While walking down the street I noticed another pedestrian, who was ahead of me, accidentally dropping his wallet. I did not stare at this wallet, of course, but it wasn't hard to notice that it looked quite valuable: it was pretty thick and had both documents and money.
I said 'Excuse me!' but I got no reaction: this man had an enormous headset on his head and was failing to notice anything around him. To get his attention I had to speed up, walk in front of him, prevent him the road and wave my hand in front of his eyes. By doing this I clearly invaded his personal space, as I closed my distance to him considerably.
As soon as I got his attention I pointed his lost wallet to him and then, when he lunged to collect it, I left.
My question is: How to handle such situations so that I don't break societal norms and even more importantly, don't put myself to risk of being mistaken for a criminal.
One of the main sets of rules about shared space involve how closely we approach a stranger. Depending on the circumstances, it can range from five feet or more to inches. In an office lobby, you don’t come closer than five feet to strangers. However, in a crowded elevator we pull in those boundaries, sometimes to mere inches. We unconsciously know what is and what isn’t an acceptable distance in public and for the situation.
An unwarranted violation of these rules is a serious danger sign. For a criminal to be successful, he must break the unwritten social code and get close enough to violate your personal space. He has to do this to control you. A knife at two feet is a threat -- from there he leaves you no choice. But if he’s 10 feet away, you can run. He doesn’t have control. Therefore, in order for him to succeed, he has to approach you -- and in doing so, break the social codes.
Become a stickler for distance etiquette when you are in public -- do NOT let people approach you at inappropriate times. Unless you are in a line, crowded elevator or a crowd, don’t let anyone get closer than five feet. In a deserted parking lot, it’s 10 feet or more. That is your space, and he has no right to be there. If he tries to close, move wide. This will show you if it is an intentional or unintentional invasion. If you move and he continues on his way, it was unintentional. If he again veers towards you, be assured the invasion is intentional.
The above quote comes from Marc MacYoung's site nononsenseselfdefense.com, page Personal and shared space § Shared Space distance rules and crime. Reading this site made me think that my invading his personal space to get his attention was a serious matter. I fear that there are people who would react violently in such a situation, believing I might be trying to attack them.
I am especially interested in an answer that would compare how the situation is in Europe and how it is in the USA. This is because this happened in Europe, but one of the main sources of my fears that I did something very wrong - the above-quoted website - seems to be US-based. I was told that while what I did was OK in Europe (I clearly did this guy a favor, if I didnt do this he would have made himself a major loss), the same behavior on my part would be absolutely unacceptable in America, because by doing this I would have put myself into a grave and very real risk of being convicted for theft attempt - and that is even if I did not invade his personal space but just pointed his lost wallet to him from a safe distance. Is this accurate?