or "are there times when I should interfere?"
Yesterday, as I was leaving the post office, someone approached me. He wanted to know about my trike.
It is not unusual for people to want to know about my trike and I usually try to answer them politely. I tell them where I got it and yes, it has three gears and two sets of brakes and no, it is not quite the same as riding a bicycle and it does not have a motor.
I have allowed someone to take a photograph of part of it. (He showed me a photograph of his son, for whom he was building something similar.) Some time later I allowed his son to try out my trike. (With modifications he is now riding his own and gives me a wonderful enthusiastic grin of complete joy as he passes me.)
I like being involved like that but yesterday was different. People here have been pretty good about the "social distance" thing. I was not expecting someone I did not know to not only invade my personal space but to put his arm around me and pat me on the back.
He came out of the doors as I was packing milk and baked beans into the basket and asked me about the trike. As he was standing about as close as he could get without actually touching me I took a step back. He took a step closer and asked another question. I answered rather shortly because he was making me feel uncomfortable. He was an older man. He was not clean. There was definitely something a little odd about him.
He asked another question and I said, "Excuse me. I need to go."
He then blocked my path and continued by asking the question again. It was a very personal question and I had no intention of answering it. I told him this.
His reaction was to put his arm around me and pat me on the back.
At that point I raised my voice. I was feeling very, very uncomfortable by then. I shook him off and managed to undo the lock. He grabbed my arm as I put my hands on the handlebars and I shook that off too. At that point I shouted at him to leave me alone. In turn he started to get rather angry with me. What did I think I was doing? He was only trying to be friendly.
I pulled away and pedalled off feeling decidedly shaken by the encounter.
Now I was probably never in any danger but he was behaving in a very, very unpleasant way. (It would be difficult to describe just how unpleasant and intrusive his manner was.) There were other people around. For once there was nobody I knew but there were other people, several of them men who were just standing in a group watching.
And nobody said anything or offered to help. They were obviously "not going to get involved". I don't know whether the men in the group were all of the opinion that "she's a woman and can look after herself" or whether they had all helped a woman in the past and been abused by the woman for doing it.
Whatever it was it disturbed me that in the middle of the day in a busy shopping centre someone can be in my position and not have anyone lift a finger or raise a voice to ask, "Do you want some help?"
That question alone would possibly have been enough to make the questioner who was making me feel so uncomfortable move on. It seems though that "not getting involved" is more important than "interfering".