Updated: Jan 15, 2020
Despite the crowd, she was hard to miss upon stepping into the Metro. The hair from her platinum blonde wig fell long down her back. The volume from her hair added height to her already statuesque frame. It was Saturday morning which may explain why the wig was a bit askew, revealing the dark hair that framed her face. The elegance of her fitted emerald-green velvet dress contrasted with the heavy silver chains dangling from her neck.
Because of the crowd, I found a spot along the far back wall. It was out of the way of foot traffic where I could settle in to listen to my podcast in peace. The train took off, I leaned back against the wall lost in my own thoughts.
To my left, something caught my eye. I glanced over to catch the lady in emerald change uncomfortably from one seat to another.
I went back to my podcast.
But I couldn’t concentrate on what they were saying. I was distracted. By what, I don’t recall, but I caught an uneasy feeling in my gut. I glanced back over to my left to see Mx Emerald shift restlessly in her seat.
I turned off the sound from my phone just in time to hear, “Real women don’t have penises”.
I kept my earbuds in to appear disengaged. Moving sideways, I took a few discreet steps in her direction.
Two men sat behind her. At least one of them was muttering in low tones: hateful comments not worthy of repeating. The seat back covered the mens’ mouths so I couldn’t make out who was speaking.
The vitriol continued, steady but in a cowardly, low tone.
I took my earbuds out. I was done sending a nonchalant signal.
I glared in the speaker’s direction. But I didn’t know what to do. My heart went out to Mx Emerald, but I feared that if I spoke to her directly I might further alarm her.
Afraid of possibly escalating the speaker’s aggression, I stayed frozen as I continued to search for the source of the hate being spewed her way. My brain stumbled over what to do.
As with most things, time revealed the truth. Suddenly the malicious mutterer raised his face and pointed at me and proclaimed loudly, “That’s what a real woman looks like!”
Something rushed over me. Embarrassment? Anger? I think a little of both.
Masking my uncertainty, I held his gaze and said, “Don’t you dare drag me into your bullshit.”
Then I looked at Mx Emerald and said, “I’m really sorry you have to listen to this.”
“I’m used to it,” she shrugged.
Her resignation broke my heart.
But now I had my opportunity and I took it. I continued to chat with Mx Emerald about all kinds of random things: the fact we both overslept this morning, cursed our fates of running late and just normal human stuff.
The Malicious Mutterer fell silent. He no longer had an open target. As much as I wanted to meet his hate with my own anger, I didn’t act out my fantasy of kicking his teeth in.
Instead I employed a tried and true tactic: distraction.
As a volunteer health care clinic escort, I’ve practiced distraction as a tactic countless times. The clinic draws unstable, hateful protestors who scream, “Murderer!” and “You should have kept your legs together!”, to patients seeking reproductive healthcare of all sorts.
It was at the clinic that I discovered that just talking non-stop in a friendly, light-hearted way keeps the patients distracted from their fear and effectively gets them to their destination.
In an atmosphere of hate, there ino room for breaks from my non-stop chatter. Silent space lets the hate and fear back in, so I just overwhelm the target with friendliness while ignoring the words of the hater. I may come across as a babbling idiot, but that’s OK. It gets the job done.
An amusing side-effect of the motor-mouth technique is that it diverts the hater’s attention elsewhere. Robbed of the patient’s attention, clinic protestors start in on less emotionally vulnerable targets including escorts, random passersby, joggers and dog walkers.
I thought spewing hate at random targets was unique to clinic protestors. But to my surprise, the Malicious Mutterer didn’t stay quiet for long.
Soon his target was the musician singing and playing his heart out for tips. Eventually he circled back to me for “interrupting people’s conversations”.
By now, however, any power he had felt faded. He just became pathetic.
I kept my eye on him as I continued to chat with Mx Emerald. Though he continued to mutter, he slumped in his seat and I watched him physically shrink, simmering in his own stew of hatred.
But just to be safe, I kept picturing my fantasy of knocking all his god damned teeth out while I continued to smile cheerfully at Mx Emerald.
Fortunately, it all resolved peacefully. Despite the tension and uncertainty of it all, everyone just kinda went their separate ways as we pulled into the next station.
Good luck to you, Mx Emerald. I hope your day got better.
And good luck to you, Malicious Mutterer. Though they never seem to recognize me, as a devoted people watcher, I always remember the troublemakers when I see them again.
And I remember what you look like, mother fucker.
Note: My apologies if I’ve used the pronouns in this story all wrong. My intention is to tell the story about the participants as I perceived them as the events unfolded. If there is a kinder way to tell the story, I’m happy to learn.