Let me preface this with the fact that I am not a softy. I spent four years in New York City riding the MTA. I’ve been groped. I’ve been flashed. I’ve been eyed. Hell, I was once even threatened with a knife by a crazy man on the A at 3:00am because I was reading a book and he was convinced it was about him. Yeah, I’m not some scaredy-cat.
Chicago’s transit system is generally a much friendlier place than the MTA. I’ve never really had to put up with a lot of things that are just part of life in New York. For instance, I have never-ever been touched inappropriately–on accident or otherwise–on the CTA. I’ve never seen genitals on the CTA either.
Last night, however, was by the far the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been made to feel on any public transportation system. It started on the Red Line. I sat down at around 9:30. About 15 minutes later I felt the prickle of being watched. And then I noticed this guy just staring at me. He looked away as soon as I spotted him. No big deal, I told myself. I’m used to being looked at: I am an attractive young woman after all (not that it makes it okay for dudes to stare at me all creepy like). But again, it didn’t rattle me.
But then he kept staring at me. His eyes kept finding me and the look he had was not the kind I’m used to dealing with. It was all out staring, and without embarrassment at all. And it made me uncomfortable. I’ve never felt that uncomfortable before from just being looked at. I felt uncomfortable enough that when we reached my stop, I waited for the doors to open before collecting my stuff and rushing out.
I thought that would be that. I kind of laughed at myself when I glanced over my shoulder to make sure he wasn’t there. And he wasn’t. I didn’t see him.
I walked up Adams to Union Station to get on the Metra back to Aurora. I got in a car and sat down, pulled out my book, and thought I’d just read for the 20 minutes until the train was scheduled to leave. But then I felt that prickle again. I looked around but nothing. Then I looked up. Sitting above and across from me, and still staring me down, was the dude from the Red Line.
Okay, it’s one thing to be a creepy dude staring at me on a train, it’s an entire different thing to follow me to a different train and continue being creepy. I texted my sister and a friend immediately, then promptly switched cars. Luckily, I did not see him again.
The whole situation really shook me though. I’ve never felt that vulnerable in a public space before. I’ve never felt so violated without being touched. I’ve never felt so threatened without an exchange of words.
I mean, WTF? Why do some men feel like this is acceptable behavior? I am a woman, but I’m a human being first. Don’t follow me and certainly don’t be a creepy fuck about it.