How To Be Assertive With A Neanderthal

I was on my way to music class this morning and the peak hour train was a little more crowded than usual. As I headed downstairs to find a seat, I came across a couple of men occupying two opposite-facing three-person bench seats. I wasn't keen on standing for a half hour while two guys occupied six seats between them, so I politely said "Excuse me" to the guy on the aisle end of backward-facing seat, and he kindly moved over to the window to accommodate me. [caption id="attachment_2084" align="alignright" width="200"] Closely Related Primate, Also in Genital Display Pose[/caption] As I sat in the newly vacant aisle seat, I felt constrained by the man sitting in the middle of the bench seat opposite me. He was sitting forward with his legs spread wide in the classic genital display pose that male primates evolved to demonstrate dominance to other lesser primates. So wide in fact that his left leg and knee were taking up almost half the legroom in my own individual seat. His behaviour may have been unintentional and unconscious; but it didn't feel good to have my newly acquired space dominated by another man's knee. I'm working on getting over my fear of conflict with strangers, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to be assertive with one who was overstepping my boundaries; albeit boundaries that I had just stepped into by requesting the seat. I made eye contact with the spread-eagled man and politely asked: "Would you mind moving your leg over a little please?" (more…)

By Graham, ago

What To Do When Social And Traditional Media Mocks You

I was on the way home from college last week feeling very tired and irritable as I lugged my acoustic guitar, case & backpack from train to bus after an intense day of musical collaboration. As my mind drifted through the things that have irritated me recently, I remembered a recent experience on the morning bus. In a misguided attempt to get it off my chest I posted the following message about it on the Bondi Local Loop Facebook group, which at the time had over 42,000 local members:

To the lady who abused me on the packed 389 from North Bondi the other morning as she alighted at Bondi Junction by shouting: "I hope your bag enjoyed the seat, you fucking prick": I would have preferred you to ask me politely to please move over during the trip if you wanted the seat. That would have given me the opportunity to point out the full sized acoustic guitar case that you didn't see was taking all the leg room on the seat beside me. That way you wouldn't have had to spend the journey fuming at me for no good reason, and I wouldn't have had to cop your misguided abuse. Please be more assertive in future, not passive and then aggressive. Thank you.

I failed to mention in my original rant that I have a chronic health condition that makes standing for long periods rather challenging. The bus in question didn't have a luggage space suitable for a guitar, and I didn't mention that either. Nor was the woman in question standing anywhere near me during the journey; she was behind me on the bus, and for all I know she may have already had a seat herself. Only at the very end did she express her disapproval, and she chose to do so in a manner that left me powerless to do anything about her complaint. I figured that even without this secret inside knowledge, it's self-evident that abusing people on public transport isn't an effective way to influence someone who is doing something you don't like. (more…)

By Graham, ago