thinair Boulder, Colorado. elevation 5400 feet.

Microagression Waiting for the Bus

I rushed out to catch the bus for fear of missing it. There was only one other person waiting. I needn't have worried. There's a whole story in there about unnecessary fear. But that's not today's story.

I recognized the woman waiting at the bus stop. I've seen her fairly often on the bus. Our schedules are similar.

She's beautiful.

We're waiting together for the bus. Just the two of us. It's dark out. She's looking at her phone.

I take out my phone too. I put my phone away. Feels awkward.

Then I see a couple men walking along the sidewalk in our direction. The one looks her up and down.

And then. As he's passing us.

His. Head.

Follows her.

His. Eyes. Locked. On. Her. Face.

Too agressive. I thought. The moment passed with them as they proceeded along, yet her gaze seemed to follow him.

Or she might have been looking down the street to see if the bus was coming.

That felt creepy.

I should ask her if that was creepy to break the tension.

I thought.

That's what micro-aggression looks like, right? Would it help if I said something?

I thought.

What if he'd actually stopped walking to talk to her? I think the unspoken social contract calls for me to intervene. Nevermind social contract, my gut was already preparing to step in if things escalated.

"Move along," I imagined saying to him.

"What? Is she your girlfriend?" He asked knowing the answer.

I imagined her awkward body language at me picking a fight with a stranger to protect her from the escallating microagression. Was that fear that things would get out of hand? Or was it relief to not be standing alone at the bus stop?

I should ask her if that was creepy to break the tension.

This time she was a skilled martial artist. Her body language was angry at me for assuming she needed my protection.

I should ask her if that was creepy to break the tension.

I thought.

But how is my impulse to talk to her any different than his stare? Would that break the tension or just pile on? Am I just looking for an excuse to talk to a beautiful woman? Am I competing for her favor?

I thought.

This time things escalate. He's armed with a knife. I wake up briefly in the emergency room. Images of my young children playing at home, then interrupted by the sound in my wife's voice as she gets The Call. The joy on their faces melts to puzzled, worried looks as I fade to black.

I thought.

This time I'm waiting at the bus stop with a man. The gut check is completely different. He's got this. It would be insulting to step in. None of my business, anyway.

I thought.

This time I know she's transgender. This is an unexpected variation. She's beautiful. Did he know her before the operation? There's no hello nor even a nod nor raised eyebrow. Still my gut steps in to defend. "Move along."

I thought.

This time she's ugly. How does this one plays out? Does he even pause in his step? Was it about her beauty? Or was it the sense of power? As he gets further away I notice a subtle weave in his path. It's dark, but way too early to already be drunk. Was this stare the best he can do for a power trip? An angry reaction to being out on a Friday night with a friend instead of a date. If he does stare and then stop, does my gut step in? Or am I only interested in competing for the favor of a beautiful woman?

Why am I still thinking about this? I thought.


Should I ask her if that was creepy?


Was she creeped out by standing alone in the dark at the bus stop with me? I was watching him, not her. Could her face have been pleading to him for protection from me?