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Singing Does Not Soothe The Savage Beast

After a year of unsuccessfully searching for a part-time job I could hold while attending my university, I finally managed to find a position at a phone-service company (detailed information omitted for anonymity’s sake) about five miles from my apartment and the campus. I don’t own a car (and parking is such a pain that this is not an unusual situation for a student) so I take the bus, about a half-hour each way. I’m fully aware that I will occasionally encounter annoying behavior on this journey, but this one takes the cake.

I was on my way home from a stressful evening at work, and I had put on my iPod and headphones to help myself relax. As I’m wont to do, I started lip-synching along to the music I was listening to. The bus wasn’t crowded, and in any case I was careful not to actually make any sound. All was well until a particular passenger boarded the bus. He was a man who looked to be about my age (I had not seen him before and have not seen him since, and that’s fine with me). Anyway, he decides he has a pressing need to know exactly what song I’m “singing” (again, I was not actually making any noise). He wasn’t even polite about it, just got in my face and basically demanded to know what I was singing.

I was annoyed, but decided answering was the best way to get him to leave me alone. I didn’t expect him to know the song (my musical tastes are rather obscure), so I replied, “You wouldn’t know it.” I should add here that I have a neurological disorder that makes it hard for me to speak sometimes, so I’m not positive whether I spoke aloud or just mouthed it. In any case, he wasn’t satisfied, so I started ignoring him. Rather than take the hint, he kept bugging me. He grabbed at my bag, I grabbed it back without looking in his direction.

Then he decided the best way to get my attention was to grab my arm. I wasn’t going to ignore that; I turned around and told him, loudly, to leave me alone.

“But I just want to know what you’re singing!”

By this point, the driver had become aware of the situation and ordered the other passenger to the front of the bus. (The incident took place near the back.) He finally complied, but not without protesting to the entire bus that, “She’s singing, it’s so weird!”, as if any level of oddity gave him the right to harass me. The driver, as politely as possible, basically told him to shut up.

I filed a service compliment with the bus department asking them to thank the driver for helping me out. I’ve yet to see the other passenger again, and that’s fine by me.   0121-13

{ 128 comments… add one }
  • Lex January 24, 2013, 4:26 am

    It sounds to me as though it is likely this individual had some sort of disorder that meant that he didn’t or couldn’t understand the consequences of his actions – this is not unusual behaviour for a person on the autistic spectrum – our nephew does similar things and he is only mildly autistic – he has trouble understanding that his questions are invasive and rude and often he will blurt out or interrupt other conversations until he had received an answer to his question or otherwise got what he wanted. This sort of behaviour can be addressed with some autistic individuals but we cannot determine here whether or not this person has support for his condition, whether he is even on the autistic spectrum or whether there may be other factors involved (a different disorder, drugs, alcohol etc).

    I wouldn’t let it worry you. The driver took appropriate action and you were unharmed by the event. The fact that he invaded your space and grabbed your bag seems to suggest that his grasp of what is socially acceptable is certainly impaired. When I was a schoolgirl we had a long bus journey and this type of behaviour from people that were clearly mentally impaired in some way was not unusual but there is a certain level of empathy in society for these people and we tend to avoid making an issue of it.

    Is there any reason why you baited this person and refused to tell him the song? Would it have been detrimental to have told him the title and artist? You state that you said ‘You wouldn’t know it’ but I’m not clear from your response on whether or not you told him the name of the song? I appreciate that your neurological disorder makes it hard for you to speak but if you managed to tell him that he wouldn’t know it then I’m certain that you could have told him the artist and title. I also appreciate that you didn’t want to lead him into a conversation, but having answered his question you would have been within your right to ask him to leave you alone.

  • Mer January 24, 2013, 6:05 am

    Lex: I think that the OP actually stated that s/he was not sure if the words “You wouldn’t know it” were audible or not.

    Music seems quite harmless thing to answer to, it bares no personal information etc, but actually it is also topic that very many people (especially young) feel strongly about. Bit like political preference or religion. Should the genre be something the questioner did not like, it is fairly good possibility that mocking/rude behavior will follow.

  • Sarah January 24, 2013, 6:36 am

    How the heck is it “baiting him” not to tell him the song? And the assumption that he’s autistic is also frustrating. People can just be jerks, without having a medical reason behind it.

    I got the impression that the letter writer was a woman. Street harassment is real and happens frequently. From this letter, with his loud protests of self defense, which I saw as him trying to make himself look like the wounded party, I would lean more toward harassment than “poor boy saw a pretty girl and just couldn’t help himself.”

    If she’d told him the name, then he’d have wanted to know more about the song. And if he harassed her then, people would ask why she responded and allowed the conversation to continue. In most cases of so called street harassment, which applies here though they weren’t on the seat, the man asks questions like “what book are you reading”, “what music are you listening to, as if they have a right to that info. And then, when the woman doesn’t answer, they tend to get upset and louder and will protest because “this crazy woman is ignoring me!”, often in an attempt to make it look like he’s the innocent one.

  • sstabeler January 24, 2013, 6:39 am

    yeah, I’m guessing it was someone who has one of the disorders on the Autism Spectrum. If so, he literally would not have realized he was making you uncomfortable ( one of the most common symptoms is not understanding body language) so to him, you probably snapped at him when he was juts trying to find out what you were singing ( in his mind, you were singing- it’s not rely relevant) The driver acted reasonably, removing the guy from the situation, you acted reasonably ( albeit it might have helped to tell him the title/artist)

    in short, the guy may not have realized he was behaving badly, but you responded well, as did the driver.

  • Sazerac January 24, 2013, 6:49 am

    Lex: she owed nothing to this person. *HE* invaded her space, *HE* was the one being intrusive. There was no reason she should have to tell him what she was listening to, singing to, or any other thing she was engaging in. It was none of his business.

    There seems to be a trend here of vilifying the “victim” – not sure why that is. And can we please drop the armchair psychologist diagnostics? Unless there is a clear medical diagnosis available on a person, let’s stop assuming they’re autism spectrum or Asperger’s or whatever the current trendy psychological disorder is being currently bandied about in the media.

  • Kay L January 24, 2013, 7:57 am

    I don’t really understand how you could have a neurological disorder that prevents you from knowing whether or not you spoke to him out loud but then you are sure that you were not making a sound but only mouthing the words of the song.

    Not that it justifies a stranger bothering you, but you went into such detail that it seemed worthy of mention.

  • L.J. January 24, 2013, 8:54 am

    Good for you for standing up for yourself! The other passenger had no right to intrude on your personal space or demand your attention. Kudos to the bus driver for doing the right thing as well. It’s good that you filed the compliment, in case the rude passenger filed a complaint.

    Some men think that just because a woman is in public, she has somehow become public property and owes attention to any man who demands it. The sad thing is how many women feel obligated to go along with that. If you had responded, you might have become trapped in a half-hour conversation (inquisition) with him, with him then following you home! And if they’d seen you talking to him for a half-hour, would anyone have known to protect you when he got off the bus right after you? You did the right thing, I’m glad you’re safe.

  • Twik January 24, 2013, 9:13 am

    Re the “baiting” comment: Depending on just what was going on in this man’s head, answering his first question (“what song are you singing?”) might not have ended the encounter. If he considered this an “icebreaker,” he could have taken her compliance in answering him as evidence that she wanted a conversation with him.

  • PM January 24, 2013, 9:16 am

    I agree with Sarah. Sometimes people are just jerks without any neurological reason behind it.

    And I would put the “WHAT ARE YOU SINGING?” demand right up there with men who demand to know what women are reading on public transit and then insist on knowing whether the book is any good, what it’s about, etc. It’s a rude man’s way to demand conversation from a woman in hopes of demanding escalating intimacy.

    When the OP didn’t respond favorably, he took the usual route of making the awkwardness the OP’s fault and making a loud scene calling her weird and demanding that the rest of the bus agree with him re: the OP’s weirdness.

    See how many times the word “demand” comes up? This guy’s demands and entitlement issues are not the OP’s problem. HE got up in OP’s face. HE made a scene. She is not expected to respond in any way that makes him more comfortable with his boorishness.

  • Ames January 24, 2013, 9:18 am

    I like that you contacted the company to thank the driver. Too often, people are eager to complain, but never to compliment. If I recieve good service, extra help, just a nice person, etc, I always call or email the higher ups to let them know I’m thankful.
    I’ve been that way since I was a teenager, and I hope I’ve passed it on to my daughter.

  • PM January 24, 2013, 9:18 am

    And Lex, the OP didn’t owe this guy any sort of response. She wasn’t baiting him. She was trying to end a rude interaction as quickly as she could.

  • --Lia January 24, 2013, 9:19 am

    I love the stories about when someone does exactly the right thing and gets exactly the right response. This is one of them. When he was just being weird, you answered him correctly. When he crossed the line into physically threatening, you made some noise and let an authority take over. Good for the driver, too.

  • Ames January 24, 2013, 9:26 am

    And…. Having just read the post, Kay L makes a very good point.

    And….And…. It IS really annoying to put a label on EVERYTHING. Sometimes an ass is an ass, a social awkward person is just that. People are way too quick to put a name one everything.

  • BeanSidhe January 24, 2013, 9:40 am

    Why are there always excuses for the men?

    “He’s got a disorder.”
    “You were baiting him.”
    “He didn’t know he was being a creeper.”
    ad nauseum

    Explain this to me. Why are women vilified for wanting to protect themselves? We live in a world that glorifies the male desire for female attention without giving any thought to whether or not the woman in question wants to give the man in question any time at all!

    Women are taught ALL the time to say this or do that in hopes that they stay safe and inevitably, it doesn’t work. “Keep your head down and don’t make eye contact” doesn’t do a thing if someone is bound and determined to invade your personal space. There are people who, for no other reason than no one told them otherwise, feel entitled to someone’s attention regardless of the other person’s comfort levels. They are most often men.

    Dressing in baggy jeans and a big sweatshirt will not keep the catcallers and grabby hands away.

    Saying NO isn’t saying “NO” to some people. It’s saying “convince me otherwise, because I obviously am just playing hard-to-get.” You can hit them on the head with a frying pan and they’ll think you’re just playing.

    Why aren’t men taught to NOT be creepers/rapists/abusers/you name it? Why is it the woman’s responsibility to control male behavior, and why is that behavior never his fault? Explain this to me.

  • Rap January 24, 2013, 9:49 am

    I’m sorry, I find this story a little odd. The OP was on a bus, silently lip syncing, and gets offended when someone asks what she is doing? And may or may not have actually responded to the guy because she has a neurological disorder and doesn’t remember if she spoke or not?

    I’m just wondering if the other side of the story isn’t “creepy guy who thinks all women in public are his playthings who owe him attention” but someone who was genuinely concerned about a person who appeared to be acting a little strangely and who may have appeared to be unresponsive or mentally ill.

  • Lo January 24, 2013, 10:01 am

    Guy sounds like a complete weirdo, good on you for not encouraging him.

    I probably would have just said, “I’m not singing”, because you weren’t, or, “nothing”. I mean why bother to get roped into a conversation? Why do people feel entitled to have their curiosity satisfied?

    I hate it when I’m reading a book in public and someone asks me what I’m reading. I will inevitably have to repeat the title if I bother to answer and then they’ll ask something stupid like, “What’s that?” and then I’m involved in a conversation I don’t want to be in.

  • Jays January 24, 2013, 10:07 am

    I agree with Sarah and Sazerac, completely. “Baiting?” Why on earth should she be obligated to give him this information? It’s absolutely none of his business!

    Good for the bus driver.

  • Mrs. Lovett January 24, 2013, 10:23 am

    @Sazerac: I’ve noticed the victim-blaming attitude here sometimes, too, and I find it appalling. We should be calling out the person who behaved badly and who pushed his behavior onto others, not those who keep to themselves and refuse to be engaged by strangers.

    I think OP handled it just fine. It’s always okay, and even safe, to refuse to engage a stranger on the street, on a bus, or elsewhere in public. It is of course also okay to respond if one chooses to, but that should always be at the discretion of the person the stranger is reaching out to.

    And I agree that we need to stop looking for excuses for transgressors’ behavior. Perhaps the man is on the Autism spectrum, or perhaps his behavior is alcohol-influenced. Or maybe he’s just a jerk who doesn’t like being told no. In any case, the man’s behavior was unacceptable, especially when he escalated to grabbing OP and his/her stuff. That is never okay! If the man does indeed have a disorder that prevents him from understanding the consequences of his actions, then I think he as a person can be forgiven and excused, but that doesn’t change the fact that his behavior was still threatening, hostile, and inappropriate, and OP had no obligation to give in to his demands.

    I would also like to applaud the OP for filing a service compliment for the bus driver. It’s always nice when good works and good professional conduct is recognized.

  • Rug Pilot January 24, 2013, 10:27 am

    She could have told the offensive man that she was praying. That, to any sane person, would have made any other questions rude and intrusive. Many people move their lips when they pray.

  • Lerah99 January 24, 2013, 10:54 am

    Ok, I am of two minds about this.

    1) It’s kind of rude to be in a public place be-bopping along and mouthing the words to your song. You aren’t sharing your music with people. You are just making it clear that you are really enjoying yourself in a way that they cannot participate. Just like eating in public is considered rude, making it clear that your headphones are playing something super awesome is also kind of rude. It is attention grabbing and will lead to people interacting with you. “Hey, what are you listening too?” is a fair question when someone is making it clear that they are totally digging whatever is being fed through their ear buds.
    Let me be clear: I’m not saying having an mp3 player is rude in and of itself. But making a spectical of yourself (dancing, mouthing the words, singing along, etc…) enjoying the music no one else can hear is rude.
    Was he over the line grabbing her bag? Yes.
    Was he WAY over the line grabbing her arm? Yes.
    Are public buses one of the places you are almost guarenteed to run into mentally ill people? Yes.

    2) A woman should be able to listen to her headphones on the bus in peace without being accosted by a strange man. I get it.
    No matter what a woman was wearing or not wearing, she shouldn’t be assulted.
    No matter where a woman walks at any time of day or night does not mean she should be mugged.
    There are men who will use any opening to chat up a woman and who feel that women who brush them off are cold hearted B-words.

    However, we live in a real world which is flawed. And just because you should be able to walk through the middle of the ghetto at 3am wearing a string bikini stuffed with dollar bills without being assulted, doesn’t mean it is a good idea.

    Just because you should be able to mouth along to your song on the bus without some guy harassing you, doesn’t mean you will be able to.

    As to the person who was upset about “blaming the victim”:
    When people say “Maybe if you just gave him the name of the song he would have been satisfied” they aren’t saying “You are stupid and deserved this.”
    They are saying “That must have been scary, maybe try a different technique in the future and things won’t escalate as quickly.”

    It is a form of Monday morning quarterbacking.
    It is a way people react so they don’t feel helpless. By offering advice, they are saying “you might have had some control over this situation. And I would prefer to think you had some control/some power over it, so if something scary like this happens to me I will have some control or some power over it…”

  • Helen January 24, 2013, 11:14 am

    I disagree with other posters, I doubt he has some disorder that makes him think it’s okay to bug someone, as a female in a city, all too often I encounter men (strangers) who think it’s thei r right to have a conversation or other interaction with me. They put their need to find out whatever they want to know about me above my comfort and safety. It’s not okay, but that mentality is also not uncommon. Good for the bus driver for sticking up for you!

  • Bint January 24, 2013, 11:16 am

    I agree with Sarah and Sazerac. When a random man interrupts your space and you don’t want it, you shut him down. Tell him the song, he’ll take it as encouragement. Regardless of his social abilities, the OP owes him nothing, he is a stranger to her, and she shut him off.

    The idea she ‘baited’ him is outrageous. Don’t even attempt to pass any blame onto the OP. This man is prepared to grab her stuff and then HER to get her attention. He is at fault 100%.

  • Meghan January 24, 2013, 11:19 am

    Lex: The etiquette of the situation is clear. A man attempted to force a lady in to conversation without any proper introductions and she quite rightly rebuffed him without being rude.

    Even if the man is on the autistic scale, if he is able to navigate the bus system, he should be able to learn the lesson “Don’t talk to strangers.” without needing to understand the social cues that go in to such a rule.

  • LovleAnjel January 24, 2013, 11:20 am

    OP – I used to have to take city buses everywhere. I encountered men (always men) like this often. They would seem to be innocuous, but talking to them opened the door to massive harassment. As if you owed them attention, and if you gave it you were theirs. I read books on the bus, even on short rides, so I could pretend to be so absorbed that I didn’t notice people like that (in actuality I was paying attention and would do things like give up my seat to someone who was elderly or pregnant). You didn’t owe him a response, and I’m glad the bus driver spoke up.

    I don’t know the OP’s disorder, but it could be one where the default is not making noise, and she has to make an effort to have an audible voice – so lipsyncing would be easy.

  • Lacey January 24, 2013, 11:37 am

    @BeanSidhe, thank you. I really wondered why nobody else thought this guy was hitting on her and got confrontational when she refused to engage. She didn’t have to talk to him, period. There is no excuse for his behaviour.

  • Lacey January 24, 2013, 11:39 am

    And LovleAnjel, exactly! Most women who live in big cities have had enough “innocent” interactions like this with men to know that nothing good comes of responding to them.

  • Lacey January 24, 2013, 11:44 am

    Sorry, other posters definitely mentioned the harassment angle. Anyways, what all of you said.:)

  • Alex January 24, 2013, 11:44 am


    I respectfully disagree that it is rude for someone to mouth the words to a song and that it is making a spectacle of his/herself. Why should someone not be able to act as if they aren’t enjoying their own music? The reason for personal music devices is so that people can listen to what they like without bothering anyone else. If it is rude to have your music playing so loud everyone can hear it and yet it is also rude to show any hint that you are enjoying your personal music through earphones then how do you NOT offend someone?

    As to the eating in public isn’t eating in a restaurant eating in public? People (at least in the US) tend be rushed especially if they have jobs or are a full time student. It is quite common to see people eating a scone and coffee or some such thing on a bus, especially in during the breakfast hour. There are very few people who have time to sit at the family table for every meal. The bus is public transportation and riding the bus as a paying customer does not mean that I am expected to share my music or my food or any other thing with everyone else. Some people are diabetic, hypoglycemic, or have other conditions that require them to eat wherever in order to keep from getting very ill or worse. I see nothing wrong with quietly listening to ones own music and politely eating one’s own snack.

  • Cerys January 24, 2013, 11:50 am

    Lia – “It’s kind of rude to be in a public place be-bopping along and mouthing the words to your song. You aren’t sharing your music with people. You are just making it clear that you are really enjoying yourself in a way that they cannot participate.”

    That’s an odd approach. If the OP had been with a group of friends and had been listening to music and ‘be-bopping along’, then I might vaguely agree with you. But for a person travelling on their own, quietly enjoying music that they aren’t inflicting on others – how is that rude? Does this mean that reading a book on the train and smiling or chuckling to oneself is also a breach of etiquette?

  • Serenity January 24, 2013, 11:58 am

    ah yes, jerks on the bus. I used to have to take the bus every day in my early 20’s to get to work. I also always had headphones or a book to dissuade some of the creeps that would board and try to engage in conversations with me. One day, the bus was very crowded, and we were all packed in. I had to sit on the long back bench that typically is the last row of the bus. As it was crowded, there were about 4 of us on the bench. A large man (not overwieght, just big) boarded and also had to sit there, next to me, which ws fine. Except he didn’t just sit next to me, he sat so close next to me that he was practically in my lap, and was actually crushing against my leg so much that it was painful. Now, the bus was crowded, but he had at least a foot and a half on the other side of him, so he could have easily moved over a bit, and had space on both sides of him, and not been touching either me, or the person on his other side ( who was a guy). I asked him nicely if he could move over a bit as he was on top of me and hurting my leg ( and obviously making me uncomfortable in other ways, though I didn’t mention that to him), and he immediately got loud and defensive, saying that then he’d just be on top of the other guy. I pointed out that, no, you actually have enough room to move over a bit so everyone can be comfortable. He continued to be hostile, but eventually moved. When he finally got to his stop, he got up, turned around and looked at me, and made a big loud production of how the seat was “all mine now”. I just shook my head and rolled my eyes, but I have never forgotten how this creeper not only tried to invade my space, but tried to be the victim when I stood up for myself. And no, I don’t think he was disabled in any way…he was just a creep.

  • Michellep January 24, 2013, 12:00 pm

    @Lerah99, where on earth do you get the idea that “eating in public is rude”??? When did eating in public become rude?

    How is not “sharing music” rude?? “Making it clear that you’re playing something awesome is rude”????

    So, if I’m reading a good book in public I shouldn’t make it clear I’m enjoying it? Because no one else “can participate”, it’s rude???

    What planet are you from?

  • Lex January 24, 2013, 12:02 pm

    People are making a massive issue of the word ‘baiting’. There is no question that the assailant was rude and I’m not in any way suggesting that the victim is to blame here, I’m simply pointing out that an obnoxious, aggressive person made a scene on the bus by asking the OP a question about what song she was singing (and it doesnt matter how quiet you have it, music can ALWAYS be heard through headphones, even if it is non intrusively) and instead of assessing the situation and noting the potentially threatening and/or escalating nature of his behaviour, the OP chose to answer him with a ‘rude’ brush off indicating that he ‘wouldn’t know it’. It’s a big assumption that he didn’t or wouldn’t know it. He may have been austistic, he may have been drunk, he may have been an arsehole, but the OP CHOSE to give him an answer that was bound to incite him further – if she had chosen to answer his question and left her assumptions about his musical taste out of the equation, he may have had nothing further to say. It is understandable that she would not have wanted him to start a conversation, but the choice of the OP to not answer his question when he was behaving in that manner was bound to end up in an ugly situation. I think it was always going to be a no-win situation and the responsibility was with the driver to manage this which he duly did.

  • Michellep January 24, 2013, 12:02 pm

    Another thing: sick to death of blaming the victim, Asperger’s, autism, and everything else for rude behavior.

    OP, you did nothing wrong, and thank you for complimenting the driver.

  • Ergala January 24, 2013, 12:14 pm


    How was she be bopping along and making a spectacle of herself? I mouth along to music when I’m in the grocery store and I’m not doing it obviously. I don’t find it rude to listen to music privately with head phones in public either. Do you find it rude for people to talk on their cell phones in public too? To me that is much more disruptive than listening to an MP3 player. Saying that it’s rude because you are taking part in an activity that the people around you can’t is pretty odd. If I am playing a game on my phone while on a bus and someone asks for a turn do I have to let them play on my phone? Nope. It’s mine. As children we are taught not everything is about us. That there will be parties we aren’t invited to, conversations we aren’t a part of in groups….the list goes on. As adults we should be able to see someone doing something and not expect to be included in the activity unless we are invited to do so.

    As for the aspergers comments. My 7 year old is on the spectrum and yes has aspergers. HOWEVER……I would NEVER let him use it as an excuse to physically grab someone to get what they want. And I’d hope someone would call him out on it if I wasn’t around to do so. That is how he learns about what is and isn’t socially acceptable behavior. Otherwise he has absolutely no clue. And fluffing it doesn’t work either. Saying “Hey would you mind not touching me? Thank you.” to him is a suggestion not a demand. You have to say “Do not touch me again.” is a better way. You never know who is on the spectrum. I make it a habit to make requests of people leaving me alone like this. Not being mean, just leaving no room for miscommunication.

  • Kali January 24, 2013, 12:15 pm

    @Lex – the OP was well within her rights to ask him to leave her alone without telling him anything whatsoever.

  • Nestholder January 24, 2013, 12:21 pm

    My response here is mostly to Lehrah99’s comment #20 above.

    “It’s kind of rude to be in a public place be-bopping along and mouthing the words to your song.”

    This is absurd. It really is not rude to be enjoying music on your own. It would be rude to share it with the people around you, either by singing aloud or by having the volume so high that others could not help but hear it – but appreciating it on your own? That is not rude, any more than reading a book in public is rude, even if the book makes you giggle. It isn’t fair for a total stranger to demand to know what you’re reading (and thus prevent you from reading it) and it isn’t fair for a total stranger to demand to know what you’re listening to, just because you’re enjoying it.

    The rude person was unquestionably the one who demanded to know what the OP was listening to—which was none of his business and which was information he had no good reason to need. He just wanted her attention, and he didn’t care that she had something better to do than pay attention to him.

    There’s no need for anyone to be described as ‘mentally ill’ in the entire interaction.

    “As to the person who was upset about “blaming the victim”:
    When people say “Maybe if you just gave him the name of the song he would have been satisfied” they aren’t saying “You are stupid and deserved this.”
    They are saying “That must have been scary, maybe try a different technique in the future and things won’t escalate as quickly.”

    Not really. The message that they are really giving is ‘You were WRONG and it was (therefore) YOUR FAULT’, and it’s the same message whatever the words say. It’s pernicious. I do understand the impulse to believe that if you (generally) can manage to keep control over a situation, you won’t be hurt—offended, injured, raped etc. It’s tempting to believe that only the people who do something wrong get offended, injured, raped etc. But it isn’t true. In this particular situation, I agree with the posters who’ve said that giving the man any kind of response would just have led to his being more of a nuisance and harder to shake off. I mean, just look at how he behaved when he didn’t get any ‘encouragement’!

  • Kali January 24, 2013, 12:25 pm

    “You are just making it clear that you are really enjoying yourself in a way that they cannot participate. Just like eating in public is considered rude, making it clear that your headphones are playing something super awesome is also kind of rude. It is attention grabbing and will lead to people interacting with you. “Hey, what are you listening too?” is a fair question when someone is making it clear that they are totally digging whatever is being fed through their ear buds.
    Let me be clear: I’m not saying having an mp3 player is rude in and of itself. But making a spectical of yourself (dancing, mouthing the words, singing along, etc…) enjoying the music no one else can hear is rude.”

    I’m really interested in where on earth you would get this idea from.:/ She isn’t bothering anyone at all; how is her behaviour rude?

  • WildIrishRose January 24, 2013, 12:33 pm

    I’m with Sazerac on the armchair psychology issue. Bad behavior is all too often dismissed because the offender “might” have a medical issue. And I have known people who FAKE that kind of thing just to get attention. A strange man accosting another person (and not necessarily a woman, either) in a public place and making that person feel uncomfortable or threatened needs to be checked. Jim Morrison was infamous for doing stuff like this, just to make people squirm. Beyond rude.

    As for grabbing her and her stuff, that constitutes an assault. She was right to alert the bus driver to the situation, and even MORE right to contact the bus company to thank him. Good job, OP!

  • Stacey Frith-Smith January 24, 2013, 12:34 pm

    Agree with the posters saying OP owed nothing to Mr. Forcefully Sociable. Not a jot. Not a tittle. Not an iota of attention did she owe him. And if she wanted to lip sync noiselessly, she can do it to her heart’s content. The only thing that would pass as an acceptable response would be an equally silent expression of humorous response…a grin, a smirk, even an expression of surprise or a quick whisper to a seat mate would pass. But interrupting to demand her time and attention? Grabbing her bag? Grabbing her arm? Not in any universe. She should have tripped him as he walked away and smacked him soundly with her bag. Well, at least she should have thought about doing so and enjoyed the mental picture.

  • Dani313 January 24, 2013, 12:48 pm

    Lerah99: It would be rude to “be in a public place be-bopping along and mouthing the words to your song” if she was bothering someone. But she wasn’t. When listening to music some people mouth the words with an absent mind. People who are listening to music with headphone are under no obligation to share their music with the public. It is actually preferred that they not share their music as not everyone has the same taste in music. Enjoying yourself in public is not rude and eating in public is definitely not rude. People in in public everyday…in restaurants…at work…at school…in the park.

    OP was not making a spectacle of herself. She was minding her own business when this self-entitled jerk decided she owed him a conversation. By saying we live in a flawed world you are giving excuses to every man who feels that his attention is a gift to women that should be accepted without pause.

    As a young woman, I am under no obligation to speak, converse, communicate or answer anyone I don’t choose to. I have the right to ignore you if you ask me a question regardless if its “just polite conversation”. Men like the one in OP’s story take any answer as an open to conversation. It is best to NOT answer. This conveys that I am not interested in your conversation or inquiries into my personal life. My music, book or anything else I am doing is personal and not for anyone else’s entertainment or questioning. And if you it is “rude” to enjoy yourself in public you may want to look into why others’ happiness with their own lives is such a bother to you.

    Women should not have to learn how to make the situation better. Men should learn that if a woman doesn’t answer you that should be the end of your attempts to engage her. Had I been the OP that man would have gotten a kick to the genitals when he grabbed my bag as that is attempted robbery and him grabbing her arm is assault.

  • Lilya January 24, 2013, 12:54 pm

    I’m with OP: when you’re on public transport, you are under no obligation to be sociable.
    Also, I don’t understand how mouthing along the worlds would be considered rude: she’s making no noise, why should anyone be bothered by lips moving?

  • Ripple January 24, 2013, 1:03 pm

    @Lerah99 – I don’t understand your comment that “eating in public is considered rude.” People eat in public all the time – they’re called restaurants. And just like, if you’re eating at a table by yourself, you don’t expect to interact with other people, sitting on a bus seat by yourself and lip-syncing is not pushing yourself into someone else’s face and expecting to interact. The OP had a right to be alone, not bothering anyone and not being bothered, as long as s/he was being quiet.
    @Rap – He still had no right to try to force the OP to tell what s/he was listening to. Once s/he told him “You wouldn’t know it”, then there should have been no further conversation or interaction, period.

  • June First January 24, 2013, 1:03 pm

    “You wouldn’t know it.”
    That reminds me of a meme with a hipster dog wearing geek-chic glasses and an elaborately-tied scarf. The caption is “I listen to dog whistles. You’ve probably never heard it.”

    Hipster jokes aside, I am glad you complimented the driver to his/her company. That’s the right thing to do, and the best part of this story.

  • Wendy B. January 24, 2013, 1:06 pm

    Kay L: I don’t know what the OP’s condition is, but I have a problem where I’ll be talking and one or more words will just not come out…I’ll mouth them, but they come out in a hiss. I don’t think mine is neurological, more a problem with stress, but I can see where if the OP’s earbuds are in he/she wouldn’t be sure the words came out. Vocal chords are very sensitive. :o)

    In regards to answering the question: I used to read on my commuter bus at university. Sometimes people, men or women, would ask me what I was reading. Sometimes I would answer verbally or just show them the book. Usually that was enough, curiosity was satisfied. But occasionally you get someone like the other rider who just won’t settle for one answer. The point is, you don’t want to be disturbed and they don’t care. Some people think the world revolves around them and they’re “entitled” to answers or whatever.

  • travestine January 24, 2013, 1:11 pm

    I agree that the OP should not have had to explain herself to a stranger – and the point at which he touched her or her belongings, he went waaay beyond just ‘intrusive’ to ‘assault’. Thank goodness she was on a bus with a driver who didn’t look the other way and good for her for letting the bus company know.

    I am one of those people who can’t listen to a song I love without moving my lips, bopping my head or tapping my feet. I am amazed at those people at concerts who sit absolutely still at concerts – how is that possible?

  • La January 24, 2013, 1:14 pm

    I encountered a guy like this. He sat next to me, asked me what I’m listening to. To be ‘polite’, I responded. He takes this as a cue to ask me more personal questions and feel up my leg.

    But I’m sure he had an ASD or mental illness(no matter that this is highly insulting to my Aspie self). I’m sure he ‘didn’t know what he was doing’. And yeah, I totally ‘baited him’ into feeling up my leg by giving him what I thought was the “I’ve answered your question, now go away” response. [/sarcasm]

    If you can’t learn social skills instinctively, you learn them cognitively. If you can’t learn them cognitively, you probably have bigger problems than just lacking social skills.

    Sorry about my anger here. But victim-blaming and ‘you could have done something different’ takes away the agency and autonomy of the man in question. If he has agency and autonomy, he can learn some manners and treat his fellow passengers with respect!

  • Anonymous January 24, 2013, 1:20 pm

    I’m not blaming the OP, and I think the guy in the story was an impertinent jerk, but if I was in that situation, I would have switched seats.

  • psyche January 24, 2013, 1:49 pm

    @LovleAnjel-I still take the bus everywhere, and I know exactly what you’re talking about. Trust me when I say this: a book or headphones won’t stop these people. That part of the brain that sees it as a “go away!” gesture doesn’t exist. Shutting them down before they start is the key.

  • --Lia January 24, 2013, 1:51 pm

    Lerah99– It’s rude to eat in public? That’s news to me. There might be rules against eating on a bus, but in general, eating on bus benches, in public parks, in restaurants, on sidewalks, none of that’s rude. In some circumstances it might be rude to bring food to a board room or carpool or class or meeting without offering some to everyone, but that’s a private place, and even there the rules are fluid. There are many instances where it’s understood that everyone will bring their own snack if they want one.

    Mostly I think this has to do with carving out a private sphere within a public space. Books and earphones are supposed to do that. They’re supposed to signal “I’m here but don’t wish to be engaged in conversation,” but too often people see the book or the earphones as the perfect conversation opener. When that happens, you need another way to signal that you don’t wish to chat. Unfortunately, saying politely “I don’t want to talk,” or “leave me alone,” or “you wouldn’t know it” doesn’t do the trick. To the person doing the annoying, actual words don’t mean as much as tone and body language. The words say one thing, but the annoyer only knows that he’s been spoken to. From his point of view, he hears “great! she spoke to me! I’ll ask her something else.” For that reason, the LW did the right thing. First, a polite statement, a lack of eye contact, looking away, and returning to what she was doing. After that, a loud, clear, not subject to misinterpretation statement, one that says “leave me alone” in both words and tone and body language.

    Also– Yes to complimenting the bus driver to management, but I’m further going to guess that the driver was implementing policy from above. I’d guess that someone smart in charge has listened to the experience of a lot of drivers and thought about the right thing to recommend in that situation.

  • Kate January 24, 2013, 2:14 pm

    Lerah99, I am kind of confused. How is listening to music in public and mouthing the words rude? I can understand singing aloud or dancing being rude, but silently mouthing the words? Unless someone is looking at the person singing, this is not noticeable in anyway.

    Also, I have never heard of eating in public being considered rude. Whether it is an ice cream cone or food from a food cart, or whatever. Just because you have it and someone else doesn’t, doesn’t mean you have to share, or can’t eat it or whatever. If you were obnoxiously eating something in a friend’s face, and didn’t share any with them, that would be one thing. Or standing in front of a homeless person. But I don’t think there is any obligation to a bus-full of strangers. If I have coffee, I am going to drink the awesome hot coffee, right in front of other people. Whether or not they have any.

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