Friday, March 21, 2014

The Voice is not just a TV show

Don't! Mess! With! Me!

My friends and I were trading stories of our (mostly) awful encounters aboard San Francisco Muni buses. You name it, we've witnessed it: personal grooming, loud cell phone talking, fare dodging, and near brawls.

"Tell the story!" my friend says. 
"Okay. But keep in mind this happened right after I took a self-defense class," I say.

My friend Emilie and I joined about 30 women to take a self-defense class in The Mission one weekend. We learned what you would expect - maneuvers to get out of some basic grabs, defensive jabs, and how to project your voice.

Our instructor led us in a voice exercise designed to draw attention to attackers or would-be attackers. You don't just yell but you lower your voice and project from your gut. 

Our group of 30 boomed out in unison...

How many times have you taken a class to never again use those skills? Pretty often, right? I've taken self defense classes before but little did I know I'd use what I learned while riding the 1 California bus.

The bus was crowded so I stood in the aisle, sandwiched between other patrons. All of a sudden the man seated closest to me got out of his seat and moved up a row. I slid into his vacated seat and opened my book. I read about 5 sentences before I realized why the man moved. The girl seated next to me started kicking me. It wasn't hard at all, it was just really annoying. Like someone tapping the side of your leg. Repeatedly.

I didn't react after the first kick so she did it again. Once may have been an accident but twice? I looked at her. She couldn't have been more than 18 years old. Her face was obscured by her hoodie, her sleeves pulled over her hands, arms folded, and head turned toward away from me, looking out the window.

"Was that an accident?"

No response. 5 seconds go by. Another kick.

"Please stop kicking me."

No response. Another 5 seconds go by. Another kick.

Normally I'm a quiet person and I try to keep to myself but I wasn't about to let her get away with messing with me. I had had enough.

"STOP KICKING ME. STOP KICKING ME!" my voice boomed. Wow. I can really project!

The bus fell silent and I could feel all eyes on us. The man who moved seats suddenly turned around.

"She was kicking me before!" he exclaimed.

"And now she's kicking me!"

The girl finally spoke up.

"It was an accident!" she huffed.

Oh hell no.

"Once might've been an accident but 4 or 5 times? That's no accident. STOP KICKING ME."

"Bitch, you shoulda said something the first time I kicked you."

"Oh, so it wasn't an accident?"


"Bitch you crazy. You should go to the nut house." Blah blah blah

I didn't want to move so I just stayed put. Giving up my seat would show her I was scared! My heart was racing and my muscles were tense - I was ready to throw an elbow or kick her if she did anything. I must've read the same paragraph in my book for 15 minutes. The rest of the ride was uneventful and I soon went on my way, relishing in my small triumph. I got an 18-year-old punk to stop kicking me on my way to work!

My takeaways:
1) Always speak up for yourself.
2) Put what you've learned into action - you only get better with practice. :)
3) Happily embrace the nickname you may get as a result of your actions. That's how I came to be known as... The Voice.

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