I ride the bus to work every day, as I’ve mentioned. And more than any other consideration, where to sit on the bus occupies a lot of my thoughts. In general, I think of the seats at the front of the bus, the two rows of 6 seats facing each other across the aisle, as a place for older people, or people with strollers and small children to sit, or for people hopping on who plan to hop off in just a few spots. I also admit that I was raised by people with Good Southern Manners and occasionally have to resist the urge to give side-eye to able-bodied men who sit in these seats, because of some sort of vague “women and children first” idea. I’m generally able bodied, and generally, I would think someone like me should not sit in these seats unless no other seats were available.
BUT. That was before my now several experiences of male creepiness on the bus. First there was the time a man who had been sitting behind me ran up to me as I walked down the aisle to get off the bus one evening and handed me what I thought was a piece of trash. It was his phone number. Freddy C. ###-####, CALL ME! Uh, no. Then there was the time a strange man sat down directly next to me, even though there were plenty of other open seats in which he would not have had to be directly next to anyone, and proceeded to talk loudly and explicitly about sex on his cell phone the entire ride. And there was the time an old man stared at me and then, when the person sitting closest to me got off the bus, moved to sit next to me and attempted to hit on me until I finally got off the bus. Add to that numerous instances of just general uncomfortable staring, and you’ve got me, feeling rather uncomfortable when usually riding the bus alone.
As a result, I’ve come to feel most comfortable when sitting as close to the driver as possible. I know those ladies (generally- there’s one bus driver who is male) won’t let anything bad happen to me. I’m sure this is partially irrational. Maybe I don’t have to sit right up next to the driver. Sometimes I even wonder if sitting so close to the driver might make me appear racist, as I’m often the only white person on the bus, and the idea of Rosa Parks isn’t far from my mind in this former Confederate town. (And yes, I know my more conservative friends are now saying, “uh, your liberal guilt is showing.”)
And then there is the part of me that is just plain mad. I should not have to wonder about which seat on the bus is the “safest” just because I am female. I should not have to endure creepy, degrading stares on my way to work, just because I’m female. I should not be honked and whistled and hollered at as I wait for my bus, just because I’m female. I should not have to wonder if it’s my outfit that is causing people to behave so rudely to me, to wonder if I shouldn’t be wearing a knee length skirt on a hot summer day, to think maybe pants would invite less staring, even though I’d be less comfortable. I should not have to wish that my husband were accompanying me when I’m out in public, to keep people from staring and making comments and honking, etc. These things happen so often that sometimes it just builds and I want to yell at the man sitting nearby, staring at me for the 20 minutes or so that I’m on the bus. I want to flip him off. But I don’t. So, these days, I sit very very close to the front. And sometimes I give the side-eye to able bodied men who sit in that area and encroach on my safe space. And it makes me sad that I have to live this way.