The following Kay Adventure is brought to you in part by the people of downtown San Jose and in part by my need to laugh at what was a pretty freaky and frightening situation.
Let me set the scene. It’s around 5:30 on a weeknight and my train has just pulled into the downtown stop. Normally I get off here and walk a block or so over to where the bus picks up. I have my head phones in and I am totally minding my own business.
I get off the train, as do about a dozen people, and like normal we all walk right behind the not moving train car and cross the street. But this time I realize that there is a car on the train tracks, blocking us from walking behind the train…
Yes, a car on the tracks. Now, this happens occasionally. If you are new to driving in downtown and you negate to read the signs and if you turn too early, you might end up on the tracks. I have seen this happen a lot. But normally, people realize Right Away that they goofed and back up and get off the train tracks.
This woman driver had decided to instead drive along behind the train for at least two blocks because that was as far as we were from the closest intersection.
Not only that, but she was practically touching the back of the train with her car. Not a bright idea safety wise.
A few more things you ought to know, she looked pretty freaked out and there wasn’t going to be a place for her to turn off the tracks for a few more blocks. Her only real option was to either reverse and go back or follow the train for quite a while before being allowed to turn off the tracks.
Ok, so I walk behind her car (since she is blocking the normal route), and I feel a bit bad for her.
Apparently, my pity isn’t shared by several of the men in the area. Four to five men have converged upon her car and have started yelling at her, calling her names, and basically telling her she shouldn’t be there, she needs to get her car off the tracks, etc. A fair bit of vulgarity is involved with these yells.
The train moves forward but the guys are at her windows and in front of her car blocking her… and still yelling. She looks even more freaked out and this is where I decide, in my infinite dumb dumb dumb wisdom to get involved.
I take my headphones out and approach the car. I figure that she might appreciate a kinder face. Plus these guys seem overly pissed about something so silly and for some reason I think I might be able to diffuse the situation.
I try to talk to her, to explain that she won’t have a chance to turn off the tracks, that her best bet is to reverse and go back…. And she honks at me and calls me a bad name,
Well, fine. I tried to help, whatever. I start to walk away and she floors it leaving the group of men in her wake.
The group of men no longer have her to yell at… and so they all turn and start to yell at me.
Seriously. Calling me names, telling me I should have minded my own business, (even more vulgarity) and advancing on me in a pack.
I don’t respond to them, just head off toward the bus stop and they follow me for a full block, yelling and cursing.
Not fun. In fact, really really scary. My heart was pounding and instead of just sitting on the bench I went into the closest store and hung around inside for a bit to try to calm myself down. I felt twitchy for the rest of my time downtown and didn’t feel at ease until I was safely on my bus.
I didn’t think about why I was afraid, just that I was.
Fast forward two days. I was relating this story to an acquaintance and her first response was;
Her; “Well, what were they?’
Me: Who, what?
Her: The men, what were they?
Me: Bigger than me… and men… and angry for some reason.
Her: (getting frustrated) Yeah, but what WERE they, you know, were they black? Or Mexican?
Me: I don’t know.
Her: How do you not know? I bet they were black. Or Mexican
Me; I didn’t ask them for their background or IDs, I was more into, you know, not getting surrounded or anything.
Her: Right, well they weren’t white were they?
Me; I don’t know… I mean, I guess they had skin that was darker than mine, but then again I am pretty darn pale… most people are darker than I am.
It was then, as she looked at me like I was the one on crack, that I started to think about why I had been so afraid.
Why did these guys frighten me? Because they were loud, sure. Because they were in a group and thus outnumbered me, sure again. But also, because they were men.
And like it or not as a woman alone in downtown, even in a crowded part of downtown… even in a crowded part of downtown at 6:00 in the evening… there will always be this heightened sense of wariness regarding men.
For me, fear is color blind… but more interestingly.. not gender blind.
Not at all.