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Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Rudeness Trap

Thursday evening is one of the two evenings per week that I have class this semester.  For various reasons, I've had a longer than usual stretch of time today between leaving work and starting class.  I decided to hole up in the student union and work on a statement of purpose for a grad school application.

I was deep in thought, staring at my laptop screen when two people who appeared to be undergraduates approached me.  After a lead-up of them telling me their names, asking me my name, telling me how random their approaching me was, and admitting that they didn't know whether I was spiritual or not, they cut to the chase and invited me to join them at a meeting of their bible study group.  I had an ironclad excuse not to go:

"Oh," I told them.  "I'll actually be in class when your meeting starts."

But then--and here comes the trap--one of them asked me if I would have been interested in attending if I hadn't had class.

To be clear, I have no objection whatsoever to religious group meetings of any kind.  But it's not really my thing.  I prefer to keep my religious/spiritual beliefs private, and shared spiritual beliefs are not what draws me to other people.  I didn't explain any of this.

"Ummm...." I said.  "Probably not.  But thank you very much for inviting me."

I won't lose sleep over this encounter, but I am sort of wondering what one does in that sort of situation.  Is it a thing now for people to approach strangers and invite them to meetings?  Was there a more tactful way I could have answered the question?  Should we all just be brutally direct in responses to such questions?

Maybe I should just try to look really mean while I'm working in public places.