IN THE greater scheme of things, it seems a shallow topic, given that war, famine, natural disasters and unnatural politics are immensely important things to be worried about.
But when a mate from New Zealand e-mailed me to give the lowdown on a social situation that has stalked her since Christmas 2008, I had to ask: how do you avoid people you don't want to see?
It's not that Cass moved countries in the hopes of never again bumping into the girl who flirted with her husband and hung out with her in public, but mewled behind her back. Circumstances and a sympathetic universe simply took Cass out of hot water at the right time – she'd never have to duck behind dark glasses in a shopping mall again.
Until Said Girl decided to emigrate too; and ended up in the same neighbourhood, same street and smack-bang – she was the girl next door.
Cass is an intelligent woman. She has degrees and uses them. She also bakes her own bread and knows how light bulbs work. She's all that: the corporate chick, the mom, the nice-but-equal wife and a darned fine friend.
But there wasn't an island big enough for Cass to escape the gnawing anxiety and irritation that come with going face-to-face with a face you truly, madly, deeply want to consign to the page of your life titled, "I'm so never going there again, sister".
Psychologists generally blame you, the paying patient, for not being able to "let go", "move on", or "find yourself" rather than focusing on playing hide-and-seek in the grocery aisle.
With enough therapy, Cass should theoretically not only be able to say hello to Said Girl, but even offer her a latte in the spirit of good karma and being the better person.
But Cass studied accounting, so throwing psychoanalysis at her didn't work. And I can see her point: why is it that the very people you can't stand, of whom you are afraid, who have stalked you, or dumped you, are the ones who pull into the parking lot at exactly the same time as you do?
Her therapist gave up on empowering her with feel-good behaviour modifications and came up with what I think is a fabulous, 21st-century alternative to behaving properly.
Avoidance tactic #1: suddenly realise that you need shampoo and whip your trolley around while making eye contact with the baby food section (or anything, really, that isn't a person).
Avoidance tactic #2: embrace modern technology. Teenagers walk and text, so why shouldn't you? There's a life-altering message on your iPhone that needs your attention just as a Said Girl comes into view.
Avoidance tactic #3: go on the offensive. Boldly approach the person, who is as likely to be trying to avoid you as you are him – unless he's a stalker, in which case, legal help will be more beneficial than this tacky flippancy – yodel "helloooo" and fling your arms about him.
Cass attempted tactic #3 – true story – and Said Girl now wears dark glasses, buys loads of shampoo and has a hefty phone bill.
It was worth every therapy cent spent.