Trolley Smacked

by admin on October 28, 2013

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

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathryn October 28, 2013 at 5:58 am

Good on you for having a polite spine and standing up for yourself. If he had been polite about it, then an apology would be in order, but smacking you on the back was completely out of line and he ought to have apologised to you! Sometimes a handbag clips me on public transport and the owner doesn’t realise. The number of times it’s happened has caused me to learn to get over it and that it’s not all about me.

I’m in awe of your choice of words. Concise, clear, putting his bad response to an accident back on him!

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Kate October 28, 2013 at 6:46 am

Have you ever seen this man before? Because that seriously sounds like mental illness to me, I’m sorry you had to go through that. I’m sure it was upsetting.

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Bashful October 28, 2013 at 7:03 am

Old man was obviously wrong.
However, I’m not sure about the woman bringing flattened cardboard boxes. How big they were? What is the maximum size allowed for objects on public transportation?

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SPuck October 28, 2013 at 7:38 am

As a rule of thumb, don’t carry anything large that is going to disrupt your vision. It is hard enough to carry something large with wheels (such as a stroller or suitcase) on public transportation, but at least you can see past the object your transporting.

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Helen October 28, 2013 at 8:01 am

Just because you didn’t feel hitting him, doesn’t mean he didn’t feel it and it wasn’t quite painful.

I ride the subway regularly and quite often find myself getting smacked by people’s large bags. The people seldom notice that they’re smacking you, and quite often they do it repeatedly. Students with large backpacks are the worst offenders. When editing the trolley, the things you carry are now at head-level with those seated, so you can be particularly harmful without noticing.

This does not excuse what the man did, but maybe you should use it as a wake-up call to pay more attention to the things you carry and whether you are hitting people with them, as clearly you don’t notice when it happens (and yes, even though it was an accident, that’s still assault).

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Helen October 28, 2013 at 8:02 am

*exiting not editing

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Carol Ann October 28, 2013 at 8:10 am

While I in no way condone what the man did to you, I do have to say that my heart always sinks a little bit when I see passengers manoeuvring large items onto crowded forms of public transportation. Even flattened boxes may be too big to be carried on the trolley without them bumping into someone, and your behavior could be considered somewhat inconsiderate as well.

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Mouse October 28, 2013 at 8:18 am

Sounds like you did all you could. Don’t sweat it.

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Fawfu October 28, 2013 at 8:23 am

@Kathyrn I think the words were what she wished she’d said, not what she actually said.

The man was totally out of line. You did what you could with the sensory input you received. Also, in a court of law, the term is battery, not assault (Assault is the threat, battery is the act).

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Wild Irish Rose October 28, 2013 at 8:30 am

An accident is an accident. If you had hit the old man with whatever you were carrying, I’m quite sure you didn’t do it deliberately, and what he did WAS done on purpose. That said, I’m with those who question what you were carrying on the trolley (and the bus). If you really feel the need to take large objects home, find a ride with someone who is driving. Being hit with someone else’s stuff isn’t fun, and your vision should NEVER be obstructed by something you’re carrying, especially on public transportation. Space is quite limited in those situations, and it’s at the very least thoughtless to load yourself down with things that impede your boarding and disembarking safely and quickly.

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Cat October 28, 2013 at 9:00 am

I think I would have screamed when he hit me and left him to explain to others why he felt it necessary to strike me. If he can speak, it is quite easy to say, “Excuse me, but you struck me when you passed me. Please be more careful in the future.” You could have then apologized.

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DGS October 28, 2013 at 9:15 am

Exactly what Wild Irish Rose said. No, he should not have hit you deliberately, and he could have brought you hitting him with your boxes to your attention in a more appropriate way, but you could have accidentally hit him, and you ought to be mindful of bringing large boxes onto public transportation. Next time you have to carry something large onto public transit, you might consider getting a lift home from a friend with a car or getting a cab.

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Tanya October 28, 2013 at 9:19 am

@Helen–

Not to get too far into the legalities, but both assault and battery require that the person have the intent to threaten/touch someone. So no, the OP’s accidental contact with the man was not assault or battery.

From an etiquette standpoint, I think we can all agree that accidental injury can be inconsiderate, but is not deemed actively “rude.” So it’s not as bad as deliberate injury, whether it’s physical, like this situation, or merely verbal– for example, previous posters have talked about inadvertently offending someone by asking after a relative who turns out to be deceased, or something similar. We’ve agreed that it may have been careless of the person, but not something to feel horribly guilty about so long as an apology is offered. On the other hand, if the poster had said “I decided to ask how her dead mom was doing just to make her upset!” we all would have sent him/her to E-hell without a second thought.

So I agree with everyone else that even if the OP was potentially thoughtless in taking something bulky with her onto a crowded trolley, the man was actively rude and boorish in hitting her.

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Margaret October 28, 2013 at 9:27 am

Why pile on OP for carrying stuff on the bus? In my university days, my only mode of transport was the bus. If I wanted food — bus. If I had things to carry — bus. I guess if you are riding in rush hour with a lot of stuff it would be more considerate to wait until a slower time, but that’s not necessarily possible. And how do you find a ride with someone who is driving? If your work colleagues are just that, work colleagues, wouldn’t it be inappropriate to ask them to drive you home? And if you do not have a friend to call on every time you need to transport an EMPTY box, who do you get? In fact, I’ve been that friend with the car, and it gets tiresome running people on errands. I suppose there’s always a taxi, but not everyone can afford that. In fact, the times when I’ve used public transportation were because I couldn’t afford a car. Believe me, I wouldn’t be hauling stuff by bus because I have other options.

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Firecat October 28, 2013 at 9:51 am

I agree with Margaret. I don’t think it’s fair, nice, or reasonable to pile on the OP for carrying stuff on public transportation. Yes, it is a bit annoying to see someone getting on a bus, trolley, or train with something bulky, but that’s part of being in public and on public transportation. People sometimes need to transport items.

It sounds to me like the OP was as careful as possible, and the fellow (I won’t call him a “gentleman”) was WAY out of line. I understand being annoyed or even in pain, but hitting her was not ok. If he had restricted himself to saying something, even something like “OUCH – hey, that hit me!” then the OP should definitely have apologized and tried to take greater care. As it was, I think removing herself from the situation as quickly as possible was probably the best choice.

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PJ October 28, 2013 at 9:59 am

I agree with Margaret. The OP was carrying her purse, a lunch bag, and flattened boxes. To me, that sounds a bit cumbersome, but not like too much. I took the bus for over a decade to get to work, and I’ve seen strollers and walkers, large backpacks, and many people with a laptop, a purse, and a lunch bag. Often this is all on top of very bulky winter coats, which, alone, make it impossible to *not* brush against or bump into others. When people make their way through the aisles, we try not to whack each other on the head with a laptop or book bag, and those who are seated keep their heads out of the aise and don’t make a big deal out of getting their shoulder bumped with another’s lunch. That’s just comes with the territory when sharing close quarters.

For some, this is the only mode of transportation and finding an alternative is not always feasible.

Suggesting that the OP find another form of transportation with empty collapsed boxes is no more reasonable than suggesting that the man she encountered find another form of transportation himself since his social skills are not mature enough for him to keep his emotions and his hands under control.

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The Elf October 28, 2013 at 10:16 am

Yeah, I’ve done the same thing with my bulky backpack. When it’s filled with motorcycle gear, plus my work stuff, plus my lunch box, plus a book or two, it can be pretty huge! I try hard not to hit anyone but sometimes it happens anyway. If I’m aware of it, I apologize, ask if they are okay, and then try to make a self-depreciating joke out of it. I mean, it is my fault even if it is an accident.

Striking you -hard – for it is completely NOT ok. That’s deliberate action. He could have left it at sharp words. He could have gently tugged your sleeve to get your attention. But he didn’t – he hit you outright. You did exactly the right thing.

It’s not ideal to carry large, cumbersome objects on public transportation, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. As long as you try to be as considerate as possible, I don’t see an issue. It’s also best to avoid the rush hours when you do it, but again that is unavoidable. I see people with bikes or multiple bags of heavy luggage all the time on the Metro. On the MARC, I would see Appalachian Trail thru-hikers all the time in the summer months. They carry gigantic, heavy backpacks plus trekking poles. It’s just not that big of a deal.

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Carol Ann October 28, 2013 at 10:20 am

I don’t think people are “piling on” to the OP for carrying flattened boxes on the trolley; just pointing out that there are two sides to every story. As for suggesting that the OP might not be able to find alternate modes of transportation for her boxes and therefore gets a pass — I’ve taken public transportation for many years (in DC, Baltimore, and New York) and, if I couldn’t carry it comfortably on public transportation or couldn’t find an alternative way to get something home (whether that was store delivery, a cab, or a friend), I didn’t buy it or bring it home. Part of participating in a situation is understanding its limitations.

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Ashley October 28, 2013 at 11:05 am

There’s a couple comments on here that surprise me a bit, because they make it sound like they think OP is in the habit of regularly bringing large cumbersome objects onto the bus/trolly, when really it’s MUCH more likely that all she usually has is the purse and lunch bag, and just had the boxes that day because she happened to find them at work. Also, people are commenting on how she should pay more attention. She could have been paying all the attention in the world and still possibly accidentally hit someone. I know because it’s happened to me. Accidents happen.

Now, if she had been doing this every day for a month, yeah okay, then I might find fault with OP here but good grief, I don’t know a single person on this earth who hasn’t found themselves in a less than ideal transport situation at one time or another.

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ALM October 28, 2013 at 11:12 am

As a frequent bus rider, it is just as much the responsibility of people moving down the aisles to be careful as it is the responsibility of the sitting passengers to keep their appendages out of the way. Passengers regularly stick their legs, torsos, arms, shoulders and HEADS in the aisle ‘to have more room’ and then complain when someone trying to enter or leave bumps or brushes against them. The aisle space is finite. Stay out of it, or at the very least lean back when people are passing.

And yes, people getting on and off the bus should be careful and try to minimize the amount of stuff they are carrying, at least at peak bus times. Not that it can be avoided all together but if it’s an all the time thing, you’re riding the bus wrong.

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Stacey Frith-Smith October 28, 2013 at 11:16 am

If you have more than you can carry while being able to see around the load then you need to decide how to manage in advance of the walk down the aisle/ sidewalk/ stairway. Just because you’re carrying the boxes in front of you doesn’t mean that others know to get out of your way or that your vision is obstructed. Under your arm, perhaps? Or drag it behind? Or push it ahead of you down the aisle? Or bring a helper to grab the other end and make them dinner as a “thank you”? I don’t agree with the idea that you shouldn’t be able to use public transport to move what you have to- but you DO have to be proactive about how it’s going to be done.

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whatever October 28, 2013 at 11:29 am

When I was in grad school and living in a large, dense city, I didn’t have a car and neither did the majority of my friends and colleagues. Public transportation was the primary way people got around. No one is happy dragging large objects on and off the subway, but that’s how it needed to be done. It is not reasonable to suggest that the OP rent a car to transport light objects that she could clearly carry herself. Of course you should be considerate of others on transit, but everyone needs to be aware and make allowances for the fact that you’re going to be in close quarters with others.

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Brenda October 28, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Having ridden public transportation myself for a while, I sympathize with OP. Sometimes you do have to carry bulky items on public transit to get them home. You try to be as careful as possible, although accidents happen. And what the OP did was an accident. It could have happened if she were walking down the street. If I ever carried anything bulky, I tried to sit toward the front, but seats aren’t always open; you take what you can get. I approach it as an we’re all in this together thing, and most other people do too, although exceptions are obvious.

However, what the old man did was illegal and abusive. I don’t know if he had dementia or simply old people’s bad attitude syndrome, but it was not excuseable no matter what OP did.

*The one time I was upset at someone for bringing something bulky on the bus was when a woman was obviously moving, because she brought on two of the giant rolling suitcases, as well as a couple of full boxes and several small bags. The reason I was upset was not that she brought these items on, as not everyone has money for or access to a car, but because she chose to do it during the evening rush when the bus was packed.

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Kate October 28, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Adults do not intentionally hit other adults in anger. Ever. The only exception to this is to defend oneself from an immediate physical attack.

That man had no right to hit you, and I would have raised he(ck) if he had hit me. That’s an issue of public safety. The trolley driver should have made him exit the car immediately. You did the right thing by reporting him, and by disengaging from a mentally unbalanced/irate person who *already* used physical violence to express himself.

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Jenna October 28, 2013 at 1:00 pm

First of all… Sometimes big things need to be carried onto buses. I was in the position of moving several times a week for many months, resulting in carrying a rolling suitcase, rolling backpack, purse, and document tube. Not fun but I had to do what I had to do.

And had he hit me he would have been arrested. I have a pinched nerve in my neck, arthritis in both knees, and extremely sensitive skin. This means that anything harder than a gentle pat on my back can cause me severe pain, possible injury, and knock me off balance, causing possible additional injury.

I think the idiot got off easy.

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Wild Irish Rose October 28, 2013 at 1:12 pm

“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’m sure OP doesn’t usually carry a lot of stuff on the bus/trolley, but this sentence right here tells me she had too much to transport safely and easily. Maybe next time, one box at a time. As for not asking co-workers for a ride home, why not? Pretty much everyone I’ve ever known has done it, and it doesn’t sound like OP would be doing it habitually but just at times like the one described here.

Which is not to say that the man who hit her was in the right. Absolutely not! But I can tell you as a person living with an acute, chronic pain condition, getting hit by someone’s stuff can cause a lot of pain and sometimes when people are hurt, they just sort of lose it. It doesn’t excuse the man’s behavior, but only goes to underscore the assertion that OP needs to be more careful of other people’s (in)convenience in the future.

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Kirst October 28, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I wish people would stop assuming that people who express anger inappropriately have a mental illness.

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Kate October 28, 2013 at 1:55 pm

I have to disagree with Carol Ann and the others who said that the OP should look for another mode of transportation if she wanted to take flattened cardboard boxes on public transportation. Considering the possible expense and unavailability of other forms of transportation, that is just ridiculous. In the city where I live, public transportation is of excellent quality, low fare costs, relatively on time, many different routes that reach the whole city. Because of this many people don’t own cars, period. Public is their only form of transportation. It is understood by everyone in the city that people will sometimes take large bulky items on the bus (much larger than a few folded boxes), items such as a just purchased, still in the box vaccuum cleaner or a musical instrument in its case, larger than the musician! Not a day on public transportation has gone by that I haven’t seen someone with a grocery cart. Strollers are frequent on the bus as well, though most are foldable.

If you base the “restrictions” for what/who should be on the bus on the degree of their inconvenience to other passengers as other posters have suggested, you would have to “restrict” people in wheelchairs from getting on! The chairs take up 3-4 seats, the ramp takes a while to lower and then the person must manuever their wheelchair into the space, and occasionally wants to be buckled in, all of this, just for getting on the bus, and then repeating it for getting off, is an incovenience to other passengers and almost always makes the bus late.

This is far more incovenient than a few folded boxes, if those shouldn’t be allowed, I suppose we shouldn’t let people in wheelchairs ride public transportation! After all, they can just rent a wheelchair accessible van or get someone else to give them a ride! Just like was suggested to the OP. But such a rude thing would never be suggested.

Everyone has equal right to public transportation. Not everyone can afford to rent a vehicle for a single shopping trip and not everyone knows someone with a car. As long as they aren’t trying to haul a three piece living room set and as long as they can carry it themselves I think it is fine.

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Kimstu October 28, 2013 at 2:11 pm

I agree with the respondents who suggested making a startled sound to draw attention to the fact that somebody struck you.

Once the aggressive jerk had accused you of bumping him, though, you were right to apologize rather than to argue back or escalate the fight. Polite people infallibly apologize when they bump into somebody, even when the person they bumped into is being a complete overreacting ashcoal about it and behaving abominably.

What you could have done is to stare at the man incredulously and speak very coldly while uttering your polite apologies, along the lines of “I’m *very* sorry, sir, I didn’t realize I bumped into you. It was entirely accidental, I would *never* hit anybody on *purpose*. [Deadly stare.] I beg your pardon.”

And just keep icily apologizing and glaring at him until he quits yelling, then coldly turn away. The contrast between the generous courtesy of your words and the outraged disgust in your look and tone is what gets the message across that you are maintaining your standards of politeness even though your politeness is being grossly abused.

A tip for the future: When I take large or unwieldy stuff on public transit (which I agree public transit users are entirely within our rights to do occasionally), I tend to “pre-emptively apologize” all the way down the aisle, just constantly repeating in a soft voice “oops”, “excuse me”, “sorry”, “I beg your pardon”, and whatever other conciliatory phrases come to mind. This serves the double purpose of placating anybody you might have bumped into and alerting the people in your path that maybe they should try to make some room. Might not guarantee protection against aggressive jerks like the one you encountered, but at least it will make the non-jerks more accommodating.

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LawGeek October 28, 2013 at 2:49 pm

I think the people criticizing the OP for bringing the boxes have so bought into the car-centric culture that they don’t really understand what it is like to use public transit for everything. I don’t have a car, and if I wanted to shop outside my neighborhood, the subway would be my only choice. I happen to buy everything locally (within walking distance) but that’s because I’m a minimalist, not because it’s reasonable for everyone to do so.

I often encounter people with huge packages on the subway – furniture they just purchased, their stock and table for their outdoor sales, etc. The only time it ever bothers me is if there is a reasonable alternative. I expect frequent riders to have folding strollers that they collapse on the train (as per MTA regulation) instead of giant SUV strollers. I expect people wearing huge backpacks to hold them down low or on the ground to make more room. And of course, I expect people to be careful with their items, as OP attempted to do. But I see the inconvenience of riding with people carrying large items as just part of life on public transit.

It would cost me $30-40 to take a cab home from Whole Foods or a furniture store. That’s just not reasonable to expect anyone to pay just so you can have an extra bit of room on the train.

A car-free existence is healthier, safer, much less expensive, more community-oriented better for the environment, and less wasteful. It’s very much worth the occasional inconvenience of being squished or bumped.

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Kristin October 28, 2013 at 3:17 pm

This may not have been possible for the OP, but whenever I had to carry something awkward onto the bus, I got on after everyone else and stood by the door. I wouldn’t carry stuff down the aisle if I could avoid it. But that guy had no right to hit the OP. Really: if he had been paying attention, he would have watched out as the OP went by.

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Marozia October 28, 2013 at 3:30 pm

OP, you did nothing wrong, but did everything correct.
The old man just made a big scene, everyone stared and no doubt, kept their distance from him.
Good for you for telling the driver.

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Carol Ann October 28, 2013 at 3:56 pm

What an interesting assumption, Kate. Nowhere did I say that boxes or suitcases or musical instruments should not be allowed on public transportation, and I sure as shooting didn’t say that wheelchairs should be banned.

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KitKat October 28, 2013 at 4:35 pm

For the people suggesting getting a ride with a coworker, here’s another reason it might not be feasible. OPs coworkers could live in a different direction from her.
Example: Several of my coworkers and I live south of our place of work; I live in a completely different town that is further south and west than where they live. It is not feasible for anyone to come pick me up for work nor is it feasible for me to take them to work.

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Rebecca October 28, 2013 at 5:15 pm

How the e-hell else was the OP going to get those flattened cardboard boxes home if she doesn’t have a car? I’ve had to carry all manner of awkward objects home on the bus. I sure hope someone offered her a seat if she was carrying all that stuff.

I still remember my student days when I had to take home some heavy, cumbersome equipment on the bus one day (that I’d signed out from the college, for a project that was required). I was really struggling and someone offered me a seat. It was 20 years ago and I am still grateful that someone recognized that you don’t have to be elderly/injured/disabled/pregnant to really need a seat.

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Andrea B. October 28, 2013 at 5:20 pm

I would have called the police on that man. There is no excuse for that.

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Alie October 28, 2013 at 5:29 pm

This is utterly ridiculous. Taking flattened boxes home on a narrow trolley is not rude. Just like strollers and wheelchairs, which are similarly cumbersome, are also not rude. Many people do not own cars and cannot afford to take taxis every time they have to carry something.

I’ve had some weird experiences on public transportation (someone’s service dog licked my feet, for instance) and had someone not used to the train fall into me and knock me over (it sucked and it hurt, but it was an accident and the person was very apologetic). I’d never, ever hit someone like that.

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Kate October 28, 2013 at 7:40 pm

OP – I don’t think there’s anything more you could have done. I actually think you would have been well within your rights to take issue with him and argue your case, however, you probably saved yourself a lot of pain and hassle by not engaging with him. Whether he had a mental illness, some other condition such as dementia, or just a plain bad attitude, he’s already demonstrated that he’s perfectly willing to hit someone due to them accidentally bumping him. What might he have done if you’d deliberately started arguing with him?

My rule of thumb on public transport is ‘do not engage’. Whether or not you’re in the right, whether or not you’ve been offended, just ignore the person, get off as soon as possible, and write off the incident as just another b****** on public transport (unless of course you are seriously injured).

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Vicki October 28, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Seconding what Kirst said: over-reacting is not a sign of mental illness, nor is that sort of behavior limited to any particular age group. (Had he been younger, I doubt anyone would have suggested that he had “middle-aged people’s bad attitude syndrome” rather than just “a bad attitude.”)

I suspect that either it was, in fact, just a bad attitude, or OP caused the man more pain than she’d realized. That doesn’t mean chronic pain, it could mean that she happened to hit the same spot that he recently bruised, or a just-healing wound so it not only hurt, but has him worrying about a setback in the healing process.

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AnaMaria October 28, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Much eye-rolling at the people blaming the OP for carrying boxes on public transporation. The OP doesn’t tell us her lifestory, but, for many people, owning a car is not practical and public transporation is the only option. She is moving soon and she needed the boxes; what else was she to do??

It is never, never, never okay to walk up to someone and hit them! If this woman were deliberately hurting this man and he had pushed her away in self defense, it would be a different story- but she ACCIDENTALLY bumped him, and he assaulted her! If this happened in a school setting or workplace, this man would be arrested and charged. If the public transportation system does not take action against this man on her behalf, then she has a right to take further legal action. If he will walk up to a stranger and hit her for no good reason (no, being bumped by accident is not a good reason!) he may be capable of doing much worse! Who’s to say he won’t assault a small child who gets on the trolley and accidentally bumps him?

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Lacey October 28, 2013 at 8:57 pm

So much privilege in the comments saying people shouldn’t bring certain things on the bus. Some people can’t afford another mode of transportation, and to the “well, then she shouldn’t have brought them on” – what’s she supposed to do, then? She’s moving, and when you move, you scrounge up boxes wherever you can find them. Unless, of course, you have the money to buy them…which brings it back to the privilege. Recognize that not everyone’s financial circumstances are the same as yours.

Also, criticizing her completely misses the point. Even if she did hit the old man, like she said, it was an accident. There is absolutely zero excuse for him to even consider hitting her on purpose. What kind of man hits a woman, and what kind of person purposely attacks someone over an accident? Whatever little annoyance she committed is completely insignificant compared to getting up and following someone to assault them.

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The Elf October 28, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Rebecca, I offer people carrying heavy/awkward stuff a seat, if I see them. Why? Because I’ve been there too and it sucks. You do what you have to do when you don’t have a car or when your daily commute involves public transportation.

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The Elf October 28, 2013 at 10:29 pm

LawGeek, while I agree that putting the kibbosh on bulky items on public transportation is really missing the point of public transportation, declaring that the car free life is oh-so-much-more-awesome is drinking a different flavor of kool-aid.

Public transit is just not an option for everyone, nor does it work in the vast majority of the US. You need a dense city or popular point-to-point service to make it worth the money of building, running, and maintaining. I live in the suburbs and work in the city. I own vehicles and I take public transportation for 90% of my workday commute. I drive everywhere else I want to go. It works for me. My husband has never taken public transportation as a commute, only for special visits to the city. Why? Because he works untraditional hours. Because he has to carry a lot of stuff regularly. Because he works in a different suburb, and the transit doesn’t run directly there. In all the years since college, through all the various jobs, it has never been a practical option. There’s lots of reasons to have a car and there’s lots of reasons to take the bus/train/subway. It all depends on what works best for you.

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David October 28, 2013 at 11:59 pm

The old man was out of line. If you are accidentally hit it does not mean you get to hit the person who did it, no matter whether or not it hurt.

I remember the day a woman who was putting her coat on in the aisle punched me in the nose so hard I thought she had broken it. She didn’t mean to, she had just put her arm into her coat sleeve very quickly without bothering to check if there was a person sitting in the seat she was next to. She said; “Oopsie.” and I gritted my teeth and smiled, because I knew she hadn’t meant to.

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K October 29, 2013 at 2:43 am

The man was obviously in the wrong and I sorry to hear that OP had to put up with such behavior.

re: carrying bulky objects on public transport: I’ve lived with only public transport before, and seen a lot of inconsiderate behavior. Personally, when I see people with bulky objects, I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt if they happen to jostle me a bit — particularly if the passenger is visibly a bit overloaded!

That said, I always feel much more merciful toward people carrying unusual or special occasion items (suitcases, moving boxes, particularly enormous armloads of groceries) than items they obviously carry on a daily basis (students with their backpacks, for example). My reasoning is that most public transport takers will at some point carry an unusually awkward or bulky load, and be glad when people return that mercy if they have difficulty managing said load, whereas if you carry a bulky object every day, the onus is on you to figure out through experience the best way to carry it so you don’t inconvenience others (like carrying that darn backpack strapped to your FRONT, so you can see that you’re not smacking someone in the face!).

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Kate October 29, 2013 at 5:41 am

I also take a little offence to people saying she shouldn’t be on the bus with big items. I didn’t get a drivers license till I was 35, and making someone dinner or giving them money wasn’t something I was willing to do every time I wanted to go the the grocery store or similar. I did and still do treasure my independence. As for the mental illness comments, I still think that was a way over reaction on his part, which is something you often see in the mentally ill. Even if he did have a healing wound that she bumped, actual physical violence is WAY over the top as a response.

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Lauren October 29, 2013 at 6:48 am

I just cringe when I look back on the days I was forced to take the train to work. It was horrible. People were rude and pushy, people ignored when other people needed help, and people acted like children when it came to queuing up to get a seat. Barely anybody gave any consideration to others.

I really don’t appreciate the attitude some people have who are actually defending the people dragging huge objects onto the trains. Do you take the train to work? Do you see the looks on everyone’s faces after a long day at work when they see someone with a huge pile of junk (many times taking up a seat that a human could be using) barely trip onto the train and then when the train stops and starts their junk proceeds to fly around and beat the hell out of everyone around them?

You cannot bring your moving boxes onto a train. It is inconsiderate of your fellow passengers. If you need boxes, walk to a store in your neighborhood.

If this behavior is ok with you, then remember that people like you are the reason everyone loathes public transportation. The train is not your private car, and you are rude if you treat it as such.

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Firecat October 29, 2013 at 8:54 am

Wow, Lauren…just…wow. As a matter of fact, I do take a train back and forth to work most days, have done so for nearly ten years, and before that, it was mostly a bus. And I’ve been on both sides of the carrying large stuff equation. Honestly, I’m more bothered by the people with way-too-loud music, those with screaming/whining children, and the days when the baseball game ends right at rush hour, meaning I may have to watch three trains packed full of baseball fans go by before I can get on one to get home. Empty boxes are at least quiet and don’t smell!

People sometimes have to carry stuff. If public transit is their only option, then that’s what they have to do. Sometimes we all do things that inconvenience others, and all we can do is try to minimize it as much as possible.

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Glitter October 29, 2013 at 11:06 am

The public transportation where I live is just plain awful, but improving. So I rarely use it. But I do, I get bumped into occasionally. Never on purpose. Never enough to cause any harm. Just a bump. I get bumped into when I walk down the street sometimes, or through the mall. It happens. Often people apologize, sometimes they don’t notice and continue on their way. If every time someone bumped into me I jumped up, hit them, and demanded an apology I’d spend a lot of my time hitting people and demanding apologizes. Frankly, I have far more interesting things to do. I’m sure I’ve bumped someone without noticing and failed to apologize.

I probably would’ve just said sorry and hopped off like the OP did, also good on OP for notifying the driver. He could get bumped again and hit someone who’d hit back and well, a whole new set of problems would crop up.

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The Elf October 29, 2013 at 11:19 am

Lauren: “Do you take the train to work? Do you see the looks on everyone’s faces after a long day at work when they see someone with a huge pile of junk (many times taking up a seat that a human could be using) barely trip onto the train and then when the train stops and starts their junk proceeds to fly around and beat the hell out of everyone around them? ”

Yup, I take public transportation every workday (bus, train, subway – it’s varied) since the late 90s, and before that to run errands and get to/from campus. I’ve dreaded the overloaded passenger during an already-crowded rush hour. Of course, I’ve BEEN the overloaded passenger, too. It behooves anyone who has to take a lot of stuff on public transportation to minimize the impact as much as possible and keep it contained. But I have no problem with taking the stuff on board. Sometimes, it’s the only option.

I posted earlier that I have a bulky backpack. Sometimes it’s nothing, but other times it’s fully loaded and bulky. It depends on what I’m carrying that day. If I have a full backpack, and it’s crowded, I carry it down low in one hand to minimize the impact of it. I put it between my feet if I have to stand and on my lap when I ride. If it isn’t crowded I’ll keep it on my back, but the odds of me interfering with anyone’s ride then is pretty slim. It’s just what you do because 1) you still gotta use the train and 2) you want to be polite and not invade other people’s space. It’s a nice middle line.

As for hating public transportation? Well, I certainly have my complaints about it. But it beats driving into the city!

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