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Trolley Smacked

I have spent most of the past 10 years traversing public transit every single day. I’ve seen things that made me want to smack someone, but never have I ever actually been assaulted – until this week. The other day, I was coming home from work on the trolley (after having successfully navigated the bus). I was carrying my purse on my right arm, my (empty, soft, cloth lunch bag) on my left, and was gripping several flattened cardboard boxes that I had found in the office, as I am moving soon. I was making my way down the narrow trolley aisle after ringing for my stop, carefully trying to peek around my boxes and avoid feet and knees and heads leaning into the aisle, all while keeping my balance precariously. I was nearly to the front of the car when I felt a harsh smack on my back – I turned around to my left to find an enraged old man who shouted “You hit me with that thing! You hit me and you kept going! You could have said something!”

Truthfully, I did not feel a thing, and had I, I would have apologized, and I did in fact apologize to this man sincerely, although what I wish I had said was “What I did was an accident. What you did was aggravated assault. Which of us is rude here?” The entire trolley car was staring at him, and I notified the driver on my way off the car. What more could I have done? When did it become appropriate to react to an accident causing no injury by assaulting a young woman? And he did not merely tap me, he hit me quite hard. I am still in shock from this experience. 1024-13


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  • PJ October 29, 2013, 11:34 am


    I also remember my days of taking public transportation. I took an express bus from the suburbs into a downtown are for over a decade to get to work, and a city bus through residential areas, business districts and ghetto to get to my school for five years before that.

    While I have seen people with no regard for anyone else, that was the exception. I have seen many people give up their seats for others with physical issues. In winter, I’ve seen teenagers stand by the door of the bus and offer their hand to help every person over the icebank and onto the bus before boarding themselves. Upon approaching the last empty seat, I’ve seen people check behind them to see if someone else needed it more. I’ve seen people offer their seat to couples or parent&child so they could sit together. I’ve seen many friendly conversations started among groups of strangers as we ride. These are not things I saw just once or twice, but so frequently that if I didn’t see it I’d wonder what had gone wrong.

    After a long day at work when someone gets on with a big box full of stuff, I’ve also seen the looks on people’s faces. That look usually said ‘I’m glad that’s not me today!’

    I’ve never seen anyone get “the hell beat out of them” by a box full of junk when the train stops. I did see a box of stuff fall to the floor once. Five people got down on the floor to help pick up the contents.

    Public transportation is not loathed in my community, as it apparantly is in yours. Perhaps my community as a whole has found a way to make it a better experience.

  • Ergala October 29, 2013, 4:46 pm

    @Lauren in regards to finding a box at your local store….we’re in the process of moving and most stores now use reusable plastic totes. Cardboard boxes are immediately crushed. I’ve called stores to have some held and I am told that they can’t do that, they have to be immediately crushed upon being emptied. Not that easy.

  • Bashful October 30, 2013, 7:05 am

    I’ve used public transportations since I was 10. Public transportation is for people, not for objects. There is postal service for that. Or car rent. Wheelchairs and strollers are devices for people, they are different from shopping carts or backpacks.
    Cardboard boxes can be bought, btw. Of course, it’s more expensive than taking them free from work but still cheaper than having a driving license and a car.
    Why large people should pay two tickets on airplanes but everyone can bring bulky objects on the subway? It is an inconvenience for everyone else, just like the large person on the plane seat.

  • The Elf October 30, 2013, 10:10 am

    Bashful, because you buy a *seat* on an airplane and a *ride* on the subway. There’s a difference.

    • Linda July 10, 2018, 1:53 am

      Actually you do not “buy” a seat on an airplane; you purchase transportation from point A to point B.

  • pbird October 30, 2013, 6:44 pm

    Obviously the old man should have been reported to the police. His behavior was illegal and dangerous.

  • Angel October 30, 2013, 8:35 pm

    No matter what it is NEVER okay to put your hands on someone deliberately. If the OP did bump the man with her boxes it was an ACCIDENT. The man completely overreacted IMO.

    Yes it is a little inconvenient when someone brings cumbersome objects on public transport, but that’s part of taking public transport. If you have to take public transport it’s usually because buying a car is not economically possible, or maybe because driving in your city is far worse than taking public transport. And parking can be expensive. So for most people the only option is taking public transport. If you have bulky stuff you just try your best not to hit people with it or block someone’s way. It sounds as though this is what the OP was trying to do.

    I just can’t envision a scenario where what this guy did was even remotely ok.
    Even if he was aggravated. If a cop had been there and witnessed what he did, he would have been arrested.

  • Deborah October 31, 2013, 10:02 am

    Why didn’t anybody on the bus offer to help?

  • Shawna R. Nixon November 4, 2013, 10:39 pm

    This post reminds me of an incident I had at an outdoor concert or fireworks display several years ago. The blankets were so thick on the ground it was hard to see the grass. As I was trying to pick my way through the crowd, I unknowingly stepped on a man’s hand, so he hit me, saying “That was my hand!”. I apologized, but it left me feeling shaken.

  • OP November 5, 2013, 1:04 pm

    Just getting to read this now, as I was moving all last week – I didn’t expect there to be such a hubbub about whether it was ok to bring boxes on the trolley! Trust me, the boxes themselves were not at issue here. I’ve fallen/tripped/been injured just trying to navigate the very narrow trolley aisle with nothing in my hands – there isn’t enough time to get to the door when the trolley isn’t moving, and when it is, it sways from side to side. And as others have said, people tend to keep their arms, legs, bags, heads, and whatever else in the aisle. And I very respectfully took a seat all the way in the back where my (not especially large, flattened) boxes wouldn’t be in anyone’s way (there’s really no where to do that in the front of the trolley).

    And for those saying I should have taken another way home, the next day I did – I took a cab, and it cost $52, which pretty much negated my having gathered boxes at work to save money. Public transit is for everyone to use, and if you’re not taking up another seat, I have no issue with it – should people not be allowed to bring suitcases on the train to get to the airport? Let’s not be ridiculous. I was being careful and cautious, and this man was rude. I’ve taken public transit my entire life and never encountered anything like this.

  • Enna November 29, 2013, 12:43 pm

    Wow that man was rude. He was lucky no police officer saw it or no one decided to take it futher by starting a fight.