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I’ve lived in New York for several years, and am no foreigner to cat calls and general verbal harassment that follows me down the street often. One time, however, really sticks out in my mind. I was on the 1 train heading down towards Lincoln Center in the spring. I was going to try and rush tickets for the opera. I sat down on the subway in one of the seats that is only next to one other seat. As we passed each stop the seats were filling more and more, and eventually a man slumped into the seat next to me. He wasn’t a huge man or anything, but it was clear that he was taking up a lot of room- more room than necessary. What’s more, he was holding a pile of coats and jackets in his arms, which made him take up even more room. A few of the sleeves and edges of the jackets were spilling off of his lap and onto the edge of mine. I’m generally not a very controversial person- I usually would rather have myself experience a little discomfort than cause a confrontation, so I didn’t say anything to this man about his coats or the fact that he was taking up a little extra room on the seat. As I sat there, counting down the stops until I got to Lincoln Center, I thought for a moment that I felt something touch my leg- under my leg, under my thigh. I shifted uncomfortably, and wondered if I had imagined it. A minute or so passed, and again I felt something touching under my thigh, near my butt. This time I was sure there was something there. I turned to the man and simply yelled “HEY!” and he feigned confusion, but retracted his fingers and the coat edges that were on my lap, which I now realize were there to provide a cover for his hand moving underneath them. I remember sitting there next to that man seething with fury. I felt more angry in that moment than I ever have. Eventually I turned to him and said: What you are doing is ILLEGAL. He said: I don’t understand! I replied: AGAINST THE LAW. People were staring at us. I continued to sit in fury, and when the train came to a stop I stood up and got off even though it wasn’t Lincoln Center. I was close enough that I ended up walking the rest of the way, in a blind rage. By the time I got to Lincoln Center I was about 10 minutes too late in line, and I had no chance of getting tickets- this was really the salt in the wound. I’ve thought about that incident many times since and wondered what I should have done. I know am ready- if anyone ever is encroaching on my space I will not hesitate to say something. If someone ever gropes me on the subway again I will alert the conductor and ask that they call ahead for the police.
One of the worst parts about the incident was realizing that this man was planning it- He set out that day with an unnecessary number of coats, came onto the car, found a girl sitting by herself, and attacked. He has probably done this any number of times, and probably continues to do it to this day. Next time I’m fighting back by calling the police.
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