Here’s what happened. (Note: this is not hot in any way. It’s basically a rant about public transportation etiquette).
I got on the train this morning, later than usual. Upside being maybe I’d get a bench to myself. There was one, in one of the four seater areas, where two seats face two other seats without a table, as if you’ll be commuting with three of your best commuter friends and want to have a chat. Anyway, I took the seat, there was a dude seemingly passed out in the corner, I sat opposite him diagonally, thinking if the train didn’t fill up, I wouldn’t have to scoot over and worry about our knees touching.
Knees touching is always a worry for me, I’m a big lady with a big ass and my knees generally stick out farther than maybe the seat designers intended. So I’m always very conscious of the space I take up, tucking my knees to the side, sitting back as far as my ass will allow, holding my bags precariously, but firmly on my short lap (short because my belly is big too, and doesn’t leave a lot of lap space).
The train started to fill, a man sat across from me next to passed out guy, so I did the polite thing and slid over next to the window directly across from passed out guy. I negotiated a place for my knees, as you do, gripped my bags close to my chest and glanced over at the four seats across the aisle from us.
There sat a young dude with a backpack sitting next to him on it’s own seat. Across from him, sitting kitty-corner, was a business man with his slim briefcase taking up it’s own seat. Presumably so he could read emails while we trundled along to work. I read emails too! (Er…play candy crush, whatevs) but I do it with my elbows squished to my side and my knees crimped together, feeling every inch of my frame and willing it not to touch anyone.
As the train goes along, passed out guy, who is slumped forward hood pulled down over his head, hands between his own, comfortably spread, knees, moves incrementally this way and that. Presumably with the rocking of the train, but also, managing to touch my tights-clad knees fairly frequently. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t stroking me or grasping or anything, just knuckles grazing “innocently” as we rode along.
Annoying, but it’s not like my knees have never run into someone else’s knees before or whatever. Just not usually their hands. Most people sit up on a train.
But this is the thing, see. I assume, because I’m large, and my knees go farther into the middle of our shared space than I feel like they “should” I blame myself for this inadvertent knuckle-to-knee contact. Not to mention his slumped-down head being basically between my knees. But not really of course, it’s all very subtle, maybe he’s just a drunk. Don’t make a scene. You’re obviously taking up the most space here, Maria.
So for three or four stops, I just kept shifting position, moving half an inch here or there. Trying to not touch anyone. Except, it kept happening. For a minute, I was like “Fuck this, I get to be in this space too” and I just let my knees be. But then they were just resting against his hand and it was creeping me out. And I started to think, if this guy didn’t look like he was homeless or drunk or “in trouble” if he looked like a frat boy or a business guy, would I stand for him touching me so causally? No. Probably not. On the other hand, if he was attractive to me, would I be more likely to believe it was an accident and just let it happen? Probably. And what does that say about me?So, is it really because this particular dude just is too clueless to notice, or is he taking advantage of his down-and-out status? In any case, I moved my knees away again.
I don’t even know if he was taking advantage of anything. I wasn’t being touched “intentionally” that I could tell, it was so subtle, he might not have even known I was there.
But it was annoying, and those guys across from me, just letting their bags have their own seats, and me constantly shifting and moving and not wanting to call attention to this for fear of being branded a bitch, or racist, or too fat to take public transportation, said nothing. (Being branded by whom, a bunch of strangers? Gah, who cares? I do, apparently, but hate that I do). At the next stop, I told the lady next to me it was mine and got up, of course the train moved and I hadn’t quite had the handrail yet and nearly fell into the lap of stupid email man whose briefcase deserves it’s own seat. He reached his hands out to help me if I needed.
“Oh gosh, thanks, so sorry!” “ha, ha” I laugh. Tra la la, I’m such a klutz. Grrrr. Another annoying habit. I’m actually not that much of a klutz. I’m pretty careful about the space I take up at almost all times.
Then I just walked to the door and stood for three more stops, fuming.
Of course passed out man leaned back and looked around when I got up, but he didn’t look at me, and I didn’t really look at him.
I could have said “Please stop touching me” or “Please sit up, sir” during the trip, but if he was just a poor drunk, I didn’t want to make a scene or get him in trouble. But what if he wasn’t? What if this was exactly his intention?
I don’t know. This post isn’t even really coherent. And generally, I let things like this roll off my back pretty easily. But I’m annoyed and thinking about how my own feelings of my body, my feelings of not wanting to make a fuss, my feelings of what is and isn’t right, what I do and don’t deserve, what is and isn’t appropriate have all bubbled up because of this.
Obviously people go through much more threatening interactions on public transportation every day, and I’m not trying to say this is like those. It’s just something that annoyed me. (Of course, this little bit of apology right here is another thing that is annoying. If I ever have a complaint or an issue, why do I feel the need to constantly say “I know there are worse things, so shouldn’t be complaining, but…” Yes, obviously there are worse things than having a man touch my knee on the train. But sometimes talking about small things is important and if I only ever allow space for big things to matter, then, I’m not solving problems. This parenthetical is basically a note to self).