I don’t want to frighten you, but there’s a possibility, albeit a slight one, that you’ll one day find yourself face-to-face with me. If this ever happens, keep your head. Chances are I’m just as afraid of you as you are of me—more, if you work for the IRS. So whatever you do, don’t panic. Or cut in front of me if I’m waiting in line somewhere.

Obviously the best way to avoid an encounter is to steer clear of areas I’m known to frequent, such as various sporting goods departments and hot dog stands. I also like to catch a matinee whenever I can, so you’ll want to limit yourself to the later shows.

Remember that I don’t generally consider human beings to be my enemy unless I feel threatened or provoked, or if they’re trying to sell me something. Should you happen to spot me from a distance, move quickly out of the area but under no circumstance run. This will only trigger in me unpleasant childhood memories of the other kids poking me in the side of the head and then running away.

Even if you’ve controlled your fear and quietly left the vicinity, I may have begun to follow you, possibly sensing that you’re carrying food or pornographic magazines. If so, discard these items immediately. In the unlikely event that this doesn’t distract me from my pursuit, you might want to turn around, face me, and spread your arms wide to make yourself appear larger—although I usually only fall for this if I’ve just woken up from a nap, or maybe I’ve had a few too many beers. Occasionally a threat about knowing karate or being related to an attorney will work.

In extreme cases, you can try playing dead. Just be certain you make it convincing; I’m usually pretty good at telling if someone is actually dead or not. If your chest is still moving up and down or you’re peeking up at me through one squinted eye, I’ll instinctively know it’s just a put-on and become enraged, because hey, no one likes to be made a fool of.

Another option is to climb a tree or, better yet, a long flight of stairs. I may be agitated, but not enough to exert myself like that. I’ll wait around for a few minutes, maybe even go to the trouble of looking to see if there’s an elevator nearby, but typically I’ll get bored pretty fast and wander off, going back to whatever I was doing before this began, or perhaps remembering about the porno magazines.

In a worst-case scenario, we’ll find ourselves face-to-face without either of us having had any warning—for instance, you round a corner at the book store and there I am, in the center of the aisle, checking out the latest releases. What now? Try using a calm, soothing voice to let me know you’ve heard only good things about the James Patterson novel I’m holding.

If that doesn’t work, if I start to advance, you have no choice but to go on the offensive. My most vulnerable area would be the eyes. Knock off my glasses, and while I fumble around on the floor and put them back on, you can make a hasty escape. (I’d advise escaping to the poetry section, where I never venture.)

As you can undoubtedly tell by now, I’m a naturally shy creature who only gets aggressive when driven by fear, or territoriality, or maybe I just don’t like the look of your face. If we do our best to give each other plenty of breathing room, I see no reason why we can’t exist in harmony. I can even envision a day when I nod in your direction and perhaps even give a friendly little wave before ducking back into the bushes.