The creep on the bus looks just like us

Content Warning: This post contains descriptions of sexual harassment and assault.

Stop sign.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I was 17, a middle-aged man in a faded green polo shirt and blue jeans exposed his erect genitalia to me and groped my buttocks.

We were in a bookstore at the train station. I had seen this man on the bus earlier that morning. We had made incidental eye contact and he’d smiled at me and I probably smiled back. Like when I pass someone in the street or in the corridor at work. It’s something I just do without really thinking about it — and it sure as hell doesn’t mean “whip out your wang”.

But according to some well-meaning people I spoke to afterwards, I should have thought about it. I shouldn’t have smiled. I shouldn’t have been alone. I should have screamed or made a scene — instead of freezing and trying to pretend I hadn’t noticed.

But staying silent or laughing it off tends to be my default response to someone making me uncomfortable. I guess it feels like the safer option. Especially when you don’t really know what someone might be capable of.

And I don’t think there’s a perfect way to react to a WTF situation like that, but humans are pretty good at prescribing how others should behave. I know I’m guilty of it sometimes.

The man in the green polo looked like a perfectly normal person until I caught him staring a little too long over the top of a bookshelf. And I might have convinced myself I was just imagining it until he came over and pulled out his dong whilst asking me if I liked to read.

He probably looks and acts like a decent person most of the time in his everyday life. Creeps don’t wear signs telling you they’re creeps. Sometimes — I dare say, most of the time — the bad guys look just like everyone else.

I had a long internal debate about whether or not to publish this post.

But I claim to be a writer so… this is me writing a story. This one just happens to be non-fiction.

Masked up in the wild west

I’m currently staring out the window at the rain in Perth, where our five-day hard lockdown ended without another COVID-19 case being identified in the community. There are still a few restrictions in place for the time being, including wearing masks — a foreign concept to most West Aussies until a week ago, though the vast majority of people have gone along with it.

Having had one community case in 10 months, many have asked if the State Government overreacted. Maybe. But as much as I miss travelling, I look at what’s happening in other parts of the world and I’d definitely prefer to overreact than underreact.

Besides, it’s not really about me. If I’ve ever been seriously ill in my life, I don’t remember it. But I share the planet with people who are more vulnerable than me. So I can put up with some mild discomfort and foggy glasses. If that makes me a “sheeple” then so be it.

I’m not oblivious to how fortunate I am though. I’ve kept my job throughout the pandemic. When we went into sudden lockdown, I just opened up my laptop and kept working… I didn’t have to shut down my business or lose all my income.

So I’ve been lucky. Lots of people haven’t. But it seems like every approach to COVID involves the sacrifice of something — or someone — whether it’s the economy, physical health, mental health, the ability to move freely, etc…

I’m no expert on any of these things, but neither are all the armchair epidemiologists who have suddenly graduated from the university of hard knocks over the past year, so I figure I’m equally entitled to give my BS opinion on the internet. 😛

Hopefully we’ll get through the other side and people will still remember how to wash their hands and respect one another’s personal space.

And if someone wants to wear a mask in public once it’s no longer mandated, they should feel free to do so without being stared at like they have five heads. 🙂

Day one of lockdown…

Yesterday began like any other Sunday in a state that’s had no community transmission of COVID-19 for 10 months.

I went to a fitness class. I visited my aunt and uncle. I went home and had lunch. I started browsing Disney+. My phone was at my fingertips. And then I saw the news on my socials that Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan was holding an emergency press conference at noon. (It ended up being around 12.45pm, with the rumour mill swirling on the Facebook Live video comments as we waited.)

The Premier emerged wearing a black face mask, and I knew right then we were going into lockdown. By 6pm, the sporting venue I’d been at hours earlier was closed for at least the next few days, and casually visiting my aunt and uncle was no longer permitted.

It’s only a five-day lockdown at this stage, though that didn’t stop the panic buying. Ugh.

My workplace sprung into action on Sunday afternoon, closing our building for the week and directing us to work remotely. If the lockdown ends up being extended… we’ll deal with that when the time comes.

I worked remotely for three months last year, so I knew it could be done. This time around, the decision was more sudden, so I couldn’t go in and grab all my stuff from the office for the perfect teleworking setup. But hey, it’s a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things.

I’ve since finished my first 24+ hours of lockdown and, despite feeling a little unsettled, it’s been fine. I may have had too much coffee and tea now that the kitchen is a breath away from my workstation, but I managed to avoid the caffeine-induced anxiety I sometimes get, so all good. (It’s a fine line between alertness and anxiety. 😛 )

I don’t know if or when life will go back to something resembling a pre-COVID normal. But I’m trying to focus on the here and now.

So, day one down. Four more (hopefully) to go. Let’s do this. 🙂

Episode 2021: A new hope

I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions. Mostly because I know myself.

2021 feels like an even weirder year to be making big plans — a lot of the things that made 2020 terrible for so many people around the world haven’t gone away just because we’ve ticked over into a new calendar year.

So in lieu of any New Year’s Resolutions, I thought I’d share a couple of my dreams for 2021.

First up is something I’ve joked about to a few people, except that I’m kind of not joking at all, because it would be awesome. I want a transporter so I can beam across state and international borders to see family and friends.

According to Star Trek legend, this technology is only in its infancy in the 22nd century. But we managed to skip the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s in our universe, so we’re already in a different timeline, maybe one in which a transporter comes to fruition sooner? Transporter technology would also minimise contact with potential sources of infection when travelling between places.

I’ve been watching quite a bit of Star Trek in iso, can you tell? 😉 (I’ve also watched Star Wars, hence the blog title. I like both. Don’t make me choose.)

For a somewhat more realistic version of this dream, I’d love to be able to travel safely out of Western Australia again and not worry about whether or not I’ll be allowed back home. I’m anxious (as always), but I’ve got a collection of reusable face masks and excellent hand hygiene, if I do say so myself. International travel is not looking likely for the average Joe, but I’m hopeful of seeing my loved ones in the eastern states before too long.

Secondly… I want to get my debut novel out into the world.

For reasons that I’ll probably cover in a future blog post, I’m leaning towards indie publishing, despite its challenges. So the “getting it out” part is in my hands. Even if I decided to go down the traditional route, querying agents and publishers is in my hands too… I just haven’t done it.

There’s a movie called Little City that I may or may not (read: definitely) watched because of Jon Bon Jovi. In it, Penelope Ann Miller’s character says something that unfortunately sums me up pretty well:

“At least I have potential. It’s a wonderful thing, potential. Because as long as I don’t do anything, I’ll still have it.”

Folks, I’m bursting with ‘potential’… Maybe this is the year I finally leave the comforting familiarity of my desert planet and learn the ways of the Force, metaphorically speaking.

Or maybe I’ll just pledge to go to the gym every day… starting next month.

What I do know is that I’m very lucky to have kept my job during the pandemic, to have access to mental health treatment, and to live in a place that has no community transmission (touch wood). While others are just trying to survive, I have the luxury of dreaming big and doing things to make those dreams happen. If I want them badly enough.

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