Public seating

On a packed express bus, with all of us now in winter gear, I made my way to the rear.  It is less crowded there, and often someone will get off at the next stop.  Through all the standing people, I came to the back to see a seat with a backpack, so I motioned to the guy absorbed with his laptop to move it, and as cheerfully as possible mentioned that there were a lot of people standing for him to leave his bag on the seat.  “Oh I didn’t notice,” pointing at his laptop.


©2005 Marion Pennell

©2005 Marion Pennell

So as we pulled into the final stop in town, I said, again cheerfully, politely, “You might want to notice that this bus is usually packed from Ste-Anne’s to St-Charles, and you might want to notice that people need a seat.”  He replied “Well, nobody asked me.”  So I said “Well, you’re a big guy, you might be intimidating, especially to women.”  And he “Yeah, I noticed that here.”  So I let him know “Well, some women are intimidated by men.  We always have to take safety into account. I myself have been attacked. It’s like seat belts – you take a small measure against a serious risk.  You’re not getting into a car accident, but you put on your seat belt anyway against a possible tragedy.  So a lot of women will avoid an intimidating man, because there is always a risk.”

He smiled, and said, “Well, thanks for letting me know.”

I am sure he never cared why people didn’t ask for his bag to move.  I doubt he will care in the future.  He is a big guy, takes up a lot of space.  Some people won’t ask.  I will.  I can be very direct to strangers in public.  I have nothing to lose.  I calculate my risks quite well at this stage of my life.  I live in public spaces in a city.  I take the space I deserve.

©2005 Marion Pennell

©2005 Marion Pennell

Oh! and because I am now middle aged I can deal with this – when a man has to take up a wide stance into my seat space (because his balls are too big? what’s with the wide stance?) – now I have no problem plopping my body down and pushing my legs into my 90 degree position.  He can’t push back at me like when I was a twenty-something and you have to shrink your personal space to avoid all manner of contact lest they think it may be an invitation.  Creepy touching on the bus makes you very small (when you are still young and pretty).

You know when a man sits down next to them, they move their own legs back into appropriate space.  Why don’t they do that when a woman sits down?  They don’t have to?  It’s not necessary?  I don’t get it, so as long as I am riding the bus I’m pushing back.


One thought on “Public seating

  1. Thank you for explaining it to him, even though he probably won’t pay attention to it in the future. He’s not the only one on the bus who heard you. Hopefully others who take up more space than they need will think the next time someone stands in front of them on the bus. Hopefully the women who are intimidated will realize, if they don’t know already, that they have the right to their space. Perhaps they may even speak up for themselves.


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