A couple days ago I was waiting at the bus stop in this hot summer heat. I was wearing the dress pictured above and my hair was up, and I was feeling like quite a lady, actually. Girly shoes, cute bag, the whole bit.
I’ve been working on not having a panic attack every day on my way home. For those of you who don’t know I do get anxiety pretty badly in public places. The trip home is always when it gets me the worst, after a long day of being around people and knowing I’m going to have to be stuck in close proximity once again to screaming children, drunk and dirty construction workers, scab-picking hobos and pushy old ladies. I get a stomach ache nearly every single day on my way home, no lie. I thought it was the food I was eating, then I thought it might have been my restrictive tights squishing my guts but after years of experiments with diet and clothing options I’ve found the only common denominator in everything I do and getting stomach pains is my proximity to a stressful bus ride.
So each day I try and talk myself out of getting anxious. Don’t worry, me. Those people aren’t staring at you. Don’t worry me, that guy won’t try to talk to you. Don’t worry me, that guy isn’t coming over here to look at your legs. Don’t worry, me. He’s not standing directly beside you on purpose even though there’s a ton of room everywhere else.
Oh wait, yeah. You’re being “hunted”.
I call it that because it literally makes me feel like some slow-moving animal is sniffing me out of the pack of bus patrons, circling, about to make some kind of move. It can’t be only me who has experienced “the hunt”, I’m sure.
It’s that thing where you’re standing still out in public and a stranger sees you from afar and decides he/she wants to talk to you. For me, personally, it’s always men or crazy people who want to talk to me, and 95% of the time it’s when my tattoos are showing.
I *hate* being “hunted”. I can see it coming ten minutes before the person even decides to make a move. I see them do that weird stare-from-afar thing out of the corner of my eye. Then comes the oh so casual walk-over. Oh they just happen to be standing directly beside me? What a coincidence. It’s the equivalent to the yawn-and-stretch move in a movie theater. So. Obvious.
Then they don’t give a shit if I’m reading a book or not looking at them or listening to a super interesting podcast, they just start talking about their opinion of me in a condescending manner, like I should be flattered that they took the time out of their day to talk to me. It’s never like “hey, want to talk about interesting books or the local sports team?” It’s never a normal girl wondering where I got my shoes or a tourist asking if I have seen their bus go by.
It doesn’t matter if the person says a nice thing or a mean thing to me if I don’t want to talk. Because first of all, did I fucking ask them for their opinion? No. Second, I don’t feel like having a conversation so I am not going to be forced into one. Third, chatting me up about my tattoos is the ultimate cop-out of an opening line. It’s like if you see a super pregnant lady down the street and for some reason feel the need to walk up to her and be like “when are you due?” and then talk about your epesiotomy while she’s just trying to use the bank machine or something.
I’m a grown-ass woman, I should be able to just sit in peace without a bunch of pseudo-thugs and misinformed middle aged men trying to chat me up.
The guy in question that day, he was way down the sidewalk at a busy bus stop. I was sitting on a little ledge on the side of a bank, just waiting for my bus and listening to Nick Cave after a long hot day at work. Even though I was looking to the left, waiting for my bus, I could see him to my right doing the stare thing. He was kind of dorky looking, mid-20s in age. He had a new-ish looking sleeve of mediocre tattoo work and was wearing a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off, just dying for somebody to notice.
He slowly took two steps towards me, then hesitated. I pulled my iPod out of my bag and looked at my music selection intently. I wanted to look as busy as possible. Do not talk to me. I am busy. Do not talk to me. I am not interested.
Two more steps and he was in front of me but a sidewalk’s width away. I turned up the volume, changed the song and looked for my bus.
He stopped, just standing there, facing me, staring. It’s so awkward when you know somebody’s just waiting to catch your eye and you don’t want them to. I didn’t glance up from my iPod again, even though I wanted to see if my bus was coming. I didn’t want to accidentally send some kind of “come hither” signal over there.
After a few more moments of awkwardly standing in front of me, he ever so casually walked over and stood beside where I was sitting, propping his elbows up on the ledge and leaning back. It probably looked very cool in his mind.
“I like your tattoos.” He said, loudly, staring at my legs.
I didn’t acknowledge his existence. At all. Oh I heard him, and I saw him, but I just did not care. I wanted to say “Yeah? Who asked you?” Or use a super sarcastic tone, saying something like “Oh thank god, I did this all to impress you.” but I do have a bit of social grace engrained in my very being, and I could not bring myself to be *that* rude.
Anyway, I’m sure he’d have turned even something like that into an invitation to tell me about his “ink”. A lot of the time I feel like guys like him just want to talk to me just to let me know that hey, they also have tattoos so. Yeah. I guess we should probably make out now or something. I don’t know.
It felt really good to just ignore him. It turned into a really awkward moment … for him, not me. As far as he knew I didn’t even know he was there, but probably six or seven people standing around definitely saw the exchange. I’m not sure if it’s because my feelings are turned right off sometimes lately or what but I just wanted to show him that you can’t walk up to whomever you please and force them into talking about you and I didn’t care how embarrassing it was for him. Come on, he did’t want to talk to ME, he wanted to talk about the way I look and then segue into talking about himself and how cool he is.
I’ve just had enough of those conversations to last me a lifetime.
Just then, my bus came. Turns out it was his bus too. So I pretended it wasn’t mine until he got on and went upstairs. He actually waited a beat to see if I was getting on, too, looking back from the doorway. I got on at the last moment and sat downstairs near a screaming child. With a horrible stomach ache and a racing heart. Because being hunted is not good for anxiety, I tell you h’wut.
For comparison’s sake, I’ll tell you about a great experience I had, where the exchange was a pure compliment and the person didn’t expect anything back. The guy was…let’s say “rough and tumble” in appearance. And he was with his friends and his girl, but he didn’t try and put me down to show off or anything like that. He just said this:
And he said it like he meant it. And that? Made my day. That’s a true compliment.
When I don’t want to talk, but you go in anyway with a false compliment and immediately segue into talking about yourself, you are a bore and are not respecting my privacy.
Here is a letter I wrote to the new Indian restaurant just down the street from my work. They have not responded as of yet, and I will not go back until they make this right. If they don’t then they’ve lost my business forever.
Hi there. I’m writing to you from the tattoo shop down the road, as I’d like you to know my two experiences with your staff.
Yesterday we ordered a few small items for takeout. A woman (I think she might be a manager?) answered the phone and was very polite, and also helped me when I came by to pick it up. The service inside the restaurant by her was great. There was a young man working there as well who walked straight up to me while I was waiting for my food and asked me for a discount on tattoos. Not the most professional behaviour but whatever, I get rude questions all the time in public as I’m pretty heavily tattooed so I brushed it off. I paid with no problem and left. Everybody said the food was delicious.
Today one of the tattoo artists was very busy and asked me to call and order her a naan. I do this for the artists quite frequently and as such have developed a pretty good relationship with many of the nearby restaurant staff.
I called your place and a young-ish sounding man answered. I placed my order and before I could find out how much it was going to cost or when it would be ready he hung up on me. We all actually had a laugh at that, supposing he was very busy and forgot his manners.
I guessed that it would take around ten or fifteen minutes, and walked over there to pick up the food. There was a man standing out front who was very friendly (I guess the owner?) and I walked in to where the host was standing. He didn’t greet me at all, just stared. I said “Hi, I’m here to pick up a take-out order” and he walked straight to the back and got it, no smile or anything. (This was the same guy as yesterday who asked for a tattoo discount.)
I tried to pay with a $20 bill and he literally raised his voice at me, berating me, saying “YOU HAVE TO HAVE EXACT CHANGE” and was absolutely furious. He walked around very dramatically asking everybody in the restaurant if they had change for a $20 and finally another server came over. He also scolded me as if I did something wrong, saying I should pay with exact change. He handed me $15 even though my change was more than that, saying he’d give me the rest next time because they don’t have change.
I was so taken aback I didn’t say anything at the time, plus I’m not so great with being yelled at by complete strangers when I did nothing wrong, but I’ve been sitting here fuming about it for a couple hours.
First of all, even if this were a world in which patrons should always pay with exact change, maybe somebody should have told me how much the food was going to be instead of hanging up on me and expecting me to magically know the procedure.
Second, you cannot yell at customers or make them feel stupid. Ever. Period. Or hang up on them mid conversation.
Third, you should give your servers a big enough float to deal with big bills on the regular. This is a city full of rich people and tourists. They’re not all going to be carrying around exact change. I work with tattoo artists who use $50s and $100s regularly. I’m lucky she handed me a $20. This is not my problem. Go to the bank OR make it apparent that you have no change for some reason. Tell the people over the phone BEFORE they come pick up their orders. I do not think it’s unreasonable to expect you to be able to change any bill I bring in. Everybody else on the street can do it.
Fourth, you can’t say you’ll give somebody the rest of their change later. That’s not okay. That money belongs to the person I was picking up the lunch for, not you.
I really want to like you guys, but your staff is making it difficult to say the least. I really hope you take my criticism in a constructive manner, I know it’s in an aggressive tone but I am still very angry about what happened today. I can see by your Facebook wall I’m not the only one who has had a terrible experience lately.
Tattoo Zoo shop manager
Basic human kindness quiz: So say you see somebody in the street whose appearance you find, oh, I don’t know, revolting. For me, it’s skeleton-looking dirty stringy-haired crackheads who have obviously thrown away their lives to booze and drugs. What do you do?
A) Do nothing and keep on walking, pretending you don’t see them.
B) Give them a smile, they probably could use a stranger’s kindness.
C) SCREAM at them that they’re “fucking disgusting” while they’re standing at the bus stop minding their own business, until your friends have to literally drag you away, while everybody at the bus stop stares at you and the person you were screaming at.
This lady yesterday? She chose C.