Today I was using the bus here in the little city where I live…and I had a test of kindness. I’m not sure that I was very successful at dealing with my feelings about the fellow who sat near me. There was a great deal about him that made me very uncomfortable. He was filthy with bio matter on his sleeves, dried bio matter on his face, a body odor, bad breath, dirty finger nails and an unpleasant way of looking at me. He stared and he didn’t bother hiding what he was thinking either…which was generally sexual. Once a woman knows what it feels like and looks like to see arousal in a man’s facial expression, it’s pretty hard to miss. I could ignore him when he was on the other side of the bus from me…despite his staring. It became impossible to ignore him when he was hanging his arm into my seat deliberately and when he lifted one butt cheek to make a watery sounding fart that stunk badly I felt my stomach turn.
It was very hard for me to feel compassion for this man. I felt guilty about it…and guilty about feeling intensely relieved when he got off the bus. And I wonder at his disregard for me feeling comfortable around him. Most people try to accommodate each other in a public setting like a bus out of common courtesy. I wonder at some people having so little courtesy as to stare like that at a woman and not care at all if he makes her uncomfortable. I wonder if he’s so used to being ignored and disregarded such that it doesn’t even occur to him that he could make anyone feel anything at all.
In hindsight, I feel sad for him and deeply grateful for how spiffy my daily ablutions make me feel and how good it is to take care of myself. I am grateful that people feel comfy in my presence.