Stuff that I think about. Mostly books.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Subway Sexual Har(ass)ment: Or, Why I Should Flush My Metropass Down the Toilet

A few minutes ago, I posted this as my Facebook status:

Jessie Hale Reason #3,423 to hate the subway: unable to tell difference between lack of personal space due to overcrowding, and legitimate sexual harassment.

But I feel that this story really requires further explanation, or at least, vigorous use of slant text, which Facebook cannot at this time accommodate. I need italics to deal with this situation, people. It is italic worthy.

So this morning I got down to Eglinton Station at my usual start time of 8:30, which incidentally is the same time that every single person in the entire city gets there too. It's always busy, and today was no exception, but it was compounded today by the fact that the TTC seemed to be running even less efficiently than usual. So, while more and more people kept showing up, the appearance of subway cars was less frequent. I think the scientific term is "clusterfuck."

A side story: I've been working more or less 9-5 in Toronto for about ten months. Accounting for a two-month period where my schedule essentially consisted of me showing up at the Tightrope office whenever the hell I felt like it and leaving two hours later, along with the usual holidays and weekends, I estimate that I have boarded the subway at 8:30 a.m. at Eglinton Station about 180 times. Now, on very busy mornings, the TTC will occasionally shake itself awake for long enough to send an empty car to high-profile stations, rather than just letting everybody board at Finch and hoping for the best. I was once waiting at Eglinton Station when one such empty subway car ambled along. And stopped. I got a seat on the subway, y'all. It was probably one of the best moments of my entire life (which is a sad situation that might require another, less entertaining blog post). It happened AN single time (HT, out of 180 times, giving it an experiential probability of 0.006, and yet, every single morning, I hope that it will happen again.

Needless to say, it didn't. An empty car actually did amble along, but it just hooted in a surly sort of manner and kept going towards Bloor or wherever the hell the important people were waiting. So, when a subway car finally did allow us to board, it was, of course, packed. I didn't so much get on voluntarily as I was carried along on a sea of sleepy bank-worker people, but I did actually manage to get a spot away from the door and close to a communal pole. I think my gym bag was wedged between someone else's knees, but nonetheless, I was fairly satisfied with the hand (ha) fate had dealt me.


Ok. Now, I understand that when the subway is crowded, you really don't have much of a choice about where your body goes or which of its parts touch which of other passengers' parts. It's not like I'm going to ask anybody to respect my bubble on the TTC at 8:30 a.m. And I also understand that my ass, being not exactly diminutive, is fairly difficult to avoid even at the best of times. In polite circles, you might refer to it as a round thing in yo' face. But let's just say that whatever was touching my ass this morning felt an awful lot like a hand, with five separate and very active fingers. And let's also just say that that hand felt like it was moving with purpose. I was willing to give the pervert behind me the benefit of the doubt while we were actually moving - maybe s/he was just succumbing to the normal inertia experienced by all physical matter, and certainly the two very short women in front of me who were unlucky enough not to be able to reach the overhead pole were having no small trouble keeping themselves out of other people's bizz - but when we were stopped for a few moments at St. Clair, the damn thing was still moving very actively and very much with purpose.

Trouble is, not only could I not move away from The Thing (appropriate, no?), I also couldn't turn my body around to a sufficient degree to determine whether or not what I suspected was happening was actually happening. I couldn't even see who was behind me! It could have been a completely normal nine-to-fiver like myself whose purse was comprised of unfortunate dangling zippers and knobs that just happened to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or it could have been a sketchy weirdo who gets off on the idea of fondling innocent women who convince themselves that it's probably just somebody's purse! I'll never know. And that terrifies me, you guys. It was a traumatizing incident made all the more traumatizing by the fact that I don't even know if it was traumatizing or not!

So, yanno. If you're in the market for a Metropass, let me know.

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