Last week I went the gym on my lunch break. I do this for several reasons, and none of them have anything to do with me being a super fit person.
1. It helps me not kill people. When I take a break during the day to walk or bike for an hour, and come back to work, and someone comes into my office and says “Hey, you know that thing you copied/scheduled/planned? We’re going to need to go back to square one and start over” it keeps me from throwing my coffee cup across the room and yelling “Hulk smash” and then having security escort me from the building while carrying my belongings in a cardboard box.
2. It’s my alone time. In a 24 hour period it’s the only hour I have to not talk if I don’t want to. Or clean. Or balance numbers. Or hear a three year old gleefully screaming from the bathroom, “MOMMY! I pooped! Come save me!” Saving = Wiping, in case you wondered.
3. It keeps me from blowing up like a Macy’s parade balloon and having to buy tarps and stitch them into stylish Grecian style wraps. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
So, yesterday I was working out on a stationary bike next to another girl. After she was done she sat down on the floor to stretch. And that’s when I saw him.
He was old. Gray. Wrinkled. A good 70 to her 18. And he was watching her. Not like a regular glance or nod. He was blatantly staring as she stretched on the floor. Don’t barf in public, I thought to myself.
I kept biking and listening to Dr. Dog, which usually soothes me, but I couldn’t stop watching him watching her. It was just downright icky, and creepy. I wanted to stop biking, take my shoe off, throw it at his head and yell, “Stop it! You’re old! You’re gross! She could be your granddaughter!”
And then he made his move.
He walked over as she stood up and started talking to her, standing way too close. And bless her heart. She’s still at that age where women think they need to be polite. Instead of saying “hey that’s my bubble you’re crowding” she smiled and nodded at whatever he was saying, and looked completely uncomfortable. He took some paper out of his pocket and showed it to her, moving in even closer.
I glared at him as he turned away from her, and he heads my way. He’s talking, and I just point to my head phones and shake my head like, “I can’t hear you.” I’m not smiling at him, I’m just glaring, not speaking.
And he keeps talking. His facial expression changes from friendly-old-guy to seriously pissed off, and then he leaves.
I keep biking, dreaming about the day science will catch up with my dreams and I can shoot laser beams out of my eyes at old perverts, when who should come back around?
Pervy old guy.
He’s staring right at me with a determined expression. He walks right up to me, close enough my bike pedals could hit his legs, and pulls a piece of paper out of his pocket. I glance at it, it being some sort of coupon for coffee. And then he leans in and touches my shoulder.
“Young lady, would you like a coupon? Someone as pretty as you shouldn’t be wearing a frown,” his voice is garbled and muffled by the music in my ears.
I remove an ear bud and say, “Don’t touch me, and I don’t drink coffee.”
Now he’s mad, and he’s not giving up, “What about Captain D’s? I have a coupon for them.”
“What about Pizza Hut?”
It’s a classic case of “hey look at this candy in my pocket” only he’s tailored it for adults instead of kids with ridiculous restaurant coupons. When my last NO was a little too forceful, and a little too loud, and drew glances, he skulked away, but not before throwing me a look of pure, raw anger.
And I know why. I did not smile and let him make me uncomfortable. I did not respond to him the way he imagined all women should respond to him in his mind. And he was going to MAKE me interact with him. And that anger in his eyes I saw? That would have been a truly worrisome anger if he’d been twenty years younger and not speaking to me in a public place.
And the thing about reporting him?
I got the look.
You know the look.
I got the “oh great, this lady is a femin-nazi and totally overreacting about some harmless old guy” reaction.
I got initially dismissed (until I went higher up the food chain).
It frustrated me to no end. Like, throat punch a bunny frustrated. Because so often when women complain about men, they get the brush off. They’re over-reacting. They’re lying. They’re bitches. They’re confused. Or my personal favorite, and by personal favorite I mean least favorite, they should wear more clothes.
I wore a five year old pair of pants and gigantic Star Wars t-shirts that day. Not exactly the stuff of siren calls. BUT EVEN SO, the man has no right to behave that way. Zero rights. Nada. Zilch.
Today I spoke to someone who was in charge. She listened to what I had to say very seriously. She thanked me. She assured me she knew “exactly what to do about him.”
I’m kind of hoping it involves bamboo shoots.
Or angry feral cats.