So I’m on the bus today, talking to a friend on my phone. The bus is rather noisy, but I do have a loud voice, especially when I’m animated about something, and I was pretty psyched up about what I was saying to my friend. And then this young white-collar type man asks me, “do you want to wrap it up?”
I said, “I’m sorry, what?”
He goes, “do you want to wrap it up already? We’re sick of hearing about your fucking life.”
I admit I wasn’t really expecting that. My reaction was, “ok, I’ll move this way a bit.” And I moved down to a part of the bus a bit further out of earshot for him. But what surprised me in the moments afterwards was how much this got to me. My knees got weak. His remarks suddenly took up so much space in my mind. I felt defeated, and I felt like I hadn’t responded properly.
I have no problem at all being considerate and deferring to somebody’s suggestion. If he had said “would you mind keeping it down a bit?” I would have obliged happily. It was his attitude towards me… I felt as though I had just shown the rest of the people on that bus that it was ok to talk brashly to someone completely unknown to you–like I hadn’t stood up for justice.
I also admit that I do have a side that can be very combative. I used to be worse than this guy. Nowadays I have gained the self-control to understand that getting snarled up in somebody else’s negativity is something you want to avoid doing; hence my pacifistic reaction. But still… though I would not want to have gotten into a gritty argument or fight with this person, there is this part of me that wishes that I had come up with something witty to say in front of all of those people. So I play back scenarios in my head in which I respond differently–something like:
- “It doesn’t spread goodwill to use the word ‘fuck’ to a stranger from whom you want something. Please rephrase your request.”
- “What made you feel so threatened by me that you would speak to me like that?” (making a point of continuing to engage him)
- “Do you speak Spanish? [the person I was talking to and I both speak in Spanish at times] No? Ok, I’ll speak Spanish to my friend so you won’t hear about my ‘fucking’ life then!” 🙂 (I would then talk in Spanish to my friend and slowly walk away–because the point is not to make his life hell, but rather to make him and everyone around him think a bit).
- “Wow, to be talking like that, you must have had a bad day! For your sake, my friend, take it easy, we’re almost at Central Square anyway. I’m not that bad. Here, I’ll move over here to help you relax a bit.” (we were maybe 3 minutes away from the last stop, at which both of us got off)
The point is not to start a fight. The point is to stand your ground, especially since it was in front of other people. To stand your ground against negative ugliness, to show people that negativity doesn’t win–like this guy did. I feel as though I failed to do that.
It really isn’t the biggest deal. What I ended up doing was fine–it diffused the situation, and it’s not like my backing down resulted in some further gross injustice. Nobody got hurt, nothing got worse as a result of my not standing up to him. But, honestly… I can’t say I don’t wish I could do that over again, in that vainglorious part of my mind. 🙂
Over the latest part of my life, I have been trying very hard to come off as nonthreatening. This has shielded me from thinking like a boastful yahoo, and that’s good. But I think this is also the signal that, as much as I don’t want to be looked at as threatening, I am ready for a higher level of living: one in which I exist freely enough that I must expect to be threatening to some people no matter what, though I do try not to be. Once I live more like this, I will be more ready for the disgruntled fellow busriders of the world.