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The Guy At The Gas Station
Recently, I stopped at a gas station en route to my friend’s house. I don’t mind doing favors for my friend, especially during tough times like beer droughts. It happened to be that awkward slice of Sunday morning when you can’t buy beer (about 2 am to 8 am, if I recall correctly). Our county laws permit us to buy beer during every other hour of the week, so I forgot about that measly 6-hour sliver of Sunday morning when beer-buying is prohibited.
Like every person who comes into the warmth from a cold winter snow, I was glad to feel my skin thawing as the door slid to a close. In my town, most faces are familiar, so I saw the person whom I expected to see: one of the staff members. I don’t know this man well, but he’s definitely a regular here, if not the owner. I noticed that him giving me gaga-eyes, but he’s never actually flirted with me. We exchanged the default pleasantries of “Hi!” and “How are you?” as I reached into the fridge for some beer.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” he said. “I can’t sell you beer until 8.”
I said something to the effect of, “Oh! That’s a shame. I’ll come back later.”
“No! Just stay! It’s, uh,” he pauses as he checks,”It’s almost 7:30 now. Just stay until 8.”
This particular gas station makes ice cube trays look like apartment complexes. It wasn’t that cold and I hadn’t been drinking, so there was no valid reason for me to stay.
“Sorry, but my friend is waiting for me. I made plans with her. I’ll come back later,” I half-lied.
“It’s cold! Just stay!”
This continued for a few seconds until I realized that he was refusing to accept my answer. He assured me that it would only be a little bit and when I maintained that I had plans, he told me to have her come pick me up. Once again, I faux-thank him for the offer and decline politely because my friend lives nearby. Giving him information about my potential whereabouts probably wasn’t the best move, but it obliterated any chance of his request coming off as reasonable and caring. But no matter how much I refused, he kept insisting that I stay with him in a gas station that was originally owned by Polly Pocket.
When he continued to ignore my refusal, I realized that he wasn’t going to listen, so I started to the door. He walks around from behind counter and continually insisted that I stay. The whole time, there really wasn’t any urgency in his voice. That’s when shit got real.
“Just stay! It won’t be long.”
“Um, why can’t I just go and come back?”
“Look at your cheeks! They’re so red! Just stay!”
This time, he intonated the words in a way that would mimic concern, something that he hadn’t done previously. Nice try, but I don’t buy it.
“That’s not what I asked you. Why can’t I just leave, go to my friend’s place, and come back in an hour?”
After some back and forth with the same broken record-responses that I had already dismissed, I left. This man’s behavior wasn’t like that of other store owners who have invited me to stay warm in their store. This guy was basically insisting that I alter my life for him instead of treating me like a customer. After I returned to my friend’s place empty-handed, we hung out and, at some point, we thought to check what time it was.
It was 7:11 am. That’s 49 minutes away from 8 am. That means I must’ve arrived at the gas station around 7. Even that estimation is very, very generous.
I’ve tried to think of some non-nefarious intention behind wanting me to stay in that tiny gas station with him for a whole hour, especially when I told him that my good friend was waiting for me and I had to forcibly NOPE myself out of the store. At best, it would’ve been over an hour of awkward chitchat. There’s no point in maybe-ing the instance to death because he wasn’t actually being nice; he was imposing himself upon me and dressing up his selfish desires as concern for my well-being. I became more pointed and forceful as he escalated things, but not once did he answer my question as to why I shouldn’t tailor my life to his personal whim.
Once you spot manipulative behavior, you might feel like a sucker, but don’t be hard on yourself. People who seek to manipulate you understand that the use of overt force is not a cute look; it reveals their intentions to control you as an end that justifies the means. Personally, I’m quick to shut down anyone who barks commands at me and isn’t paying me to obey them. Even if they are paying me, that doesn’t give them the rights to my soul. That guy at the gas station clearly entitled to my time because that’s what he wanted. My guess is that he assumed that I would succumb and become passive in the face of his so-called kindness. If the guy at the gas station had given me free beer, I still wouldn’t be indebted to give him my number
That guy understood that I answered “no” well before I said it explicitly. He just refused to listen. Manipulative people (especially rapists) masquerade their selfish desires as concern for your well-being and using contextual factors to rationalize or deny that the manipulation ever happened (consciously). They might say that they just want you to have a good time. No matter how half-assed your attention to them might be, they will always try to play it up to their level, as though someone grinding with you or intermittent make-out sessions equals total consent. They know that silence =/= compliance. But silence is a manipulative person’s friend because it always does what they want: it keeps quiet and lets them fill in the blanks however they choose. No matter how wildly inaccurate their filler-logic might be, they will rationalize it to the point where you might start believing yourself to be the enemy. Transparency does the exact opposite of that.
The kicker is that manipulative individuals typically react the same way when confronted with an explicit “no." They understand exactly what you're trying to say, but they don't like your answer because it doesn't match what they want. Much like how the gas station guy persisted in the face of my blatant declination, manipulative people try to find ways to ignore your wishes and get pretty creative when attempting to justify their behavior. That’s why it’s important to always be direct when dealing with people who are into doing things behind the scene. They might attempt to feign ignorance or feed you some excuses about why they aren't wrong, a dish that's usually served with heaping helpings of guilt and victim-blaming. My personal experiences have taught me that expert manipulators might apologize once they realize that it makes them look bad, but you'll see how much that apology is worth once they're back at it.
Please don’t feel bad when you tell or yell it like it is. In the end, just remember that they had the option to respect you instead of ignoring your wishes in favor of their own.
#Real #Manipulation #Creepy #Feminism #Relationships #PollyPocketGasStation #Psychology #NotSorry #NiceGuys
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