Being a woman

On a bus ride, a COVID-masked young woman sat opposite me in one of the sideways seats, holding her keys in her hand, but keys out, not keys in. That's a defense strategy. If she punches you, you get keys on the face, not a fist. This was just an ordinary bus ride, though, with no particular danger. 

Maybe she'd heard the heavily-hyped stories of how frightful the bus can be, and the city. Crime lurks behind every shadow, we're told. I've peered into the shadows, and most shadows are just shadows.

Maybe she's new in town, or new to the bus. Maybe she's been hassled or attacked by a man, or men. Maybe she hasn't, but she knows women who have. 

Between the keys on her chain, a small pink canister dangled — mace or pepper spray. She had a purse over her shoulder, but carried the keys and mace in her hand, even on the bus.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Since moving back to Seattle in April, the most dangerous thing I've seen on the bus was some man verbally harassing a youngish girl. She said something loud to him, "Leave me alone, ya perv!" or something like that, and the driver heard, put a stop to it almost instantly, and kicked the jackass off.

That's as it should be, but sometimes the driver isn't aware, or doesn't say anything. That's why this woman opposite be had keys poking out from between her fingers, and mace hanging below, easily accessible.

Other than that once, the only crime I've seen on the bus in Seattle is an occasional passenger smoking fentanyl. Oh, and a man masturbating a few weeks ago, but he covered up when I laughed.

When I lived in San Francisco, there were a few fist fights on the buses, and once some bum punched me. Considering how often I ride transit, though, the bus feels pretty safe.

Here's the catch, though — the bus seems safe to me, because I'm a man, and a big man at that. It's different for smaller people, and especially for women. 

Earth is a shitty world, some men are shitty creatures, so women need to carry mace, keep their eyes always open and keys between their fingers. Women have to be aware, everywhere they go. Jeez, that must get tiresome.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

This wasn't the same bus or the same day, but it's the same moral to the same story. A woman rang the bell to get off at the next stop, and it was the diner's intersection, so I stood up to get off, too.

We both stepped out through the bus's back door, and she walked straight ahead, toward the front door to a dentist's office. I turned right, walked down the sidewalk toward the diner.

When I reached the crosswalk and pushed the button for a 'walk' sign, that same woman from the bus was twenty steps behind me on the sidewalk.

So... she didn't have an appointment with the dentist. She'd walked toward the dentist's office as a safety strategy, for protection from a man off the bus — me.

I'm harmless, but she couldn’t know that. I'd given that woman next to no thought, and wouldn't have even known it was the same woman, except that she was wearing a very distinctive neon-striped jacket.

She had to consider me a threat, though. That's reality. It's dangerous if she doesn't consider every man a threat. How fucked up is that? Only as fucked up as reality.

So we crossed the street together, but she stayed about 15 feet away.


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