Crazy On The Metro
Blogger UnWinona shared a similarly disturbing story on her Tumblr about the increasingly creepy behavior that she experienced while riding on the LA Metro system.
Unwinona likes to read while on her commute, as many people do. As with most people on the Metro, she just wants to be left the hell alone; to this end, she wears a fake wedding ring and positions herself to make it as clear as possible that she is not interested in talking to anyone. Why? Well, to quote her post:
Without fail, I am aggressively approached by men on at least half of these commutes. The most common approach is to walk up to where I am sitting with body language that practically screams LEAVE ME ALONE and sit down next to me or as close to me as possible, when the train is not crowded and there are many empty rows. Sometimes an overly friendly arm is draped over the railing behind me, or they attempt to lean in close to talk to me as if we are old friends. Without fail, the man or boy in question will lean to close and ask me
What are you reading?
Is that a good book?
What’s that book about?
This serves the double purpose of getting my attention and trapping me in a conversation. If I stop reading the book I enjoy to talk to you, random stranger, you hit on me or just stay way too close to me. If I tell you to leave me alone, you get mad at me. Because I somehow, as a woman, owe you conversation.
Pay very close attention to that first point: every time she gets on the train, it’s a 50-50 chance that gets approached by people who are overly aggressive in their attention towards her. This is not a minor, occasional inconvenience; this is her day-to-day experience. Imagine, if you will, that every time you went somewhere, it was a coin-flip’s odds that you were going to have a schizoid homeless person, reeking of sweat, piss and decaying garbage cornering you, getting in your face and demanding that you talk with them.
More than that, however: this is some seriously creepy behavior. Leaning in or putting an arm behind her… these are all ways of cornering her. This alone reads as threatening, predatory behavior. Now, in the particular incident that UnWinona relates, it gets worse.
I was not on the train more than three minutes before three boys who looked eighteen sat in the row behind me and leaned over the seats into my personal space, close enough to breathe on me. The one with his arm draped over onto the back of my seat asked me—surprise— “what are you reading?” I went through my usual routine.
I told them loudly and firmly that I wanted to be left alone to read my book.
They got angry. I was told “Why are you going to be like that? I just wanted to talk!”
His friends start laughing at me and they don’t move, telling me come on! and why are you gonna be like that? until I tell them to leave me the fuck alone, stand up, and move to the front of the car near the three other people on the train, a couple and a business man in a suit.
They spend the next two stops shouting at me from the back of the car, alternating between trying to sound flirtatious and making fun of me, shouting “I bet she’s reading Stephanie Meyer! I bet she’s reading Twilight or some shit! You reading Twilight or some shit?”
Why They Were Being Creepy:
Once again, let’s break this down:
Sitting directly behind her:
Depends on circumstance and behavior. In a packed car, it’s one thing. When it’s mostly empty and a group of guys suddenly decide to sit directly behind a lone woman, it has the potential to be disturbing, depending on their behavior.
Invading her personal space:
Creepy. Unless there are specific circumstances where invading somebody’s physical space is unavoidable – standing in a packed subway car, for example – three people suddenly getting in somebody’s space is going to be read as intimidating behavior if not a direct threat.
Draping an arm behind her:
Creepy, especially when it’s combined with the previous behavior. This carries the connotation that “Hey, you’re not going anywhere. If I feel like it, I could keep you right here.”
Getting indignant at her refusal:
This has gone beyond “creepy” and fully into “dangerous” territory. At this point, the three boys are actually starting to be threatening. UnWinona now has reason to believe that she could very well in danger from these three strangers. Getting up and moving to a more populated section of the car didn’t end the harassment. In fact, the trio spent two more stops hurling abuse at her before finally getting off the train.
Once again: this isn’t a case of a misattributed sense of fear. This is a progression of behavior from innocuous to creepy to directly threatening. Once again: at what point, exactly, should UnWinona have been willing to give these people a chance during this string if increasingly disturbing behavior?
Just to drive the point home, this wasn’t the end of the evening for her:
A seemingly normal man enters the train with his bicycle. At this point I am three rows from the front of the car, another man was sitting near the back of the car, and the rest of the car is empty. Bicycle Man walks halfway down the row, and settles into the seat directly opposite me. Perfect, I think. Twice in one night.
It’s not the first time I’ve been bothered multiple times. As such, I’m still amped from the teenagers on the first train. So when this man leans across the aisle into my personal space and asks me, yes, what are you reading, I assertively but calmly tell him to please leave me alone, I am reading. The man stands up, moving to the front and muttering angrily over his shoulder that it isn’t his fault I’m pretty.
Again: creepy behavior, but not necessarily a threat. In fact, in UnWinona’s own estimation the guy was more annoying than anything else. And then:
It is at this exact moment I realize Bicycle Man is not taking it well. The seemingly annoying but normal man a moment before is now talking to himself, becoming agitated. In my years of being bothered by total strangers, I have learned how to hold a book and seem to be reading while taking in everything around me. He is glaring at me, and says out loud in an angry baby talk voice “PLEASELEAVEMEALONEI’MREADING. PLEASE LEAVE ME ALOOOONE.”
Then he’s up out of his seat and things go from bad to worse. He begins pacing back and forth in front of his bike, alternating between screaming something about his mother being dead and calling me a slut, a hoe, a bitch. I am frozen in place. There is one other person in the car, and I’m not sure if trying to change seats will draw more attention to me or less. I trust my instincts and show no fear, doing my best to appear to be calmly reading my book, never once looking up to acknowledge the abuse he’s hurling at me. There are four stops left until we reach the main downtown station where there are lights and security officers. Those four stops are virtually abandoned, and I have no guarantee that leaving to wait for another train won’t motivate him to leave the train as well, leaving us potentially alone at a metro station platform just outside of Compton. I’m frozen in place, trying to plan what I’m going to do if he decides to take all this rage directly to me. I’m ready to kick him, scream, make enough noise that he panics and flees.
At this point he’s punching the walls and doors of the train, screaming at me. He stares me full in the face and screams
SUCK MY DICK, BITCH
YOU STUPID BITCH
YOU GODDAMN HO
IF I HAD A GUN I’D SHOOT YOU
I WOULD FUCKING KILL YOU BITCH
This went on for two stops.
From creepy, threatening behavior to dangerously crazy in the span of minutes.
This is why women are on their guard around strangers. This is why men cannot expect that women should just “get over it” or “give guys the benefit of the doubt”. The creepy behavior that these men exhibited were warning signs.