It was just this Sunday afternoon, in the middle of the day that I was aboard the 22 MacDonald heading to a yoga class downtown. I moved to the back of the bus after a big group of elderly people got on the bus and I was seated in the very back row, not quite in the centre. A guy sat next to me, in the centre and immediately started to stare at me and then make conversation with me. Being polite, I respond back to him but stay guarded. He’s asking me questions about my yoga mat and telling me about the time that he did yoga in a hospital. I can see an older women sitting on the other side of him looking on and I can feel and see her anxiety for me on her face.
Eventually, the guy asks me if I “take everything off’ when I do yoga to which I angrily reply, no I keep my clothes on. Then I put my headphones in, the guy on the other side of me gets off and I slide one seat over to put space between myself and the creep — but for naught. He taps me on the shoulder and then asks me if I want to go to a movie with him, and I tell him “no, sorry I have a boyfriend” (like I a) should have to tell him that I’m sorry and b) should have to legitimize my no with the fact that I have a boyfriend). The creep continues to stare at me, and then slides over next to me, boxing me in between the window and himself and being too close for comfort. When someone takes the centre seat in the back row, he uses this as an excuse to slide even closer to me and violating my personal space, all the while staring at me and then starting to touch his crotch. I was paralyzed by fear and actually shaking by this point, anxious for my stop to arrive. The older woman gets off and she looks behind to give me a lingering look — I can feel how worried she is for me, and I am worried myself. I’ve had a lot of weird experiences in my life, in various cities as well as on Translink, but this one was different and terrifying.
When we get into downtown I start arranging my things and the creep asks me if I’m getting off soon. He sits even closer and I ask him to please move over because he’s making me uncomfortable. I was so fearful for how I was going to get past him when it got to my stop because of so little room, I thought he might try to grab me. I finally moved to get off the bus and put my bag and yoga mat between him and myself and shimmied out as fast as possible an went to the bus driver to tell him about this creep. That’s when I look back and notice he’s standing at the back door waiting to get off with me. I told the bus driver he’s getting off with me, and just booked it from the bus stop to my yoga studio where I arrived consumed with fear.
I have never, in my life, felt so scared for my own personal safety and been purposely made to feel so uncomfortable. I don’t know if this guy was doing it on purpose to scare me to get off or if he actually was intent on following me and hurting me. Either way, this is completely inappropriate behaviour and so very indicative of the kind of culture that we live in. We live in a culture that is complicit in rape — we stand by and watch someone be harassed and do nothing about it, and we have boys growing up to be men who believe that this behaviour is okay — that they have an entitlement to a woman’s attention and space.
The 22 is one of the worst lines I ever have to take and unfortunately I have to take it as I live off of Knight Street. On this bus, I have had a man “accidentally” grab my leg, been stared at, aggressively hit on and once witnessed a man verbally abuse his partner on the bus telling her awful things like “if you don’t suck my dick I’ll cut your throat” and nobody did a thing about it. The City of Vancouver and Translink needs to take greater responsibility on the types of inappropriate behaviour that occurs on the bus because I’ve taken transit in more crowded and very much less developed cities but I have never experienced the same degree of harassment as I have on Translink.