My daily commute to work in Boston consists of taking the “T,” the commuter rail, and then a shuttle bus. The first week there were no bubbles, no troubles.
During the second week, however, the bus driver on my way home took a persistent liking to me. For a few weeks, I handled this with polite smiles while pretending to be on the phone or overly interested in the music on my headphones.
Unfortunately, there was only one other person who occasionally rode the shuttle bus at my time. So, I usually rode solo. When the driver realized this, he became more aggressive, even banging on the bus walls when I would pretend I couldn’t hear him calling to me from the front. Under his scrutiny and constant badgering, I became very uncomfortable and started lying in an attempt to get him off my back.
I told him I had a boyfriend, did not live in Boston and was unavailable in the evening because I went home to Connecticut every day. He was relentless, constantly asking for my phone number, my address or a date.
I finally decided that I shouldn’t have to put up with this but, instead of confronting him as any normal female would do, my non-confrontational self decided to stay at work an extra 45 minutes to take the late shuttle bus and avoid him.
My boss noticed this right away and brought it up. As I attempted to explain, he became increasingly distressed. I worried I wasn’t presenting an accurate version of events. After all, the driver wasn’t stalking me, touching me or even yelling at me. He was merely expressing his boundless attraction to me and requesting that I allow him to do something about it. According to my boss, this was still harassment.
In the following weeks, my boss kept me updated on the human resources office’s progress in dealing with my situation. I was appalled at the level of interest from my company’s higher-ups. I was perfectly fine with taking the late bus to avoid confrontation. My boss noted, however, that although this was the first complaint about this driver, it didn’t mean he wasn’t bothering other girls.
He also reminded me that I should be able to go to work without feeling even slightly discomforted by anyone.
When I opted to take the late bus instead of confronting the driver, I thought that I was taking the best path for me. The truth is, in life, sometimes the best path for you isn’t the best path for everyone.
Imagine if I had confronted him — told him he was making me uncomfortable — and made sure he knew that his romantic overtures were unwanted … two things could have happened:
He would have A) understood what I was saying, stopped his overly aggressive behavior and allowed me a comfortable, on-time commute; or B) understood what I was saying, ignored my request and instigated the chain of events that occurred.
Either way, he would have been made accountable for his actions and I could go on with my life and, if needed, let human resources handle the situation.
Now, because I was too afraid to speak up right away, I am forced to wonder if this could have been prevented. Perhaps he really had no idea the level of discomfort he was generating for me, and is now faced with discipline because I was too much of a coward to open my mouth and tell him.
Blame is a terrible thing. My lesson learned is, when in doubt, don’t automatically take the easy road out, because you never know how it might affect other people.
Luckily for me, however, after speaking with the MBTA’s human resources department, the driver, and others will merely be retrained on proper relations between drivers and passengers. I am relieved he isn’t going to be fired.