Confronting CTA boorish behavior - very carefully

Confronting CTA boorish behavior - very carefully

A friend of mine – and regular CTA Tattler contributor of stories, photos and videos – shared a New York Post column about a reporter who freaked when he saw a guy on the MTA clipping his fingernails.

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Would you confront this woman about her boorish behavior? (Photo by Tovi)

He freaked out so badly that he had to audacity to confront him. Or shall I call it temerity?

Either way, it’s always ballsy and usually a crap shoot on how it’s going to turn out for you.

You know, whether you get your ass kicked, a long, hard stare, or maybe even the offender stops the boorish behavior.

In the Post column, the writer recounts how it didn’t turn out so well for the woman who asked a homeless guy to extinguish his joint on a No. 2 New York subway train.

The guy now faces felony assault charges for stabbing the 45-year-old New Jersey woman in the head with a pen. And the woman is recuperating from the laceration that required four stitches.

Personally, I’ve never had any problem chastising a smoker on the CTA. I figure it’s pretty well known now that smoking is illegal, and that other passengers will have my back if something bad happens. I’ve only had to ask someone to stop smoking about five times, and no one has stabbed me or flicked a burning butt at me (yet).

And to my amazement, the N.Y. Post columnist didn’t get his face rearranged, he gladly reported:

He was a big guy. I was seated next to the door. He crossed the car, paused and looked down at me. “I’m sorry,” he said. “You were right. Sometimes you don’t think.”

How about you folks? Have you ever opened your mouth when you wish you hadn’t? Or maybe you have a success story in badgering the barbarians?


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  • on the Brown Line I saw a 20ish little princess who was sitting in an aisle seat eating a banana. She'd put the peel on the window seat ensuring no one would ask to sit there. I didn't ask. I leaned over her, picked up the peel, dropped it in her lap, told her she wasn't special and that I was going to sit there. She didn't move, so I climbed over her to the seat. She got off at the next stop, which I'm sure she hadn't planned on doing. I had to pick up the banana peel since she dropped it on the floor. I threw it away when I got to my stop.

  • I once confronted a couple of punk teenagers that were carving a gang sign into the window of a door on the brown line. I threatened to take one kid's picture with my camera phone next to his carving, and then he promptly threatened me with "how about I kick your f***ing a$$." The funny thing is, I was totally bluffing, as my phone didn't even have the capability of taking a photo anyway. I figured I could take them both in a fight if I had to, but it really wasn't worth it, so I backed down. Plus I didn't like the idea of getting stabbed or worse. The people in the train car did NOT seem willing to come to my aid either. Nobody else spoke up, and if anything, people seemed like they would have completely ran away if it came down to it. I did not feel that anybody "had my back." For what it's worth, the kids did stop their carving and got off the train at the next stop. Then they proceeded to flip me off and throw gang signs at me while the train pulled out of the station.

    I guess I'm glad I did it, but in retrospect I don't know if it was a good idea. If they truly were gangbangers who knows if next time I'd get stabbed or shot. Unlikely, I know. I hate to have the mindset of letting people get away with things like that, but I'm conflicted as to what I'd do if presented with the situation again.

  • I confront people all the time. I am not a big dude but few things scare me, and I am more scared of letting the barbarians and uncivilized people have all the power. I ask, nicely, people to turn down their blaring music. If the first nice request doesn't work, then I get more rude. I don't care. If people insist on standing in the door at stops, making people walk around them, I tend to step on their toes or push my elbow in their guts (for guys; women just get a verbal push-back). I once saw a blond girl, on a rush-hour train, take the map from its spot above the door; I was saddened that I was the only person on this crowded train to tell her to put it back, which she did. I have confronted gangbangers and jocks, drunks and nuts. I just don't care. This is OUR train, too, and unless we are willing to NOT be cowards and demand civilized behavior, there is 0% chance that anything will change. (For what is it worth, I hold myself to high standards, meaning I give up my seat to seniors and others who need it more than I, and I always refrain from playing my music loudly and from eating even a candy bar on the train or bus, as both are against the rules).

    Simple truth: If you want change, work for it, even in tiny ways.

  • In reply to vise77:

    "This is OUR train, too, and unless we are willing to NOT be cowards and demand civilized behavior, there is 0% chance that anything will change."

    I couldn't agree with you more! I've had a few incidents on the L over the years where I have spoke up against bad behavior, and not once have I had anyone else stand up and back me up. If more people would stand up and back people up, then fewer people would act like complete jagoffs in public.

  • Some teens were dancing on the seats as our Red Line train approached Howard. I asked them, "Would you please keep your feet off the seats?" What followed was a tirade of profanity directed at me. I admit that opening and closing my hand in a "blah, blah, blah" gesture probably just stoked the flames. I was never in danger, but my traveling companion kept elbowing me and telling me to shut up about it. I've asked a couple of guys in a subway station not to smoke (they were doing the old "nobody will notice if I smoke at the far end of the platform" trick), and they flicked their cigarettes into the track bed and didn't say anything.

    Mostly, though, I try to remind myself "You can't say anything about anything," unless I'm in a mood where I won't care if I get berated in return. Usually I don't want to sink into my "People are pigs" mood.

  • A youngish man sat down next to me (I was in the window seat) on the Purple line one morning, and proceeded to spread his legs wide, and kept bodily pushing me over, up against the wall/window like he needed both seats. I actually was being kind of crushed,and he kept it up like he wanted me to get up, so I finally said "do you mind not pushing on me, I can only move so far" he said to me (not loud enough for anyone else to hear) "how bout if I slice you bitch" in a very menacing voice. I did not say another word, and was frightened he was going to stick me or carve up my face, all the way to my stop (he got off at same, and I stayed behind him until he walked another way) I've never felt threatened like that before, and I worked as a late night bartender for many years, and never had a problem calming down/tossing out the most belligerent of drunks, but this was enough to scare the crap out of me. I had never said anything to anyone before on the CTA, and I will not say anything about what I see anymore because of this, and it has really embittered me. I think happenings like this are why people don't say anything, you just don't know what you're coming up against.Its really a shame that we have to tolerate this shit every day.

  • In reply to sophie:

    Holy cow, what an awful situation to be in! That's actually part of the reason I try to stick to the sideways facing seats, or at least the aisle seat for ones that face forward or backward. I just don't like the feeling of something being able to "trap" me next to that window seat. I want to be able to get up and out as fast as I can if the situation arises. Usually I'm just worried about a very smelly person sitting down next to me, but this situation is a million times worse. I'm sorry you had to go through that.

  • In reply to Nirvana911:

    Ever since then I try for the same seats as you pointed out, so as not to feel trapped again. Thanks Nirvana.

  • In reply to Nirvana911:

    Eventually Concealed Carry will pass, and I for one will just LOVE blowing Mofo's heads off.

  • In reply to mikep621:

    That's exactly the sort of comment that makes not want conceal carry. Or that people who make comments like that won't be allowed to own a gun.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    I completely admit to overreacting, but this has happened to me many times on the 'L' (and bus).

    I would NEVER own a gun anyway.

  • In reply to sophie:

    One morning about a year ago a man entered my train car and he was just...all kinds of insonsiderate mess. He had a Tribune which he proceeded to open up all the way wide whilst standing in the aisle - surfing, of course, because he was holding the paper - wearing those crappy iPod earbuds, music blaring, and sporting a backpack the size of a mini-fridge on his back. So it's rush hour and people are standing wherever there's room and this jerk is standing with his legs spread for balance and tipping over fairly regularly. He bumps into a guy next to him a few times who asks him, annoyed, "Do you mind?" but the jerk can't hear him because of the music, so the guy ends up just shooting him dirty looks. He keeps crashing into the other guy - and me, on occasion - and then he decides to mix it up a little and pivots so that he isn't facing the windows, but the length of the car. In doing so, his backpack whacks the glasses clean off the face of the old lady who was sitting next to him in the aisle. He pretends not to notice. I grab his elbow and say hey to him. He just blinks at me and starts to turn away. I tugged on his earbud and he asks me, "What the hell, bitch?" I parroted back to him, "What the hell, bitch, you just knocked this lady's glasses off and you've been bumping into people and taking up too much space." He kind of shrugs and does the whole, 'whatever' thing and starts to put his earbuds back in when the guy on the other side of him tells him, "You put those head phones back on and you won't hear me comin' for you, boy."

    That did the trick. The guy and I nodded at each other as I got off at my stop.

  • In reply to erincinco:

    Kudos to the both of you! I'm glad you had someone there to back you up.

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