The other day, my roommate added me to a group chat and asked if I would be interested in joining a bocce ball league that costs $60 and meets at a brewery. I wanted to reply all, “Do you even know me?”
Admittedly, this is my new roommate. She has yet to commit to heart that I don’t do sports (I honestly don’t know what bocce ball is; I’m imagining backyard croquet, which I had to Google Image to remind myself of the word “croquet); I don’t drink beer; and I’m a cheapskate.
But I couldn’t say this in a group of people I didn’t know. Except I did.
“Thanks for the invite, but I think I’ll pass,” I wrote. “I’ve never done an intramural team and don’t like beer… Lol.”
Except no “Lol.” I’m being serious.
I think it would have been more acceptable to reply, “I have a broken toe, and I’m allergic to gluten, so I don’t think this summer will work.”
This made me reflect on other times I’ve been asked to do something I really don’t want to, and I’ve told people, awkwardly, no.
A less recent example is a time my friend and I got invited to brunch and review a place. The chef told us to show up on Sunday, which we did. Before we arrived, my friend and I discussed how we wanted to sit outside. But, of course, we had to get seated first.
When we walked in, there were a ton of middle-aged people and a lot of music playing. I instantly wondered whether they were even serving brunch. So I walked to the back of the restaurant to find the chef.
Apparently, in doing this, I walked right past the woman manning the door and collecting the cover fee. My friend watched me do this and shook her head.
“Excuse me,” the woman chased me down, “there’s a $5 cover.”
Me: (genuinely surprised) “Oh?”
Woman: “It’s for the Jazz Charity Foundation.”
Since we were here to review brunch at the chef’s request, and since I wasn’t even positive brunch was being served currently, and also, guess what, I didn’t come here today for jazz music, and I am not a jazz listener at all, I told the woman, “Well, we’re here for brunch, and I just want to make sure there’s brunch being served.” Or else there’s no point in us being here. Or me paying you a cover.
The woman stared at me.
I asked a server if brunch was still being served. Yes, it was (though no one in this restaurant was eating any sort of food, just sipping beer and watching jazz on a bright Saturday afternoon).
Me: “Do you mind if we sit outside?”
Because I did not want to be inside, pay this cover, or hear jazz music. Like, I would have gladly paid a cover to be seated away from the jazz music. And what sort of charity is a jazz foundation? (Obviously, I’m not a huge patron of the arts.)
Server: “Just grab a seat outside.”
I turned to lead my friend outside with me, but the woman inserted herself between the door and me.
“I know you want to support the Jazz Charity Foundation,” she said.
I stared at her. She had annoyed me. No, I did not want to support the Jazz Charity Foundation.
“We’re here to review brunch for the chef,” I began. “The chef didn’t mention this was happening today, or we would have come a different day.”
Woman: “It’s just $5.”
I wanted to spit back, “It’s just $5! Let it go!”
Instead, I smiled. And we sat outside. “I don’t even know if I have $5,” I told my friend at the table.
Later, the woman came out to us at the table. “Did we get everything sorted out?” she said, and she patted my shoulder. “Did you get your brunch?”
Me: “Yes. We got our brunch.” And I ordered an extra mimosa to get over your jazz music.
As you can see, don’t invite me to a jazz concert.
The last instance where I said “eff no” without even saying a word was last week. I needed cash from the ATM. I’m at the ATM, and the fool inside me did not look around before I inserted my card and began to request cash.
Five feet away from the ATM, perched motionlessly on top of a newspaper stand, is a man.
“Sir?” he repeats. “Do you happen to have some money? My truck broke down, I came up for the day from Petersburg, and I need some gas money. Could I get some change?”
It’s not as if I can say no when I am at an ATM. “No, I don’t have any cash, and I am also a liar”?
I realize also I am being ambushed. This man was waiting for someone to come to the ATM, because someone at the ATM can’t possibly deny him money.
He continues with his story of a truck that ran out of money, just needing a few dollars to drive back to Petersburg (which is 30 minutes south of Richmond), etc.
“I’ll give you $5,” I say.
Man: “$10 would go so much further.”
I bet it would.
“I’ll give you $5,” I repeat. “But I need to go into the bank to get it.”
Thankfully, this ATM is outside the bank. Or, otherwise, I don’t know what I would have done. Because we all know, ATMs only give $20 bills. And I wasn’t about to let this ATM spit out three Andrew Jackson’s. (More evidence this was an ambush!)
But how do I get my card back? The only options presented on the screen are, “Get $60 in cash” and “Deposit Money.”
Abort. Abort! How do I abort?!
Phew, I see the “Cancel Transaction” button.
“I’ll be right back,” I tell the man.
While I withdraw cash from the bank teller and specifically ask for it in $20’s, $10’s, and $5’s, I suddenly realize how I don’t want to give that man anything. Not because I’m stingy (but I am stingy), but because his story was not believable. You ran out of gas money? Then why did you drive to Petersburg? It’s not like you even went a hundred miles. You drove 30 minutes up the road. And the way he tried bartering for more money… No, sir, you will not have my $5.
“Is there another entrance?” I asked the bank teller.
The teller looked at me. “No.”
Me: “None at all? There’s a man outside asking me for money, and I want to avoid him.”
Teller: “You can go through the business next door.”
The bank is connected to an office building. However, that office building’s entrance is only thirty feet away from the bank’s entrance, so it’s not exactly a different entrance.
Me: “Okay, that works.”
I walked into office building. A security guard asked if he could help me.
Me: “Is there a back exit?”
Security guard: “Not for public use.”
“You’re all so unhelpful,” I thought, almost aloud. Instead, I said, “Thanks.”
And then I walked through exit and tried to keep my body flat against the building way, because maybe he wouldn’t see me walking away, but then I just kept speed-walking and didn’t turn around, and that’s how you say no to someone.