I am Civic Center Bart waiting for a train around 10:30 am on a Wednesday. The platform is relatively empty… this is not a busy time of day. I am not dressed in any unusual way – I am wearing jeans, a long sweater and flats. I have a scarf around my neck because my hair is pulled back and it is breezy. It is San Francisco, after all. I am wearing sunglasses. I am not wearing my earphones, which I almost always keep in – even though they are mostly off. I am looking at my phone because I am in the midst of a relatively alarming/entertaining group text with two colleagues about the substitute teacher that is apparently unable to do the one thing he had to do for me: pass out some papers.
At this point the train is four minutes out and I hear someone say, “What time is it?” I am stuck by this question because it comes out loud, and sudden, as if I have already been engaged in conversation with this person, and as an aside they have interjected, ‘By the way what time is it?’ There is no segue from this speaker, just, ‘Hey. Tell. Me. What. Time. It. Is.’ By the time I realize he is talking to me I look up then quickly back at my phone and report that it is 10:45.
I look back to my phone and continue to check up on the situation I am missing at school for having reported for my civic duty.
“You’re really cute.” The Man With No Watch Says.
“So, you got a husband?”
“I am not going to answer that question.”
“Why? You single?”
“I am not going to answer it because it is a totally inappropriate thing to ask me.”
“Well, do you?”
“It is none of your business and it is not okay for you to be asking me.”
“What? I ask lots of ladies and they don’t think it is inappropriate.”
“Well, maybe you should keep talking to them. I am telling you it is inappropriate and you have no business asking me in the first place, let alone over and over again. It is non of your business, and completely irrelevant to you.”
“What? You having a bad day?”
“No, not really. I am just sick of constantly being hassled by offensive interactions like this.”
“Oh, no I am hassling you? You think I am harassing you?”
“Yes. Actually I do. And I am sick of it.”
“Whatever man. You hella uptight. Does this train go to Fremont?”
I point to the sign that says ‘SAN FRANCISCO/MILLBRAE’.
“Ah, yeah. I see”
And the train comes. I get on the train. I wonder for a moment if Fremont was a ruse and my inquisitor will get on this train with me. It would not be the first time. He does not. I see several seats and decide I will stand because I only have two stops to go. A man standing across from me asks, “How are you today?” And I think to myself, I sure miss the reality in which a question like that really was just a question like that.
He lets it go.
When I get off the train and come out to the neighborhood I return to everyday, I see the regular assortment of folks who are always there, regardless of the hour or the weather. Some greet me in a way that indicates neighborhood familiarity. Some are busy doing whatever it is that they do with their days.
None of them ask me if I have a husband.
But it will happen again, likely before I even get to my building.
I wish it would stop. I wish that there was not something inside of me that somehow is programmed to eek out a bit of guilt that I am being snobby or a ‘bitch’ when I don’t want to engage with the strangers who somehow feel they have a right to comment on me, my body, my clothes, my personhood.
I wish it would stop.
Then I am home.
And it stops; at least for the moments I am at home.