Go Away
January 14, 2010 1:51 PM   Subscribe

How do I *prevent* Book-Interrupters and Interested Unsavory/Desperate Dudes from wanting to talk to me when I travel?

I'm about to start the last leg of a very long trip home, and this problem has been unpleasant and happening more than usual. I'd like to head it off for the last leg, if I can.

I'm interested in wearing/bringing/doing something that will make Book-Interrupters and Interested Unsavory/Desperate Dudes not even interested in talking to me in the first place. I ask about those two groups specifically because everyone else will pretty much follow normal social cues of someone wanting to be left alone.

Book-Interrupters: this is pretty self explanatory. They are men and women who will keep interrupting you to spark up a (usually long and very boring) conversation even when you are obviously reading, on a laptop, or similarly busy. They will keep re-sparking up the conversation every time you turn your attention or eyes back to the book, sometimes even when you flatly state you want to keep reading the book ("So what about it is so good?"). I have heard that I should invest in huge headphones (I don't own any headphones at all), but I've also been told that these people will interrupt music listeners too, however they can. True?

Interested Unsavory/Desperate Dudes: I ask about *unsavory/desperate* dudes specifically because, again, they aren't put off by the normal things that normal people are. Like the fact that I haven't had the chance to shower or change my clothes in 2.5 days. Examples of this group would be the blindingly drunk guy who kept offering me a drink after I said no like 4 times, and then tried to secretly take my picture; the guy who told me about his membership in a white supremacist organization and stays in mental hospitals before asking me my age and whether I was married; the guy who kept trying to talk to me while I was on a cell phone, and, after I told him pissily that I was talking to my mother, said "Talk to me instead."

I would like tips, if you have them, on how to *forestall* the interest of these groups, how to make myself someone they don't even want to talk to in the first place. Are you someone w/ whom people never strike up conversations when traveling? What about you do you think causes that?

The reason that I'm more interested in preventing this interest than just dealing with it when conversations happen is because no matter how diplomatic I am, sometimes people get really offended, and I really don't want to be stuck for 6 hours sitting next to (and maybe have to sleep next to) a weird person who is pissed off at me.
posted by Ashley801 to Human Relations (79 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
How I used to handle this when riding the subway, travelling abroad, etc.: Wear really big headphones, even if they aren't plugged into anything. Ignore anyone who tries to talk to you. If they touch you, lift one headphone off and say "Please do not touch me again" and then put the headphones back on. But for me, 9 times out of 10, the headphones stopped anyone from even trying to talk to me, get my attention, etc.
posted by bunnycup at 1:55 PM on January 14, 2010 [8 favorites]


I think big headphones would do it for 99% of people out there. Even if they talk to you, you can pretend you don't hear them.
posted by jckll at 1:55 PM on January 14, 2010


Wear a neutral-to-frowny face.

Never, EVER look at your seatmate or acknowledge them in any way. No matter how many interesting movements, noises, or other distractions they try to make. This really is the only effective tool for book-interrupters. From the minute your seatmate sits down, ignore them as thoroughly as possible. I don't know if it works on skeezy guys because they tend to ignore my existence.
posted by muddgirl at 1:57 PM on January 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


I would definitely wear earphones (whether or not actually being used). If anyone interrupts to ask you a question, ceremoniously take off your earphones, reply, and put the earphones back on. Very handy.

For the dudes, I'd buy a cheap little ring and wear it as a wedding band. This won't keep everyone away, but it will forestall some.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:58 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've also been told that these people will interrupt music listeners too

I wear headphones and (provided I'm not, for instance, blocking someone from getting up to go to the bathroom or something) just pretend I don't hear the person as long as they're on. This usually gets people to leave me alone without the risk of them delivering a hypocritical comment about being rude. On the rare occasion that someone persists to the point of poking me, I usually look at them for a second with as much disdain as I can muster and then remove one earbud and revert to a slightly less hostile expression to listen to what they have to say. If it bores me or they're going to be a big talker, I say something noncommital and the earbud goes back in.

Total dick behavior, I admit, but I loathe the interrupter types as much as you do. (I tend to get less attention from creepy dudes because I am a dude). If someone really crosses the line (e.g., "Talk to me instead") you can begin with a flat "No" and escalate as appropriate.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:58 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Try ring on the wedding finger, also, if someone is bugging you get up and move to a different seat.
posted by cestmoi15 at 2:00 PM on January 14, 2010


Nthing headphones. Also, pretend to be asleep while you're listening ;)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:01 PM on January 14, 2010


One strategy that has cut the frequency of this problem for me dramatically: whenever you have a choice about where you sit or stand, sit or stand near other women. If you can get yourself right next to an older woman, especially a matronly one, you're golden. No one will even approach you.

If that's not possible, I suggest working on your nastiest bitch face, and avoiding eye contact unless you're prepared to pull out the bitch face.
posted by oinopaponton at 2:02 PM on January 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


(obviously my strategy doesn't work if the woman turns out to be a Book Interrupter)
posted by oinopaponton at 2:04 PM on January 14, 2010


Headphones (even giant ones) definitely don't stop people from interrupting you. This is actually more annoying most of the time than just reading, because the headphones tend to make them extra persistent.

Have you tried practicing your glower power? And a simple "leave me alone. now." never hurt anyone.
posted by shownomercy at 2:04 PM on January 14, 2010


1. I meant try wearing a ring on the wedding finger.

2. If anyone asks about said ring the answer is "YES [i am married]" no further explaination needed.
posted by cestmoi15 at 2:05 PM on January 14, 2010


Headphones, baggy yellow sweats (top and bottom), and troll earrings.

And don't comb your hair or wear makeup the day of your trip.

Or wear a conspicuous article of clothing (a hat, perhaps) advertising your allegiance with some particularly aggressive or odious religious organization. Then, if someone tries to strike up a conversation about the religious organization, you can respond: "Oh, I just wear this so that people won't want to talk to me. You see, I don't like talking to people when I travel."
posted by The World Famous at 2:06 PM on January 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


no matter how diplomatic I am, sometimes people get really offended

Sometimes you have to choose whether you're going to be offended by an interrupter's interruptions or whether you're going to offend the interrupter by explicitly saying you don't want to talk. You don't have to be hostile, just firm and unapologetic ("I'm going to be focused on my book the whole flight"/"I have work to do"/"I can't talk now").
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:10 PM on January 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


Headphones. They don't need to be giant. No eye contact. Pretend not to hear. This works for 99 percent of 'em.

If any response at all is needed because otherwise the person is going to start poking you or screaming, keep it to "hmm-mumble-sorry-busy-hmm" combined with very briefly looking up (still no direct eye contact!) briefly shaking your head no, and going back to INTENSE CONCENTRATION in your book or laptop.

Skeezy guys: Similar to above. Game face. No eye contact.
posted by desuetude at 2:10 PM on January 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Or wear a conspicuous article of clothing (a hat, perhaps) advertising your allegiance with some particularly aggressive or odious religious organization. Then, if someone tries to strike up a conversation about the religious organization, you can respond: "Oh, I just wear this so that people won't want to talk to me. You see, I don't like talking to people when I travel."

I don't recommend this. It's both being a troll and hanging out a "welcome troll" sign.
posted by desuetude at 2:12 PM on January 14, 2010


Oooh, I just thought of a good one: wear a surgical mask/face mask and if people try to talk to you, just point to it apologetically. Then feel free to ignore any further attempts.
posted by muddgirl at 2:12 PM on January 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


Walk like you know where you are going and are in a hurry, no matter what. Never make eye contact. Wear a slight frown, and never smile at anyone. People thinking you are grumpy/angry makes them less interested in talking to you.

Wear unattractive and bulky clothing, or keep a blanket handy to cover yourself when sitting down (makes it look like you are sleeping). Have headphones on, even when they are not being used, even when reading or on your laptop. Whenever someone (who is not a flight attendant or other person you have to actually interact with) speaks to you, just pretend that you didn't hear them. If they insist on talking, keep your face absolutely blank, glance at them with a frown, and then quickly look away. If they touch you, react with disproportionate anger and bring it to the attention of everyone around you - that's definitely not OK.

I used to be exhausted by flying and having to deal with people talking to me when all I wanted to do was sleep/read. This type of approach has served me well for the last few years. Good luck!
posted by gemmy at 2:15 PM on January 14, 2010


I must be doing something right because people leave me alone I'm reading on public transportation. I think it's the slightly angry look I get on my face when I'm reading (my look of concentration makes me look angry). When I'm not reading, people talk to me with no qualms at all. Try adopting an impatient/angry look while reading.
posted by patheral at 2:22 PM on January 14, 2010


(FWIW, I recommended specifically big headphones because earbuds didn't accomplish the task for me. People didn't notice them, so talked to me. Wearing the big headphones cut down the talking-to-me-rate to almost nil. YMMV and to each their own, of course.)
posted by bunnycup at 2:24 PM on January 14, 2010


For the blindly drunk guy, after you ask him to stop doing whatever and he doesn't you should ask the bartender to intervene. A good bartender will do this without being asked.
posted by nestor_makhno at 2:24 PM on January 14, 2010


Ask then if they've accepted Jesus as their personal savior, and offer to share the story of your journey into Christ's welcoming arms. Then make up some crazy shit about childhood Satanic ritual abuse and the Trilateral Commission. Twitch a lot.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:31 PM on January 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


ah gemmy beat me to it. I've never had anyone attempt to bother me while i am sleeping (or pretending to sleep). Although you probably can't do that for the whole time, you can certainly do it for some of the time.

You could also pretend to be really sick, or have a sore throat. Try to whisper; a croak comes out. Point at your throat, shake your head "no".

by the way, er, I don't think you should hold it against the SAvory dudes who also may not be put off by your inability to have showered or changed clothes due to travel. Even if you don't want to talk to them. Some of them are nice, but possibly misreading your GO AWAY signs.
posted by bitterkitten at 2:33 PM on January 14, 2010


Hand them a small pre-typed card that says, "Sorry, I am mute."

This also provides extra comedic potential of saying "See you later!" at the end of the ride.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:34 PM on January 14, 2010 [23 favorites]


The problem with wearing a grumpy/angry expression is that then you get the creep guys telling you, "Smile, beautiful!"

Aim for a neutral expression, rather than an angry one. When you glance around, be careful to keep your gaze sliding right off of people, rather than making specific eye contact. With practice, you can be totally aware of everything going on without letting anyone feel like they've got an "in" because you made eye contact with you. It's sort of looking through someone rather than at them.

For the book interrupters, I find that it works best to allow them to interrupt once, smile, and politely but distinctly indicate that I don't wish to be interrupted again. Simply nodding, or murmuring mmm-hmm, or kind of ignoring them doesn't work--they want to TALK to someone, and they're going to keep trying until you make it clear you won't be engaged. I usually say something like, "Oh, this is about a woman who has to face a very difficult decision in life. It's really good, and I plan to finish it by the end of the flight."

I read early books, which are bound without art, and sometimes I'm making notes in them, so people comment on my books a lot. I also have an ereader, and every time I travel someone asks me something about it. It takes only a minute or so to have a conversation where I've shared something about the content or how the reader works, AND manage to get across the point that I don't wish to be disturbed. Since I've adopted this method, people respond much better.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 2:35 PM on January 14, 2010


headphones and a "wedding ring" have worked for me. lack of eye contact, pretending to sleep, facing away, moving to another seat...

i've also sometimes had to resort to pretending i don't speak english but i'm asian and speak chinese and japanese... however if you're also an asian girl, don't use this on any guys who look like they have yellow fever, it causes more trouble than it's worth.
posted by raw sugar at 2:39 PM on January 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


There are just some people who will think there is something wrong with you if you'd rather being doing anything but talking to someone who wants to talk to you. You won't be able to avoid offending these people.
posted by rhizome at 2:48 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know a couple random phrases in Irish Gaelic, and the odds of anyone outside Ireland knowing Gaelic, or even just recognizing that that's what it is, are vanishingly small. So a couple times, I've managed to fend off unwanted attention by giving a mildly confused, slightly apologetic look, and saying something in Gaelic -- this is generally interpreted by the listener to mean "I don't speak English", and they usually give right up. If they persist, I take on a hesitant look, as if I'm trying to remember something, and then give them an apologetic smile and a head shake, and they took that to mean that I tried to understand them but darn it, I just couldn't, and they gave up too.

And then they left me alone, and I returned to what I was doing, leaving them happily unaware that I'd only said something like "I will be there next Tuesday" or something.

Maybe learning a phrase in a rather obscure language, one that is clearly foreign enough to sound different from something they may have taken in high school, will help.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:49 PM on January 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Positioning yourself is important. Whenever possible, sit close to a large group and attempt to blend. Big, diverse families are best, but acting vaguely like the disinterested chaperon of a traveling team works well too. Second best from groups is sitting near someone large, intimidating, and looking very much like they don't want to be bothered. I'm almost never spoken to by strangers when traveling because I almost always travel with my large, beardy, book-reading, size 13 shoe wearing, best friend. Even though we don't sit right next to each other most of the time or talk more than the bare minimum of communication, he manages to project an impenetrable shield around me of "don't fuck with either of us, got it?" I actually enjoy talking to strangers, so sometimes I deliberately move far away from him and escape the Introvert Traveling Zone. According to him, he's happy to let others utilize his intimidating presence as long as they don't speak to him or take his armrest. If you can use your social skills to read the body language of others and find a cluster of like-minded people, sit next to, or among them.

Appearance is important, as well. Something about you might be sexually attractive and it's there even if you haven't showered in day or changed your clothes. If you have gorgeous hair that strangers like to compliment as an ice-breaker, wear it in a bun or under a hat. If, like me, you have a ridiculously endowed chest, you can wear bulky hoodies and lots of layers to cover them up and encourage the idea that you're just kind of dumpy. Cleavage with me is never purposeful, it's just kind of unavoidable when I'm wearing anything less than a buttoned and zipped jacket up to the neck. Skeezy guys think otherwise. These layers have the bonus of keeping you comfortable in a variety of crappy air temperatures and conditions, and can double as pillows. Generally go for androgyny and neutral tones over bright colors and feminine styles. It makes me angry just thinking about it, but if you're looking to avoid the creepers, you need to remove whatever signals might attract them, and that's anything that makes you stand out as a woman traveling alone, as in interesting individual, and, as a target.

If you do get hassled by someone very persistent, realize that in almost all train stations, airports, and so-on that you are literally surrounded by trained professionals who are there to help travelers, and you would be in no way remiss if you asked for assistance.
posted by Mizu at 2:50 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I look men directly in the eye, smile slightly, and say, "I don't want to talk right now." or maybe, if they haven't quite annoyed me yet, "Listen, I don't want to be rude, but I've had a hell of a day, and really, I do not want to chat right now."

THEM: "Hey why not, what's wrong, you should smile more, etc."

ME: "I said. I don't want to talk right now." I might add "I would really appreciate it if you would respect my very simple request and not talk to me." Hold eye contact without smiling til they drop their eyes. Then: "Thank you." Then go back to your book and if you get a weird vibe, try to move seats when you can. I would not sleep beside a person I'd done this to. But I also would not really sleep beside any insistent loser, so you have nothing to lose.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:50 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have never been in that position. No one ever wants to talk to me. But I would simply smile and san no capice , Italian for I do not understand. Or "no spik Inglish."
posted by Postroad at 2:50 PM on January 14, 2010


I was once on a flight with a beautiful Irish lady next to me, I had no intention of speaking to her any more than necessary. But, she had a horrible wet cough which made me not even want to be near her. I don't think she was faking but it certainly kept me from speaking to her at all.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:53 PM on January 14, 2010


The difference earphones make is amazing. I absolutely dread being on the bus without them, for all the reasons you mention and others. It's even worse today being headphone-less, because there are so few people with their ears empty it increases your chances of being bothered ten-fold.

In conjunction, a grumpy face and avoiding all eye contact works really well. (You can safely ignore those telling you to smile because you didn't hear them -- earphones, see!)

Seat choices also make a big difference. As much as a hate to stereotype, chances are you'll be more likely to be left alone sitting next to a female. And if you want to start racial profiling, try to find someone who looks like they may be less likely to speak english (or whatever the local language is). Obviously, this doesn't always work, but if you have a choice it doesn't hurt (as long as you're not obviously being rude, of course.)
posted by cgg at 2:58 PM on January 14, 2010


But I would simply smile and san no capice , Italian for I do not understand. Or "no spik Inglish."

That's really not close enough to correct Italian to fool anyone who speaks even a little Italian. It's like pretending to be American by saying "Hai not you speeeka dar Ingee."
posted by The World Famous at 2:58 PM on January 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Echoing the DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT advice. Don't do it at the gate, don't do it when you are boarding the plane, and definitely don't do it when your seatmate takes his/her seat. Also, get a window seat so you can angle your whole face/body towards the window, and away from your seatmate. Basically, don't acknowledge the people around you in any way. You are floating in an impenetrable bubble of leave me the fuck alone. It sounds cold, but I've found it be effective.
posted by bahama mama at 2:59 PM on January 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


Oh, and to prevent them chatting in the first place- you know that disgusting kind of pig noise where you snork snot back through your nose and into your throat? Do that.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:01 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like that surgical mask idea. That and a pair of headphones should keep you as alone as you like.

You may not want to go this far, but you could go for the crazy/dangerous thing. I used to know a girl who took late classes on a university campus and found herself walking home after dark quite a lot. She always carried a ball-peen hammer with her and would take it out of her bag and mumble audibly to herself when she had to walk in sparsely-populated areas by herself at night. She said it worked like a charm to keep people away.

Surgical mask, earphones, hammer, mumbling. Heh.
posted by Pecinpah at 3:04 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've always enjoyed "Smile more!" because it gives me the opportunity to look devastatingly shocked, tear up and choke out "I lost three children and my mother-in-law in a house fire last week." They don't talk to me after that, and I stun myself at my ability to pull this off.

The very unsavory should be called to the attention of the flight attendant if on plane, or security if on the ground.
posted by sageleaf at 3:13 PM on January 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


First, why are you worried about being offensive? They're offending you, after all. After the first "no thanks," they've surpassed your boundaries and thus are fair game for offense.

I like the surgical mask approach. No one wants to be around a sick person.

If a guy asks your number, ask him if he'll go away if you give it to him. Then give him a fake one (make sure it's a "real" fake one, like prerecorded bus schedules, so he doesn't go off on some unsuspecting person).

If you use the "don't speak English" approach, you don't need to learn a real language. Just make shit up, which guarantees that no one will know your obscure phrase.

Get or make a book cover so people can't comment on what you're reading. If they ask, tell them it's furry slash fiction.
posted by desjardins at 3:22 PM on January 14, 2010


cough a lot and blow your nose loudly
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:22 PM on January 14, 2010


I don't have a great prevention tip, but if your neighbor is really annoying and you're on a commercial airline, you can ask the flight attendants to re-seat you. They will find you a new seat.
posted by medusa at 3:24 PM on January 14, 2010


One time, on a plane, my wife and I weren't able to sit next to each other, but were sitting one row apart. Some drunk asshole kept bothering her as she tried to study for a bar exam. Finally, she said, "You are driving me crazy!"

He mumbled, "My bad." And that was the end of him bothering her.
posted by jayder at 3:25 PM on January 14, 2010


I have actually used this gesture in these situations, after saying that I'm busy or some such.

http://www.collegescholarships.org/images/hand.jpg

It GETS RESULTS. (Your mileage, along with any potential escalation towards violence, may vary.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 3:28 PM on January 14, 2010


Wear a neutral-to-frowny face.

As someone who looks like this most of the time, I can tell you that it doesn't work - it just prompts Interested Unsavory/Desperate Dudes to tell you to smile. Grrrrrrr.

Honestly, I just keep my iPod earbuds in (even when it's turned off, even during takeoff and landing) and when the person I don't want talking to me starts to talk, I shake my head and say I CAN'T HEAR YOU. I don't care if they think I'm rude - chances are I'll never see them again. It usually works like a charm.
posted by chez shoes at 3:37 PM on January 14, 2010


I knew this lady who would take "vow of silence" days. She was weird and I'm not sure why she did this, but you could carry a small card that says "Sorry but I am taking a vow of silence today" and that should shut them up. Don't answer your cell phone though!
posted by radioamy at 3:46 PM on January 14, 2010


I tend to say, "Sorry, I'm really busy with this" and then just don't answer any further comments.

This is hard to get used to doing--the natural human impulse is to respond when someone is talking with you--but once you've practiced it it's very helpful.

That said, I did once have a guy throw a cup of (fortunately cold) coffee at me because I wasn't answering him. But I doubt that having a conversation with him would have led to anything better than that, and the flight attendant a) moved him, and b) gave me a certificate good for $50 on my next ticket purchase.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:46 PM on January 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


From Ms. Vegetable:

I find that when I look physically ill (like green about to vomit on a plane), fewer people bother me.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 3:51 PM on January 14, 2010


Ask then if they've accepted Jesus as their personal savior

This may not work when the person who has leaned over from the seat behind you and tapped you on the shoulder to get your attention, forcing you to pull off your Big Earphones, is himself witnessing for Jesus.

Yes, this happened to me. On an intercity bus. In Japan.
posted by adamrice at 4:08 PM on January 14, 2010


Of course, if someone tries to witness for Jesus to you, you can just respond that you are Jesus.
posted by The World Famous at 4:13 PM on January 14, 2010 [8 favorites]


You are floating in an impenetrable bubble of leave me the fuck alone.

Those are wonderful words to live by, but some sleazeballs just see it as a challenge. In my experience, this has led to PUA-types walking up and "negging" me out of nowhere, and on no less than three occasions when I didn't make eye contact, covert public masturbators seeing if they could get away with getting off unnoticed, one of whom even tried to touch me. AAAGH!

Don't be afraid to calmly look people in the eye and be blunt about not feeling like talking. You don't need to go out of your way to come across like a crazy misanthropic asshole, but sometimes it's the only solution. If you're not willing to take shit from anybody, why sugar-coat it? Get headphones, cover up, sit with women when you can and relax.
posted by aquafortis at 4:14 PM on January 14, 2010


In addition to the surgical mask, get some stage makeup and put some spots/blemishes/runny sores on your forearms that can be covered/uncovered at will [best to cover up when going thru immigration & customs].

Fake up a slip-on cover you can put on whatever book you're reading with a title like "Living with [awful infectious disease of your choice]".
posted by HiroProtagonist at 4:19 PM on January 14, 2010


God.
I have experienced music-interrupters. What's worse, sleep interrupters?
My advice is this:
If ignoring them warrants more questions, don't answer in an open-ended fashion. This is where I always go wrong! If they ask you what you're listening to, say "I don't know." If they ask what you're reading, say "Nothing important."
Don't look too nice. Don't look sad, but angry. I have a semi-permanent angry look which non-threatening people have noticed, specifically contrived to drive away weird people.
And just a thought: looking as scraggly as you say you do might be the very thing that attracts these people to you. I guess they think you're just like them and that you will gladly relate to them. But...on the other hand, looking too nice attracts weird old men, too. So you can't really win on looks there anyway.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 4:26 PM on January 14, 2010


Maybe learning a phrase in a rather obscure language, one that is clearly foreign enough to sound different from something they may have taken in high school, will help.

You have no idea how many annoying conversations a solid grounding in Latvian has saved me from. The language-based suggestions above are good, but I assure you, "Désolé, je ne comprends pas," or "Lo siento, ma yo no lo entiendo," will not take you as far away from your pursuer as, "Piedodiet, es nesaprotu."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:28 PM on January 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ahahah! My favourite question EVER! This has plagued me throughout my many travels, and when you travel alone people just assume you're as desperate for conversation or flirtation as they are.
Nothing I have tried works very well. I've had to sneak away in the night to catch a bus to another city in order to get away from one particularly persistent (but harmless) dude, and he ended up finding me there, interrupting my book reading in a hammock. Gawd.
Anyways the only thing that worked somewhat was when I cut off all my hair and starting dressing really tough (I was struggling with sexuality and gender stuff). It had the latent effect of drastically reducing unwanted attention from slimeballs and desperados.
posted by whalebreath at 4:33 PM on January 14, 2010


Dress ugly. Maybe add a few fake warts on your face. Cultivate body odor.
posted by elder18 at 4:43 PM on January 14, 2010


I know heaps of people have already suggested it, but headphones. The bigger the better. Plugged in or not. Even if they try to talk to you, you can easily ignore them.

The over the ear style headphones imply more isolation from the immediate world around you, so less interruptions and easier to fake not hearing them.
posted by dantodd at 4:51 PM on January 14, 2010


Headphones, dark or mirrored sunglasses, and a surgical mask if necessary. The sunglasses make it impossible to make eye contact, and also impossible to tell if you're asleep or awake. You'll still get the hard-core weirdopervs, but those can be handled by more assertive means.
posted by KathrynT at 4:59 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dress ugly.

Wear unattractive and bulky clothing


Wearing ugly clothes is not going to stop creepy guys. Trust me, I know. The OP seems to know this already anyway since not having bathed in days is not a deterrent either. A creepy asshole is going to hit on you whether you look "hot" or not because he is a creepy asshole.

I think a combination of things, such as headphones, a book, and an angry/unpleasant facial expression helps. Coughing periodically might also deter weirdos, but I don't think you should have to go to extremes to fake illnesses such as painting blemishes on your face as has been suggested. If they still interrupt you, there's no need to be polite. You can just say "Please leave me alone." Be firm, do not make eye contact, and ignore them if they try to speak to you after that.
posted by Lobster Garden at 5:09 PM on January 14, 2010


okay, this won't work for everyone, and definitely won't work for the creepy or the relentlessly persistent, but you can wear a fake engagement/wedding ring on your hand and then make a reference to your husband. Also for the book interrupters, do you speak a foreign language or can you fake it? You might just pretend you don't understand English.
posted by bananafish at 5:26 PM on January 14, 2010


This may not work when the person who has leaned over from the seat behind you and tapped you on the shoulder to get your attention, forcing you to pull off your Big Earphones, is himself witnessing for Jesus.

Ditto this. I have had at least three seat-neighbors decide to unsolicitedly "witness" to me over the years - this is not an insignificant risk. Just don't go there, it's not worth the chance that your seatmate will be THRILLED to talk about Jesus with you.
posted by deadmessenger at 5:30 PM on January 14, 2010


One thing that I've realized over time is that some people are simply socially clueless. So much so that the only way to tell them to leave you alone is to directly say exactly that.

Thing is, they are so clueless that they don't seem to take it as the straightforward insult that you or I would. Think about that. At least for me, I find it freeing.
posted by Invoke at 5:41 PM on January 14, 2010


I remember John Waters saying in an interview years ago that he covered whatever book he was actually reading with the jacket for Lesbian Nuns.

This might not work so well for a woman, though.
posted by maud at 5:44 PM on January 14, 2010


No one will believe that foreign language thing, so here's a twist: learn how to say "eat shit and die" in American Sign Language. If, on the off chance, the dude speaks ASL, well hey it still works!

By the way, regarding the recent increase you've noticed, I blame Neil Strauss and that d-bag on VH1 with the furry hat for this epidemic.
posted by rjacobs at 6:06 PM on January 14, 2010


SUNGLASSES.

I'm amazed only 1 person above has suggested them.

I ride the subway with headphones and sunglasses, and am usually staring at my phone, a book, or a magazine... or have my head down if I'm feeling drowsy.

I am male... YMMV.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 6:13 PM on January 14, 2010


If you have long hair, wear it down in front of your ears, not tucked behind them -- think face covering. I do this in coffee shops and it prevents weirdos from talking to me.
posted by melodykramer at 6:28 PM on January 14, 2010


Headphones, plugged in or not, should ward off a good amount of initial interruptions.

Beyond that - You have the right to travel without being bothered! Remind yourself of that! You don't owe it to Interruptors and Desperate Dudes to engage with them, entertain them, or acknowledge them in any way. You really don't. If a person doesn't get that they should leave you alone, *that person* is the problem, and you just have to politely but firmly tell them you don't wish to be bothered and try not to feel guilty because you did that. I swear, society tells women they have to smile and be polite and put up with this kind of crap so they don't offend others, and I'm not saying be rude, I'm saying *you* have the right to go about your business without being bothered or offended or your time wasted by other people who don't even know you.

I feel uncomfortable about all these detailed suggestions on how to really ugly yourself up for the trip, or other elaborate ruses. You shouldn't have to do that. Do not be afraid to politely and firmly tell them to leave you alone.
posted by citron at 7:06 PM on January 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wearing ugly clothes is not going to stop creepy guys. Trust me, I know. The OP seems to know this already anyway since not having bathed in days is not a deterrent either. A creepy asshole is going to hit on you whether you look "hot" or not because he is a creepy asshole.

And a creepy asshole is going to hit on you because you own a vagina, period. I am firmly convinced that some people won't stop short of the cops coming, because you're a female and breathing in their vicinity and hey, they might have a shot!

Which leads me to think: hey, would dressing like a guy work as a deterrent?
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:27 PM on January 14, 2010


no matter how diplomatic I am, sometimes people get really offended,

I agree with those who say that the problem isn't what you're wearing or what you're doing, but this. Don't worry about being diplomatic. You don't owe anyone anything. They're the ones intruding. If you are willing to finally drop the charade that results from some archaic belief that it's a woman's job to always be sweet and police, you won't have much of a problem any more. Someone talks to you? Look up, eye them balefully, and return to your reading. Or don't look up. Get up and move. Say "Talk to someone else, please." Really, anything you want to do to protect your privacy and quiet is A-OK. It's not your problem if someone takes offense - you're not likely to see them again.

Be comfortable being rude. You don't want to be bothered? Then don't let anyone bother you. Let politeness go. It can be a trap - both ignorant people and predatory people use it as a way to force an interaction with you. Don't play.
posted by Miko at 7:36 PM on January 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


"First, why are you worried about being offensive? They're offending you, after all. After the first "no thanks," they've surpassed your boundaries and thus are fair game for offense"

Yup.

I've also tried the baggy clothes no make up shtick and honestly, it just means the creepy guys hit on you more cause they think you are vulnerable. What has worked for me is to dress in a way that makes me feel confident. For me it means dress pants or a skirt, short (comfortable) heels and a semi professional looking top. Makeup, brushed and neat hair (doesn't have to be washed, just not scraggly). Make sure all luggage/ carry-ons or purses look neat and business-y. Keep face neutral, let your glances slide off people, don't look them at them (unless they are the ticket takers or security :)

Taking the time to maintain my appearance as well as dressing smartly have two effects. First, the clothes look sharp and I will intimidate the creeps who prey on the shy girls. Second, it makes me feel more confident and less likely to feel intimidated by other people and cowed into a conversation I do not want.

A combination of sunglasses/earphones and napping certainly don't hurt, but the trick is, don't acknowledge the creeps/book interrupters at all. Ignore them.
If for some reason you HAVE to acknowledge them (persistent assholes!) You say "Please stop interrupting me." "Please don't touch me." Absolutely nothing more.

They are breaking social rules by persisting. This gives you the freedom to not worry about whether they think you are rude.

I can't seem to organize my thoughts very well, but I just want to get the point across that many, many, many of the creeps you are trying to avoid will avoid you if you act confident and tell them (abruptly and confidently) to piss off if they persist.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 9:36 PM on January 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hm, not just sunglasses, but mirrored secret-service style sunglasses and one earbud (black, though, not white.) If someone talks to you, just stare for a second, say, "I can't discuss that," then ignore them.
posted by ctmf at 9:54 PM on January 14, 2010


Nthing big headphones and a "wedding ring"
posted by gt2 at 10:15 PM on January 14, 2010


big headphones and a copy of "the encyclopedia of serial killers" seemed to work for me (available at amazon).
posted by koroshiya at 12:49 AM on January 15, 2010


Coffee breath. In their face. They won't want you to keep talking.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:52 AM on January 15, 2010


Better than garlic on a vampire are children. People will do anything possible to avoid sitting next to someone with a baby on a long flight. It is especially good when you warn your neighbor about little one's digestive problems and wish to apologize before hand.
posted by jadepearl at 4:30 AM on January 15, 2010


Agreeing with what others have said above. If you are at all worried about offending people, the obnoxious ones can spot that weakness and will home right in.

I try to answer the first two overtures tersely and the third with, "Is there a problem?"using a repressive but not rude tone of voice.

It's nice if you have something you can work on or appear to be working on. ("Excuse me; I need to get this done. No, I really need to get this done.") But you should be able to spend your time as you choose; it's the interrupter's problem, not yours; make sure they know that's what you think.
posted by BibiRose at 5:39 AM on January 15, 2010


Also for the book interrupters, do you speak a foreign language or can you fake it? You might just pretend you don't understand English.

Um, but you're reading a book, which is presumably written in English.

Headphones, shades, even a surgical mask. But faking being a foreigner wouldn't be my choice.

What about facial tattoos?
posted by jonesor at 6:30 AM on January 15, 2010


> Also for the book interrupters, do you speak a foreign language or can you fake it? You might just pretend you don't understand English.

Um, but you're reading a book, which is presumably written in English.


My hunch is that if the offenders are clueless enough to not spot any of the other "you are bothering me" vibes, they are also clueless enough to not realize "oh, wait, her BOOK is in English, though".

Also, if a book is lying in my lap, they can't see what language it's in unless they get WAY into my personal space and study the pages, and if they start getting that far into my personal space I'd be reacting quite forcefully anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:03 AM on January 15, 2010


I've always enjoyed "Smile more!" because it gives me the opportunity to look devastatingly shocked, tear up and choke out "I lost three children and my mother-in-law in a house fire last week." They don't talk to me after that, and I stun myself at my ability to pull this off.

I had a man on the street tell me to smile ten minutes after I found out that my grandfather had died. When I related this to him his face fell. I doubt he's ever told anyone else to smile since then.

As for book interrupters, big headphones work best. But nothing is going to work on the really determined interrupter. Just smile and nod, and then move.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:08 AM on January 15, 2010


Response by poster: Thank you for your extremely helpful suggestions and comments, everyone. I had time to pick up some cheap headphones and sunglasses, and also put on a ring I had with me, and there were no more interrupters after that until one at the very end. I plan to try out a bunch of the other suggestions in the future, depending on the situation. I'd really like to use the foreign language idea, but unfortunately I sound like a huge gringo in anything that I speak. More practice is needed. Extra thanks because a bunch of these made me laugh out loud and lifted my mega bad mood.
posted by Ashley801 at 11:00 PM on January 15, 2010


I'd really like to use the foreign language idea,
The need to coordinate the language you don't really speak with book you are actually trying to read may prove overwhelming.
posted by shothotbot at 7:57 PM on January 18, 2010


« Older Thanks for having me, I gotta go. No, I really...   |   Where to take "me" during "me" time. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.