On January 21, 2017, I had a lazy morning. The time was 10:17AM. I groaned as my partner tried to wake me up. My partner flipped on the TV to CNN. My ears perked right up. “Woman’s march”, “thousands of people” I heard them say. I instantly got up. “Is the march happening in Phoenix?” I searched the internet. If it was in Phoenix, I was 17 minutes late! Yes! I found it. The march is happening in Phoenix. I found their event and made a reservation – for me and my partner. I threw on clothes. I thought about making a sign, but ended up just bringing a banana and water instead. Food. Water. Important stuff.
My partner apprehensively agreed to join me. We drove over to the nearest tram station – parked – and walked over. Paid for tickets (while paying, the tram was at the station, and we watched sadly, as it rolled away before we got the tickets). Then, we waited. The time was 11:10AM. Around 11:30AM we were sitting in the tram, as it glided over the Tempe streets towards Downtown Phoenix.
I didn’t realize it, but seat placement and reading your fellow passengers is important business. Good thing my partner is a good read of these things. It is too bad, that I am, sometimes, blaringly oblivious. The problem is that the seats across and 2 back – there sat 2 people. The problem didn’t start till several minutes passed. It started with, “Shut the fuck up.”
Let me explain the landscape for a second.
^ train direction
[[ __ A m ]]
[[ S L __ ]]
[[ o c __ ]]
[[ __ __ ]]
My partner and myself are shown with our seats by the letters S and L. One seat over and back is A – the problem. This person, A, is larger than me. And m is the softs spoken, mumbling, victim that knows A.
In front of me are an older couple. Then, 3 seats up and to the left are 3 college students ( they talked about classes ). 2 seats behind me is the conductor area. A conductor, behind glass and a glass window, drives the tram forward.
What became relevant was that A continued to tell m, to “Shut the fuck up.” M mumbled, and any mumbling was met with a “SHUT the fuck up” that grew louder and louder. After a “SHUT THE FUCK UP!”, person A, moved into the seat across and behind me and my partner, and threw his bag on the ground. He continued to berate m. Then said, “I see you girl,” and then again picked up his back and threw it on the ground as he moved, again, next to m.
What was m saying? I could barely hear. I heard something about “Going to Denny’s” (which of course was met with a “Shut the fuck up! You are so dumb, aren’t you? So stupid!”.)
At a stop, the conductor stopped the train. And proceeded to get out the tram. (Will the conductor remove the abuser from the situation? Will the conductor de-escalate the situation?) No, instead another conductor walked in the tram. The new conductor, directed to person A, said “Excuse me, sir” (I guess person A was in the way of the conductor from opening the door?) and proceeded to do the job of driving the tram. So the tram continued on its way.
The “Shut the fuck ups” continued. The demeaning name calling continued.
My partner wrote in my journal that I had in my lap, “I am happy to be here with you.”
Let’s be clear – A is verballing abusing person m.
Yet, everyone present in that section of the tram, could hear this abuse. Yet, people were frozen in their seats. No one looked back. Everyone was quiet. Still. Silent.
No one felt safe to address the problem – A. I didn’t feel safe addressing A directly – even indirectly. A was larger than me and volatile – seemed not afraid of making a scene nor afraid of becoming someone else’s problem. M seemed completely dehumanized and under A’s control. Addressing m would be the same as address A directly. I toyed with the idea of calling the police. But I was afraid of their inability to de-escalate this situation and innocent people ending up hurt, or worse, dead.
The (sad) ironic part is that my partner and I were going to the Woman’s March. And so were the college students. They had signs in their hands had messages of women empowerment.
Eventually – my partner and I got off the tram. I was crushed by the experience, by my inability to be a non-silent by-stander. My partner shared that they knew, immediately walking in the train section, that person A was swelling with red hot anger. I had missed that social cue in a huge, unfortunate way. I also learned that my partner was waiting, and prepping, for me to say something to person A and then not knowing what could have happened since person A’s behavior was so erratic. My partner was glad to have joined me on this journey, therefore. My partner and I were solemn and quiet. The situation on the train is exactly why the Woman’s March is so important.
15 minutes of walking – around noon, my partner and I found the Woman’s March around 16th street and we joined in the crowd.
Eventually, we marched to the capitol building. I found a rock by the statue that is holding a helmet. I stood on that rock and ate my banana and listened to the marches’ organizers, guest speakers, and guest government representatives rile up protestors. I could look out and see the swelling and loud ocean of people with great signs. Some read “Who run the world?” with arrows pointing to the protestors. Others read “History has its eyes on you”. I listened to the Recorder raise his fists and demand public engagement! The crowd replied with a Woops of agreement. There were ASL interpreters that stood on the stage to translate the spoken words of the speakers.
This is my America. The different people, of different cultures, of different abilities and capabilities – joining together.
The Woman’s Marched changed my life, and yet, so did the journey getting there.