Posts Tagged ‘Harassment’

“We do?” I asked. Such a direct statement from someone I barely knew.

“Yes,” he said as he leaned over and squeezed my hand. Sitting across from him, I wanted to pull away.

“Why?” I asked. It seemed like such a logical question to me. I mean, surely there must be a reason this man had suddenly become so concerned about my soul.

He looked at me as if I was a child. I was not.

“So you don’t go to hell for eternity.”

I had heard these words so many times in my life. I had searched for a very long time for myself. I had found what I wanted and what worked for me. I had worked at my church for many years and had continued as a volunteer. I was not in need of salvation.

I was in need of sanity.

I was in need of peace and quiet.

I was in need of solutions and not more problems.

“OK, if we save my soul, what happens to me?”

“You? What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, if I have a soul, than I must be separate from it, right? Sort of like having a car. I own a car but I am not the car. You understand or should I speak slower?”

I saw a brief moment of anger cross his face. This was fun.

He deserved what I was dishing out. I was at a class that I was taking at the local college. It had nothing to do with religion. It was a writing class.

But this man, who was a student, had stood up as class was ending and announced that we all needed to hold hands and pray. A few students complied but when he grabbed my hand and tried to pull me into the circle, I let go and stepped back.

Fortunately the teacher hadn’t left the room yet. He turned around and asked the man to do that off school premises. The man looked hurt and confused. But he stopped.

As I was gathering up my things, the man approached me and said he wanted to talk.

“No, what I mean is, you’ve obviously have some problem with praying…”

“No, I don’t have a problem with praying. I have a problem with someone grabbing me and trying to force me to pray. I don’t need your help and I don’t need you to be concerned about me or my soul. We’re both doing well,” I said and stood-up.

“Come with me to bible class some night,” he said.

I looked at him for a moment. I looked at his eyes and I did not like what I saw. They were cruel and righteous. They weren’t Christian eyes. I had known countless wonderful Christians and other people of different faiths. They either lived their faith or they didn’t.

It was all in the eyes and their actions.

If they were cruel and insane, that was on them.

If they were kind and giving, they were taking their religion to heart.

“I want to make something very clear to you,” I said and turned around and stood directly in front of him. “I know what I think. I know what I believe and I know what works for me. I also know that it’s personal and is between me, myself and I and I would no more go to your bible class than I would jump off a 6-story building. And do you know why?”

He stepped back and began to turn away. I grabbed his hand and pulled him towards me.

“No, you don’t get to run. You have to listen to what I have to say,” I said and held onto his hand a bit tighter.

He nodded.

I can be scary when I want to be.

“Do you know what the problem with religion is?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“None. It’s the people,” I said and let go of his hand. “I try to practice mine and that includes respecting and protecting all religions. I take what I want from each one and make my own decisions. You should try it sometime.”

“I’ll pray for you,” he said.

I liked that. I appreciated it. “That would be nice. Tell Jesus that Susan says hello. He’ll know who you’re talking about,” I said. “He and I are cool.”

I watched him wrestle with my words.

“But if you and he…”

“You do not need to concern yourself with me. You need to save yourself before you save others,” I said and walked out.

He never talked to me again.

There are always a few, in any group, that make it difficult for the rest. Pay them no attention. Decide what you think or believe. Decide what is true for you and explain or defend it to no one.

People know you by your actions. Make them above reproach.

This morning I stopped by the neighborhood convenience store to get some coffee. Over the years of doing this, I’ve gotten to know the owner and the people who work there. As soon as I walk in, they start ringing up my purchase. We usually spend a minute or two, chatting and laughing.

The last few days have been unbearably hot. Temperatures in the high 90’s to low 100’s. It is very unusual for the area. I don’t have air conditioning and was feeling tired from the lack of sleep. It was already warm at 8:00 this morning. I put on a summer dress, pulled my hair back and slipped on a pair of sandals for work.

Not that what I was wearing was important to me, but apparently it was to the men in the parking lot.

I have had a few people approach me when walking into the store. Panhandlers for the most part. Usually a quick “Sorry, I can’t help you” is sufficient. One time, someone called me a bitch when I said no. I ignored him and walked into the store. I mentioned it to the owner and before I knew what had happened, he rushed outside and yelled at the man. “Don’t you EVER talk to her like that! Go away! Get off my property!”

The man cursed under his breath, but he left. The owner didn’t come back inside until the man had gone around the corner.

I was surprised and pleased by what he had done and told him so. He blushed and apologized. He liked to run a clean and hassle-free store.

I fell a little in love with him that day.

So this morning when I pulled up and saw all the city workers in the parking lot, I gave them almost no attention. The city was digging up water lines and the workers were everywhere.

I parked and got out of my car. As I was walking into the store, I heard a bunch of cat calls.

“Whoa! Hey there! What’s your name?”

“Where you going, sugar?” someone said. All 5 of them laughed.

I had the door open.

I turned around to see who they were talking to.

They were all staring at me, laughing and slapping each other on the back.

I let go of the door.

I turned around and walked towards them.

They quickly stopped laughing as I got closer.

When I was a few feet away from them, I stopped.

Suddenly, they weren’t so brave. Suddenly things weren’t so funny anymore.

“What did you say to me?” I asked. I was calm but my heart was racing.

“Oh, nothing…” one of them said. The pavement had all of their attention.

“No, really…what did you say to me?” I asked. “I didn’t quite hear it.”

No one would answer me. I looked at their trucks. They worked for the city.

“Those your trucks?” I asked.

“Oh, hey now, we didn’t mean anything by it. It’s just that you look…”

“How do I look? Huh? You think it’s OK to talk to women like that? You think it’s OK to scare us or make us feel unsafe TO WALK INTO A STORE? Is that it? Can I get my brothers to talk to your Mom’s or daughters or wives that way? Would that be alright with you?” I asked and waited.

“Don’t be so sensitive,” one said. The other 4 looked at him and cringed.

“What’s your name? All of your names?” I asked. I reached into my purse and took out my notebook and pen and waited. It didn’t matter if they told me or not. I wrote down the license plate numbers.

They protested and rambled about how sorry they were.

“So, you guys work for the city. I pay taxes so that means you work for me. Now, since you work for me, you have to put up with me being ‘sensitive’ because you know what? I can now get all of you fired. You might want to think about that the next time a woman, ANY woman, walks by. We have every right to live our lives without being harassed,” I said and walked away.

I didn’t hear one word as I walked away, nor did I when I came out of the store and got into my car. They had driven off in their trucks that I paid for.

I called the city as soon as I got into work and gave them all the information I had. The woman who took my call apologized several times. She was upset and shocked and thanked me for reporting it.

For what it’s worth, I’m 58 years old and haven’t cared what a man thought about me or my looks since I was 16 and tried to get a boyfriend. And even then, he had to reach my mind before he got anywhere near me.

Now, anyone else wanna mess with me?

Didn’t think so….