Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

The Good, the Annoying, and the Bad

on June 17, 2014

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood, Oregon

Last week I flew to Portland, Oregon, for a conference. It was great to get back on the road; my work trips have been few and far between, and, let’s face it, Greensboro, North Carolina isn’t the most exciting place to visit (although they have some great barbecue).

The whole trip was a mixture of different experiences that I’ll call the Good, the Annoying, and the Bad. The Good things that happened are pretty self-explanatory – they were those little unexpected gifts you get. The Annoying are those things that happen that don’t result in any harm, they just take some of the shine off an otherwise good situation. The Bad things are those that have a lingering negative consequence. Here’s how it shook out:

The Good

  • On my way out of Atlanta I was selected for the TSA’s new “PreCheck” program, which meant that I got to go in the security line where you don’t have to take out your laptop or your 1 quart bag of liquids or take off your shoes.
  • I got to go on a sightseeing tour of the city the morning after I arrived, which was a wonderful opportunity to see much more of Portland than I otherwise would have done.
  • I got to spend time with someone I knew from college. She and I weren’t close back then, but through the magic of Facebook I’ve come to like and admire her greatly. We talked and laughed and told stories for hours, and I’m so glad we were able to meet.

The Annoying

  • I broke my sunglasses as soon as I got on the airplane.
  • On my first night, as I was getting ready for bed, I realized I left one of my small toiletries bags at home – the one with my contact case, my toothbrush, and my deodorant. I had to get dressed again and go downstairs to the 24-hour shop in the hotel lobby and buy an $8 travel-sized bottle of contact solution (which I did have) just to get the case that came with it. I begged a toothbrush from the front desk, but the next morning I had to walk three blocks to the nearest drug store for my brand of deodorant.
  • I didn’t leave the hotel in time to catch the early train to the airport on my way out, and by the time I got there the security line was way backed up. I got to the gate just after boarding had started, which didn’t leave me time for breakfast as I had hoped.

The Bad

  • On my way back from meeting my friend the first time we saw each other, I had an encounter on the light rail train. The car I was riding in was mostly empty, and at one of the stops a man got on and sat down a few seats away from me. He looked to be in his 50’s, he had long black hair, and he was wearing a hat (it looked Native American to me, which turned out to be accurate – he told me he was Navajo). The seat I was in faced into the train car so unless I turned my face completely away I couldn’t help but see him. Not long after he sat down, he gave me a little finger wave. Now, here’s the conundrum I (and all women) face in a situation like that. The guy is probably harmless, so do you do the polite thing and give him a brief (read: unencouraging) nod of the head without making eye contact, do you pretend to not see him and silently pray he gets off at the next stop, or do you get up and walk away? I chose the polite response, which was the brief head nod. Apparently it wasn’t discouraging enough because he immediately began talking to me. He started out by telling me what a beautiful smile I had. I said “thank you”, again, not meeting his eyes and hoping that was the end of it. He then starts to wax eloquent about how beautiful I am in general – so beautiful, words begin to fail him. I’m now pretty sure he’s not 100% compos mentis, and I know I’m in for it. Sure enough, he moves over to a seat next to me and starts asking questions. “Are you married?” Yes. “Do you have children?” No. “Why?” And on it goes. He finally gets around to asking me for money, which I give him. He then lifts his shirt to show me what looks like a distended belly button, which totally freaked me out. He got off at the next stop, thankfully. The two guys that got on then also felt compelled to chat me up, but at least they didn’t flirt with me. In case you’re wondering, this happens almost every single time I travel alone, as I’m sure it does to most women.
  • Two days later I was late going to the convention center, so there weren’t many people at the light rail stop near my hotel. Except this one guy, who had a conference badge like mine. So, seeing as how we were going to the same place, we exchanged greetings. I can’t remember why it came up, but I told him I had connected with an old friend from college the night before. Upon hearing this, he said “Oh you connected, huh?”, giving me a little leer. I couldn’t believe it. In an instant my whole demeanor changed, and I said to him in a flat voice “Not like that” and turned my back on him. At least he got the message – he didn’t try to talk to me again, and when the train arrived I walked through the first compartment and into the second before I sat down.

I’ve told a number of people now about my trip, but pretty much all I’ve told them is the Good. Depending on who it is, I might throw in some of the Annoying. I haven’t told anyone about the Bad; I never do. I never talk about the unwanted flirting, the inappropriate remarks, the uninvited touching that happens to me frequently. I know that these things happen to most women, and, like most women, I chalk it up to “how it is” and get on with my life. But this is the lingering, negative consequence – every time it happens, my shell gets a little harder. I get less patient. I get less willing to “be polite”. I start to get angry. Since the #yesallwomen campaign started I’ve been more aware of these little incidents, and much less apt to just let it go. I don’t owe you a smile, or conversation. What is it about me, or any woman, that makes a man think it’s OK to use sexual innuendo at the slightest provocation? Who taught you that? And who taught us that it’s not OK to call them out on it? But this is what we’ve learned, and this is how we live. I’m tired of it. So I’m going to stop being so accommodating.  You’ve been warned. I might actually get up and walk away next time.


Photo by Amanda Taylor Brooks (c) 2014




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