I have a serious problem. My neighbor, who is this super old lady, asks me to take her garbage out every time I pass her front door to get into my apartment. She doesn't say "Please" or "Thank you" and she just expects me to take her garbage out every time. I'm a nice guy and don't like to be rude to old people. But now I'm getting anxiety attacks every time I have to go back to my apartment. What should I do?
Terrified to Go Home
Dear Terrified to Go Home,
If it's not too much trouble, if it wouldn't be a terrible strain on you to take her garbage out, I suggest you do this favor for the old woman for the time being, until you can figure out what her situation is.
One advantage is that then you won't have to be afraid to go home. Plus, bit by bit you could discover what exactly is going on with this old lady -- why she needs someone to take her garbage out, and why she picked you. That way, you might be able to find a permanent solution, or at least put into place some stable practice that will eliminate your fear.
So if you are strong and have the energy, I suggest that you simply take her garbage out when she asks. If from time to time you cannot take it out, then tell her that you're sorry, you can't do it this time. And if it bothers you that she does not say please and thank you, tell her you want her to say please and thank you. You might also ask her for a favor in return, if there is something she can do for you -- I don't know, make you some soup or recommend a good book, or perhaps feed your cat when you are out.
Now, depending on whether your apartment is in a large building or a small one, you may have "garbage night" or you may have a continuous garbage operation in which it does not matter when you take your garbage out. If you have a "garbage night" you could schedule with her to take her garbage out when you take yours out. That would be preferable to the somewhat random way it seems to be happening now.
That's about it. That's my suggestion: If you agree to do what she asks, you will no longer feel afraid to see her, and you will eventually be able to figure out why she's asking you to do it, and can then find a permanent solution.