This is my second time writing in a story on your blog and would like to thank you again for all the work that you do on the various issues of street, sexual harassment, gender issues, etc. While my story is not exactly one of street or sexual harassment this time (or at least what you would normally see on this blog), it does have a disturbing link to the recently popular topic of bullying.
Last week the world was made aware of the horrible bullying and harassment of school bus monitor, Karen Klein. My story is similar to her story, except that it involved all adults and people actually standing up for the ‘little guy’.
I and my male friend were on a New Jersey transit bus going into the city through Lincoln Tunnel a couple of days ago. The traffic was horrible, to the point where no vehicles were moving for at least 30 minutes. When the bus finally exists the tunnel, it stops once again as well as every other vehicles in the area. At this time a 19-21 year old girl gets up to ask the bus driver to open the doors. The driver explains that he cannot let anyone out if there are no bus stops present because it is against company safety rules.
She goes back to the middle of the bus where a heavy-set guy, who appears around the same age, storms up to the driver and first asks him to do him a favor of opening the doors. The driver repeats that he cannot and that he can lose his job over this.
The guy goes into a rant saying: 1) The driver is lying because he doesn’t see a rule like that written anywhere (he says this multiple times and proceeds to call the driver a ‘sheep’), 2) Threatens to push the door open, 3) Starts threatening to call the cops because they are being held ‘hostage’, 4) Threatens the driver physically by getting into his face and squeezing/dominating the driver’s physical space with his body.
During this whole time the driver repeats the policy, says they are free to call customer care to confirm the rule, and repeats that he can lose his job. At this point I speak up and say, “The driver has been very patient with you, pleading to keep his job. All of your actions will be caught on camera.” at that point he tells me he doesn’t care if he’s caught on camera so I say, “That’s nice that you don’t care. Instead of wasting everyone’s time with your ranting you can call customer care or you can nicely ask him to call his supervisor to explain the situation.”
After this another passenger, who is an older male with an athletic body, basically tells the guy to ‘sit down and shut up’ because he is bothering everyone and that everyone has somewhere important to go too. Looking away at the guy, he says, “No,”while almost pouting like a child. However, the male passenger actually quiets the guy down for a couple of minutes and he says nothing after that. He and the girl he is with start up again but to each other, saying that everyone is a sheep, the rules are ‘retarded’, the bus driver is an idiot, there is a conspiracy that all buses go into Port Authority so that customers buy stuff, that they are being held captive against their will, and other irrational stuff that makes it seem like they are victims of a crime.
The bus only moves a little this whole time and the girl starts threatening to call customer care, so I point to the phone number and without dialing, she puts the phone up to her ear (F.Y.I: she puts down the phone after 5 minutes claiming no one answered). Finally, the driver’s supervisor calls in to say that all bus drivers can let passengers off wherever due to the heavy traffic and that the police have been made aware of this.
My male friend and I are almost running to where we have to go (we were 45 minutes late) and then suddenly I see the guy rush in front of me with the girl and they look back at us a couple of times. I say nothing but know that he is going to try to scream at me from afar, which he does. He yells, “You’re welcome.” and I ask him, “For what? You didn’t do anything but harass a driver.”
The girl tries to get in my face as I’m speed walking down the block and tells me the supervisor called because of them. I just laugh because the driver never informed the supervisor of their existence. Then the guy yells at me (while almost running away from me, mind you), that I was hostile. I laugh again at the absurdity of this and say, “No I wasn’t hostile, look at yourself and the way you harassed that bus driver and now me.” He goes on ranting at least 15 feet away from me that I was hostile to him and he knows that the driver was lying while the girl tries to keep up with me and get in front of me. I told the girl if I was so hostile she should call the cops, I informed her of the phone number for 911, then offer my phone so she can call them. Her face twists in one of confusion but it seems she ignored what I said and repeats that I was hostile again.
Finally, I’ve had enough and said, “You know I think I’ll call the cops now and let them know of two people who are following and harassing me.” As I reach for my phone they both run across the street, yelling something at me, and I just curse at them before they disappeared down another block. As we wait for a light, another female passenger comes up to me, says the couple was crazy and that what they did to the driver was wrong then wishes us safe travels.
As I said earlier, while this is not a typical story that one will see on this site or any other sites about street harassment, I believe that street harassment and bullying are very similar. Like street harassment, the couple threatened the bus driver with various insults and threats, as well as trying to physically dominate him. The major difference of this situation compared to the usual stories on this blog, is that the bus driver was a male and there was no sexual harassment/threats to the driver. The couple ganged up on someone they perceived ‘lower’ than them (the bus driver) and choose me (a woman) to continue their harassment on instead of the other male passenger (with the athletic body) who also spoke up to them. The couple never made an attempt to say anything to that male passenger, probably because he was not considered an easy target (the male passenger was more fit and taller than the couple). Even though I was with a man, my male friend never said anything and they actually ignored him to focus on me. Usually, street harassment does happen because the victim is perceived as ‘lower’ and ‘weaker’ or an ‘easy target’. Due to my male friend not saying anything and the other male passenger being physically stronger, they probably considered me an easier target.
I was mad that my male friend never spoke up for me but we did discuss it and I know why he did not say anything. Part of it was not knowing what to say, which really should be a clue to everyone that they should support and, perhaps, educate males to be allies in different situations. For anyone who is wondering, I did contact NJ Transit, they confirmed that the rule the bus driver stated is true and I submitted a report of the incident to them as well so that drivers can be made aware of this couple.
Location: New York CityShare on Facebook