While strolling down the sidewalk this week, I encountered a grumpier-than-normal older woman who rubbed me the wrong way.

In the Great Big Book of Unwritten Rules About Sidewalks, there are a handful of simple rules when it comes to sidewalk etiquette. This particular woman broke all of them.

This column is dedicated to her.

I saw her approaching at 40 yards. She was on a mission.

It didn’t look like she was late for an appointment or anything, but she was definitely headed to a specific destination.

Our eyes met at 30 yards. She was walking on the building-side of the sidewalk and I had just hopped up the curb. Unfortunately, she was where I needed to be.

I was on a mission to grab a birthday gift for my twin’s and needed to cross the sidewalk to the entryway of The Fireside Book Shop.

I slowly merged into the other lane – the same lane as the approaching grumpy woman – and I smiled at her again.

We were now at 20 yards.

She looked up at me and noticed that I had switched lanes and heading directly at her.

Rule No. 1 in the Great Big Book of Unwritten Rules About Sidewalks is: Yield to oncoming “traffic.”

Once she spotted me and knew where I was headed, she should have altered her course enough to let me pass.

But she didn’t. Instead, she lowered her eyebrows and steamed forward like a bull who just spotted the red cape and the man with the funny pants.

She must have felt my uneasiness.

At 10 yards, I smiled a third time and tried working my southern charm.

“Hi there young lady,” I said. “How are you this fine day?”

She heard me. I know she did. But she didn’t answer. And in the process, she violated Rule No. 2 in the Great Big Book of Unwritten Rules About Sidewalks: When spoken to on the sidewalk, it’s polite to acknowledge the person who has spoken to you.

The woman just stared at me. And kept walking.

I admit, it took me a little off guard. It’s not often that I’m speechless, but for a moment or two as I darted into the entryway of the bookstore to avoid being run over by a grumpy woman, I had nothing to say so I quietly picked up my books and headed to the post office.

The life of a newspaperman is not always an easy life. I’ve been removed from more than my fair share of Christmas card lists over the years.

But I didn’t know this woman from a hole in the ground and if she had a personal vendetta, the reason was unbeknownst to me

Who knows? Maybe they have different sidewalk rules here in Northeast Ohio.

If that’s the case, I’d appreciate it if someone would invite me for a stroll downtown to teach me the ropes. But if I happen to see that woman coming our way, don’t be alarmed if I jump in my car and head for the hills.

Sidewalks or not, I know when I’ve met my match and after “meeting” her the other day, I’d prefer to live and walk another day.

Gustafson is the not-so-mild-mannered editor of The Chagrin Valley Times, Solon Times, and Geauga Times Courier.

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