that doesn’t actually belong to you.  It was important to her– clearly– and not to me; I picked that bike only because it was close to the exit.

I didn’t know what to do with her statements about “her” bike, and the class was starting in one minute.  It would have taken at least that long to unhook my shoes from “her” bike, move my unread copy of Crime and Punishment, and establish some intimacy with a new bike.

Wasn’t gonna happen.

Throwing her hands up, she chose the bike right next to me.  I guess it was the next best thing to being on her beloved LifeCycle.  All through class I could hear sighs and grunts that seemed to suggest that her class experience was ruined because lousy me had stolen her bike.  I never looked over at her, because I was scared of engaging. 

When the class was over, I wiped down “her” bike and left the room.  I watched her adjust her black sweatband with a huff of negative energy as I turned the corner.

The story would be better if I had sent her Zen-like blessings of love and peace throughout class or if I rolled out a zinger like some sassy sitcom star– you know, whatever today’s version of “Kiss My Grits” is.  Maybe I could have come up with some life lesson about serenity in the face of other people’s “stuff” or some manifestation of will to power.  But none of that happened.

I was silent and that’s the whole story.

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87 thoughts on “When The Snarky Retorts Fail, There Is Always Silence

  1. Silence is pretty much my only weapon when faced with something like that. I probably would have moved and apologized, just out of shock at being confronted when so many other bikes were open, but I’m cheering that you just went back to reading! Perfect.

  2. I generally can not stay silent, when people are mean, but I do like to slather them with kindness. I get some enjoyment out of watching people stare at you in disbelief. They don’t know how to react to kindness:) they probably just need a long hug and a good cry! Loved your reaction:)

  3. Damn, this is good!!! I was hooked as soon as I read “snarky” in the title and didn’t come up for air till I finished the last word. Bravo to you! Great story. Great writing. Love you.

  4. There is some skill to keeping your mouth shut. And even more so if you can do it without stewing about it for days. These are not my skills. I’m better with the passive-aggressive. And seriously….HER semi-public bike? Whatever. Get there earlier, beyotch…or at least ask nicely.

    • She’s one of those people I always see at the gym no matter when I go. She talks loudly on her cell phone and seems to have a fancy job where she is required to say things like “let’s rope in the Singapore team.” Very odd and I usually avoid her.

  5. Rock on. I hate when people do stuff like that. Maybe the whole thing would have been different if she had just said, “could you please move.” But instead she had to get all passive aggressive and weird over it, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

  6. Whoa there, did someone forget their Xanax that morning? I didn’t realize you could own equipment at the gym…

  7. It’s hard sometimes to simply be silent (and we all wish we had that genuine on-time comeback all the time) but sometimes it’s so easy to be quiet because AIN’T SHIT TO SAY TO CRAZY PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT BIKES. If it’s that important, just wait. You’re already apparently incredibly inconvenienced by my butt being here; go pretend the heavy bag is me. You’ll feel better.

  8. I wish I had a video of that encounter! You could post it and make money teaching people (like me) how to keep your mouth shut and let the other person self-destruct. Sometimes I can’t stand up for myself, other times I’m just itching for someone to give me a reason to go off. This chick would have been the latter. You handled this brilliantly. I bet others in the class are still talking about it!

  9. I loved your response, mostly because I cringe thinking about what I’d do in that situation. I’d probably fall all over myself trying to move while apologizing profusely for…what? For nothing. Silence is golden, in more ways than one.

  10. Silence was exactly perfect. Refusing to engage crazy is like making crazy stew…make ’em heat and bubble and explode. But leave the lid on that crockpot of crazy and it won’t get all over you.

    [Who actually says, “that’s my bike?” The rest of us shrug and consider getting there early next time.]

  11. WTF is up with people like that? “That’s MY BIKE”? Really? What is she, a toddler? What can you really say to someone like that anyway? Better to stay silent and let her embarrass herself.

  12. I’ve gotten very good at using silence like this since starting at HD. Comments about my boobs? Silence. Comments about “things” some of the customers want to do to me? Silence. Screaming about a 20 cent difference in price? Silence. It still feels weird to me since I’m used to using snark as a weapon, but sometimes it’s fun to see the crazy look, well, crazy! Thanks for the reminder that sometimes silence is just more powerful. I’ve forgotten that lately, so this is timely.

  13. Genius move! Next time take it again and if she says anything, reply “Shhh! The voices in my head are speaking and they don’t like to be interrupted.” Or you could suggest that the “staff” forgot to put her “reserved” sign on it and she should complain to the management right away. Add “bless your heart” in there for good measure.

  14. Still such a great story. I would have thought the class would have worked out any negative vibes she brought in, but apparently not!

  15. Isnt the true sign of intelligence knowing what to leave unsaid?

    Its certainly not resubmitting your comment cuz you lost the last one if you know what I mean!

  16. Perfect response. When I was working out in the gym instead of at home, I had a preferred elliptical. I get that part. But if someone else beat me to it, I just went to another one. So weird. She sounds like she’s a spoiled brat always used to getting her way.

  17. Good for you. I am sure I would have slunk off, but then been fuming the whole time. I have a chair I like to sit in at meetings, so I get there early just to claim it. If someone beats me to it, though, I never say anything. (I just have to get there earlier the next time.) So, yeah, get there early and take her bike next time.

  18. I do get claiming stuff that’s not really ours. I’ve become really possessive of my lap lane at the town pool. However, I don’t think I’d have the nerve to have a stare down over someone else using it or ever ask anyone to move! I’m glad you stayed on that bike though. I think you should take it EVERY time you have spin class with her!

  19. I want to know more about this. Like, is she just a bitch? Or is she OCD and it ruined her whole day that she couldn’t be on that bike? AND–next time you go to spin class, will you choose that same bike? Please tweet the answer to that last one when you go to spin next time. 🙂

  20. I love that you didn’t move. She can just get there earlier next time. I’ve gotten attached to spin bikes at my gym, but sometimes when I’ve had to move, I’ve discovered a different one I like even better. That said, I’ve generally been using the same bike for the last 4 years.

  21. I agree, sometimes silence really is the way to go. Because like you said, you don’t want to engage with someone whose argument has no merit – that is a conversation doomed to failure. I know from experience the BEST way to get the best of someone who is trying to pull you down into a pointless fight is to not give them the chance to fight at all: silence.

  22. Uuuhhh, wow. I don’t understand when people do stuff like that, and I have no idea how to react either. Your response was exactly the response she deserved.

    • Do you have a favorite bike? I definitely do and always have but I don’t really “claim” overtly. I just get there about 35 minutes early b/c clearly that’s sane.

      On Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 12:13 AM, Outlaw Mama

      • Thirty-five minutes early? Wow! I’m lucky if I roll in just as the lights are being dimmed and the first notes of techno (which I hate) are being played. I like bike #7, because it’s lucky. However, I rarely ever get it due to my tardiness. My gym does accept bike reservations for a dollar, but I’m too cheap to pay that, so I just leave my spin vehicle choice up to the hands of fate.

      • Bike reservations? That’s intense and kind of cool but I can’t do that because of my dumb budget. My bike is 22. And I hate hate hate the techno. who likes that?

  23. I suspect her entire day was that way. Someone took “her” parking spot. Someone took “her” table at the coffee shop. Someone bought “her” dress at the boutique. And then you came along and not only took “her” bike, but the wind out of her sails… You’re likely responsible for her entire day going in the crapper. Shame on you…

    Bwah-hahahahaha! She’s clearly got issues, perhaps dating back to her potty training days…

  24. Some people are REALLY ridiculous! I don’t think I would have handled it any differently. In fact, I might have just given in and then felt lousy about it the rest of the day. It was great that you stood your ground without confrontation!

  25. I would love to read her blog post on this: “And then she just sat there! Silent!”

    I’ll bet she was fuming.

    Related, I’m no longer responding to my child when he makes proclamations or requests without saying please. He is also furious.

    Loved this post.

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