Sunday, January 17, 2016

My Last Lingering Shred of Human Decency

A story:

It's 7pm on a Sunday night in the Philadelphia suburbs. I'm walking across a dark, icy parking lot en route to a youth group event. I'm wearing a long winter coat, my 4th Doctor scarf, and a fuzzy hat.
From across the parking lot, a shout: "Hey! Hey!"
I look around. There's a car pulling out, and no one else around. Is he yelling at me?
I look around.
Goddammit, he's yelling at me.
"Hey! Wait up!"
I'm en route to a youth group event, where I know only a handful of the kids, and even fewer of the other advisors. It's dark, and any other support staff I've met, it was once, several months ago. Maybe he remembers me from there. I stop, I wait.
I regret this decision before I even make it. I make it anyway, because what if it is? I don't want to be rude.
Now he's here, next to me, and he doesn't look familiar. He doesn't look _un_familiar, his face is just a face. "Hi! How are you?"
He's congenial. Have I met him? I squint again. His face is just a face.
"Can I help you?" I ask.
"Where are we going tonite?"
"Excuse me? Do I know you?"
"I want to know what we're doing."
I keep walking. His face is just a face.
"Have we met?"
"We haven't not met."
"I'm sorry, where do you think you know me from?"
"From the place we met."
He grabs my hand, and that's when I know who he is. Or rather, at least, who he isn't.
I snatch my hand back, but we're twenty feet from the entrance, it's freezing out, we're in a parking lot. I am successfully unsettled. I keep walking, keeping dodging out of his grasp.
"You stopped! Why did you stop for me?" he pesters.
I keep walking.
"Why did you stop for me? We're talking!" he insists.
"My last lingering shred of human decency. Do I know you?"
"I just want to know what we're doing!"
I keep walking, the lobby's sliding doors part.
Inside, I immediately busy myself with finding a sign, a direction, a reason to step out of his shared space.
I bolt down the stairs, already swarming with teens.
He doesn't follow. I exhale.

A discussion:
And this, kittens, is why we can't have nice things.

To the other side of things: No. No, you cannot shout at another person in a dark icy parking lot. No, you are not entitled to their time, their answers, their space, their hand. You cannot dodge their questions as they try to figure out who the fuck you are, why you're talking to them in a dark icy parking lot. Your needs are not a priority in this dark icy parking lot, especially if there is no emergency. No, you cannot just make conversation. No, you are not "just making conversation."

What should I have done, people who are the sort of people who exist on the internet to defend this sort of dude? Should I have told him all about my job, my place of employ, and the two hundred teenagers I was about to go supervise? Should I have invited him to come with me? Should I have agreed to ditch my job and go get to know this clearly charming young stranger, and hold hands with him in a parking lot?

Just don't stop. That's easy enough. And I shouldn't have. I know that. There was that tickle in my brain, already knowing that on no planet would one of my barely acquaintance level coworkers have shouted me down in a parking lot. But undoing thirty three years of social conditioning isn't quite so easy (oh, hi, did I not mention, it's my birthday?) - and the social contract is that you stop. You act nice. You try to help. And by the time you realize that none of those things are going to do you any favors, in the nanoseconds that the situation pivots on you, it's already too late.

And so this is why we can't have nice things. Because not every man is the assbag who is going to interrupt your walk from the car to the lobby in a dark icy parking lot and grab your hand and try to force some sort of casual intimacy between the two of you, but some men are. And because I don't know every man, I can't know if you are some men.

So do me, do the world, a favor: don't be this guy. Don't be the guy who is friends with this guy. Don't be the guy who this guy tells this story to, and you laugh it off, and clap him on the back, and ridicule me for being such a prude, frigid bitch, and laugh about how funny it was that he took advantage of the latent social construct of strangers to get in to a woman's personal space, and make her uncomfortable, for shits and giggles.

Just let me get to work.

1 comment:

  1. OK, I am clearly way behind catching up on my blog reading. But amen to this. A-fuckin'-men. We all have a story like this, or ten, or a hundred. Thank you for writing it.