I never ride the bus, not because I have anything against it, in fact I quite enjoy it, but I have a car, and most of the time where I have to be is far enough away from where I am that driving is more time efficient. I just started my internship at Asian Counseling and Referral Service this week, which is located in the International District. With parking being a pain in the neck issue downtown near ACRS and living within the free ride zone of metro buses, I opted to ride the bus to work. Yeah! I was excited walking toward the bus stop. As I walked up a homeless guy immediately began making comments to me and about me. I was half expecting this. Unfortunately, cat-calling often comes with the territory of being a woman. At first I just smiled and tried to ignore him. Then as people slowly ascended the steps of their buses, soon it was only he and I left. It was like a bad teenage movie. He was throwing pick up line after pick up line at me, making comments about my appearance, and asking me to marry him. I let him know that his pick up lines were lame and he needed to be more original, while also letting him know that I wasn’t going to marry him so he should find another girl. He said he would wait for me and I told him he we was free to do so, but he’d be waiting a long time.
He kept persisting and with a small grain of fear I kept waiting for other fellow bus travelers to join us at this stop. Slowly some people trickled in and with sideways glances at us found their spots far enough away from this seemingly odd couple homeless man/Asian woman heading to work having a conversation.
Maybe he noticed their questioning glances, maybe he had a flashback to a past moment of shame. I don’t know, but suddenly our conversation shifted and he asked me, “Why are people evil?”
Sin! That’s what screamed in my head, but I asked him why he thought. He talked about how people step on each other for more money with no thought of who they are stepping on, with no care for those they hurt and trample along the way. He was serious and angry as he talked about those who have no regard for their fellow human being. I responded with “So, what you’re saying is that we are all basically greedy and selfish.”
He smiled and said “Thank you for saying ‘we.’” Just then my bus pulled up and I waved and hopped on.
As quickly as he asked the question, our encounter was over. As I reflect back I hate that I was objectified and am a target for that solely based on my gender. But I also hate that solely based on this man’s race and socioeconomic status he is objectified and labeled worthy of contempt and questioning glances. I don’t know how I would respond should I be in a similar situation at a later time. I’m not suggesting putting oneself in a potentially dangerous situation to make another feel cared for, or to put up with unwanted advances from strangers.
- Susan Kim