The problem: I was sitting on the patio enjoying a conversation with a neighbor when her husband came out. With no acknowledgment of my presence, he thrust a cellphone into her face and the two began to chirp about whatever was on the screen. I got up and left. It felt like the low road home, but must I just sit by and wait?
Low road: Start turning all their garden gnomes on their heads and see if that gets their attention.
High road: Are they exhibiting bad behavior? Absolutely. Is it intentional? I doubt it.
It’s true that he didn’t acknowledge you and that she didn’t insist that he do so. But “thrusting” a cellphone into her face suggests urgency, or the continuation of a marital squabble that placed them both in self-absorption mode.
You did not take the low road by walking away, but you missed an opportunity to feel better by helping them take the high road. Had you said, “Obviously, this is not a good time for a visit, so I’ll be going,” you’d remind them that, hello, you were still there. One would hope they’d snap out of it, and maybe even apologize.
If neighbor shunning is not a pattern with them, I’d make a point to drop by again and offer a breezy and friendly, “Is everything OK? You seemed suddenly preoccupied yesterday.” That allows her to share with you in confidence anything that might be going on.
If, on the other hand, she looks at you funny and tells you that they were just playing the updated “Walking Dead” app, I’d suggest you bake cookies for your neighbors on the other side.
Send questions about life’s little quandaries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more of Gail’s “High Road” columns at startribune.com/highroad.