Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady

In honor of International Women's Day, I present three encounters I had within the space of two days last week. Maybe they are merely examples of my own timidity and paranoia. Or maybe not. I report, you decide.


I am unloading groceries into the back of my car late in the evening. Nearby, two male store employees are gathering empty carts to wheel back into the store. One of them lingers quietly until I am finished so he can take my cart back for me. I smile gratefully at him and say, "Thanks."

As he wheels the cart away, the other employee shouts something like, "Hey, I'll see you tomorrow," at him. I don't pay attention but continue settling the groceries into the car. The man shouts again, and then a third time. I notice that the first employee is walking away without answering, and glance over at the shouting man to gauge his hostility level, wondering if the two are fighting about something.

He is standing still and staring at me from a couple of car lengths away. "Yeah, I'm talking to you," he shouts when we make eye contact. I don't recognize him, and I can't judge his facial expression in the darkness, so I nod an acknowledgment and get into the car before he says anything else.


I catch the bus home from my first day of jury duty. Being so near the beginning of the bus line, I easily find an empty seat and settle in, pulling a book out of my bag.

A man sitting alone in the seat behind mine immediately peeks over the back of my seat. "Wow, you have beautiful eyes," he says. He is wearing sunglasses.

"Thank you," I respond, smiling at him, surprised and flattered.

He leans closer. "What color are they?" he asks.


"What color are your eyes? They're beautiful," he repeats. He is very close to my face now.

"Um...blue," I answer, opening my book and edging slightly away.

"Where are you headed?" he asks.

"Home," I say without looking up.

He is offended by my aloofness, or catches on that I am uncomfortable, and snaps, "O-kay," flopping heavily back into his own seat.


Downtown at the courthouse for my second day of jury duty, I step into an open elevator on the seventh floor to walk outside during the morning break. Three men follow me in before the doors close, a fact noted with mild discomfort by an ever-alert corner of my brain.

The four of us ride down in silence until we near the bottom and the man nearest the door turns with a smirk to one of the other men. "How does this work, now?" he says. "Even though I'm closest to the door, am I supposed to let the woman out first?" He emphasizes the word "woman," drawing out the syllables in his mouth.

None of them looks at me while they all share a chuckle. When the doors open, I stand motionless in the corner. The man who spoke turns and gestures dramatically at the open door; the other two are also waiting. I squeeze past them without making eye contact, a fixed polite smile on my face.

As I hurry out of the building, I catch myself thinking guiltily, "You bitch, you should have said, 'thanks.'"