Thursday, 6 September 2007

On the train London-Sheffield

The last thing I did in London, last night, before coming home on the Midland train, was to read your new blog ReSisters. On the train, I was relieved to get a seat in the quiet coach. I sat in a four-seat set, and started to eat a nice sandwich. A couple of young guys asked me: “Is this first class?” I answered: “No, but it is a quiet coach”. They moved on to the next coach and I thought about the British politeness and acceptance of rules… After I finished my sandwich, two well-dressed men came in the carriage, and asked me if the remaining seats were reserved. I took my paper bag from the table and I said: “It is free”. One of the men sat in front of me and asked: “What is a quiet coach? It means we cannot talk?”. I replied: “It means you cannot make unnecessary noise” (quoting the words in the train notice). He said: “This is a problem, because I have an unnecessary flatulence”. I was very annoyed, but remained silent, looking out through the window, avoiding looking at him, and thinking about what to do next. He said: “Anyway, where are you going to?”, I said: “I am not interested in telling you where I am going”. He said: “Look, I am just bored, tired”. I stood up and walked away to look for another coach. On my way, the train manager (a woman) asked me: “Are you ok?”, (she had witnessed the incident) and I said: “No” and I told her what had happened. She invited me to sit on First Class, and I felt protected and safe after the annoying incident. I had never thought how important train managers are, for our safety, and I really feel grateful to that woman. I also thought, what if the manager was a man, would he have reacted in the same manner, or would he have thought the situation was funny? I hope not.

My conclusion with this incident is that violence against women can be subtle. I have been influenced by LCPS’s talks and thanks to that I understood that this situation was aggressive. A time ago, I would probably play the game, and try to use humour, and that indecent man, would have taken advantage of it to speak disrespectfully to me, because he “is tired” and would like “to have fun”. That kind of ‘humour’ and ‘fun’ amounts to disrespect and we need to resist abusive language, and understand the value of our individual space in a public space.

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