I feel after-school special.
February 7, 2006 5:46 AM   Subscribe

I'm an adult who gets bullied on the public transit bus. There, I said it.

Each morning at 6:54am I catch an hour-long bus from my house to my office. On this bus are two women (40-50's) who seemingly work all night in some sort of nursing capacity. When I get on, I usually find them sitting across the aisle from one another carrying on about one of their relatives or generally gossiping about life.

One of them, the one who sits across the aisle from me likes to open her window. Mind you, this morning it was 25F outside. From where she sits, she gets a light dusting of fresh air. From where I sit, it's an artic blast that a) farks up the newspaper I'm reading, b) throws my hair into my face and c) freezes my nose off.

I've responded to this situation by bearing it, non-confrontationally until both of the women get off the bus (at the same stop). I then, get up and close the window. This seems like a perfectly good solution to me, but for some reason it's not acceptable to them.

Last week, as they did the little dinger thing that signals for a stop (bonus question: what is that thing?) I got up and went across the aisle to close the window after they were out of their seats and towards the front of the bus. This act was met with a very loud and demeaning call-out peppered with phrases like:
  • Who does she think she is?
  • Look at Little Miss Thing
  • Uhn-uh, she's closing the window again.
It's truly endless, and so far I haven't acknowledged any of it.

At this point, everyone on the bus stares at me and laughs. They get off the bus feeling like queens. The window gets closed and I'm humiliated.

I'm looking for a way to shut them down and reclaim my power. How would I go about doing this? Mind you, I don't care that the window is open while they're on the bus but I'd like to be able to shut it while the bus is stopped as they're getting off, for reasons of balance.

Sitting in another seat isn't an answer as the bus seems to run on a sort of unspoken assigned seating arrangement (we're all regulars) and simply waiting until they are completely off the bus to close the window is too wimpy for me.

What else can I do? What witticism can I lob in their direction? What should I do when my witticism provokes a tirade in response?
posted by cior to Society & Culture (165 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Sitting in another seat isn't an answer as the bus seems to run on a sort of unspoken assigned seating arrangement

Excuse me?
posted by grouse at 5:50 AM on February 7, 2006 [2 favorites]

What witticism can I lob in their direction?

Oh, something equally loud and silly like, "MMM-HMMMM, You go girrrrls!" You don't want to say anything really obnoxious or insulting to them. "Playing along" or "playing their game" with the whole Miss-Thing-ness would probably be the best way to shut them down or at least take the bite out of their behavior.

In the (probably unlikely) event that they actually start a tirade, it would be hoped that the bus driver would intervene in the interests of getting the bus back on the road already.
posted by Gator at 5:54 AM on February 7, 2006

Yeah, I would just sit in another seat. Saves you both the cold and being the centre of attention (and who wants that at that hour of the morning!) and don't worry - whoever "owns" the seat you end up in, they'll be too passive to do anything more than silently fume.
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:55 AM on February 7, 2006

Get up really early and go to where the bus originates, and take their seats before they get on.
posted by cillit bang at 5:59 AM on February 7, 2006

Response by poster: grouse: When I get on the bus, there's really only one feasible seat for me to sit in. Beyond the fact that it's the same seat I've sat in for my entire bus-riding history on this line, everyone else on the bus sits in their same seats each morning as well. The only other available seats are the highly undesirable sideways seats right behind the driver or a few mixed seats in the back of the bus where the scary guys sit.

I like my seat. It's mine.
posted by cior at 5:59 AM on February 7, 2006

Then just ignore them and close the window. What do you care what they think?
posted by bshort at 6:01 AM on February 7, 2006

I really don't see this as much as you being "bullied" as much as them just being stupid. How do you know everyone is laughing at you? Maybe they are laughing at how foolish they look every morning.

Still, if you would like to reclaim your power:

Figure out where they get on the bus, get on one stop earlier and sit in one of their seats. Don headphones and listen to music so you can pretend to not hear their squawking about it (or, probably better, turn up the music enough so you actually don't hear them).
posted by mikepop at 6:05 AM on February 7, 2006

How about the obvious truth? They're acting like small children, treat them that way. "Yes, of course, and if your mother had taught you any manners when you were a child instead of just acting like one, you'd have realized you were inconveniencing others around you, and never opened it in the first place."
posted by jacquilynne at 6:08 AM on February 7, 2006

Or when you get up to close the window say in an extremely loud voice..."well *someone's* gotta clean up after your lazy ass." Do not make eye contact so that anything she can say will not stick to you but just fade into the ether.
posted by iurodivii at 6:11 AM on February 7, 2006

Best answer: Superglue the window shut after they've gotten off the bus.

I take it the driver is issued the same bus every day?
posted by hazyjane at 6:11 AM on February 7, 2006

If you "reclaim your power," they're going to reclaim it right back and you're going to have to poll the collective wit of ask.mefi again.

I say be wimpy and close the window after they're completely off the bus. Otherwise it's a long road of steeling yourself, for what? Two women who get off on making other people feel bad? Fuck 'em. Read your paper. Finish your coffee.
posted by deadfather at 6:12 AM on February 7, 2006

I dunno. If cior were to take one of their seats, what would probably happen is (1) the women would start a big look-at-me fuss on the bus, as opposed to while they're leaving, which would draw everyone's attention and be a confrontation that cior is trying to avoid (some people are just plain shy and don't handle confrontation well; not everyone can be a who-cares-what-they-think take-charge extrovert dynamo); and/or (2) they'd sit close by and open another window anyway.
posted by Gator at 6:13 AM on February 7, 2006

How often does the bus run? Maybe you could take an earlier one to avoid the group altogether?

Otherwise take it to the driver. He is the captain of the ship and has authority to kick people off or make them do his bidding. Well, depending on his/her demeanor. If it is that cold out, I can't imagine that you are the only one bothered by a cold breeze in the bus. I would be pissed.
posted by JJ86 at 6:13 AM on February 7, 2006

How about, loudly so everyone can hear, asking the woman who opens the window to close it when she gets off the bus? You might be able to shame her just slightly into doing this for you. If you're nervous, make it clear that you don't mind the window being open when she's on the bus.
posted by sohcahtoa at 6:14 AM on February 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

First, you should figure out what you want. Do you want to rescue your damaged pride, or do you simply want them to leave you alone? You probably can't have both. If it's mostly an issue of pride, I'm sure people here will help you come up with comebacks.

In my experience, people like your bus bullies are genetically incapable of taking an insult. So if you insult them back, you'll start a flame war. They will never accept being taken down a notch.

Personally, I have an easy time accepting this. I was bullied for years as a kid, and I know it's not fair, and quite often there will never be justice. I don't really care about fairness or justice any more. I just want to be left alone. And I don't feel any loss of pride when such bullies attack, because I don't think of them as human. To me, they are robotic forces of nature.

My solution is usually to disarm them by confronting them gently and NOT fighting back. They seem to expect people to fight back, so my strategy can thwart them.

If I were you, I would go over to them and say, "Wow. I must have really offended you when I shut the window. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean any disrespect. I was just cold. Would it be okay with you if I shut it after you leave the bus?" I would work hard to look into their eyes and say this without any irony or sarcasm.

I'm sure many people feel like I shouldn't have to do this -- or that I'm less-than-a-man for acting this way. I don't care. I just want to be left alone, so whatever works, works. Similarly, I wouldn't care about my "pride" if I was dealing with a wild animal or a hurricane. To me, bullies are simply a force of nature.

Finally, if me tactic failed to work (it usually does work), I would accept the force of nature and take steps to protect myself from it. I would wear headphones and listen to music to drown out the verbal abuse. And I would wear layers and a coat to keep warm.
posted by grumblebee at 6:17 AM on February 7, 2006

How about the obvious truth? They're acting like small children, treat them that way. "Yes, of course, and if your mother had taught you any manners when you were a child instead of just acting like one, you'd have realized you were inconveniencing others around you, and never opened it in the first place."

See, this is what I don't get. I mean, I totally understand the desire to say this sort of thing, but what does it get you? Do you live in a world where if you say just the right "shaming" thing, bullies stop bullying? Do you live in a world in which you feel good after saying something like this, even if the bullying continues? I don't. In my world, I only feel good if the bullying stops.
posted by grumblebee at 6:20 AM on February 7, 2006 [2 favorites]

To tell the truth, this whole "seat assignment" thing sounds alot like grade school stuff. The bus I take is filled mostly with regulars but I don't think there is anyone that always manages to sit in the same seat. Why it would even matter is beyond me. I'm not sure if you read a newspaper or book on the ride but maybe you should pre-occupy yourself with something useful? I'm not saying that this issue isn't a big deal, but just change seats if you can and ignore people you don't know.
posted by JJ86 at 6:23 AM on February 7, 2006

Best answer: I can't say I think much of a lot of the advice given above. Before you try responding, I suggest you remember the old aphorism about wrestling with a pig. I'm also wondering if there's a class issue here which will cause things to radically escalate if you directly confront them

In any event, I'd try to bear in mind that these women's lives probably suck, deeply. I'm guessing it's nothing to do with you as a person, you're simply a convenient stress relief punching bag. As difficult as it must be, can you extend some compassion for them?

So were it me, I'd keep doing what you're doing. If you don't like the wordplay, the advice on a Walkman/mp3 player is excellent.
posted by mojohand at 6:24 AM on February 7, 2006

I say be wimpy and close the window after they're completely off the bus.

Do just the opposite. As soon as they stand up head over and close the window. Don't slam it shut, just close it firmly and return to your seat. If they say anything just smile and ignore them. Don't back down and don't give ground on this since it can only encourage them to bully you more aggressively. Now if they ever summon up the courage you address directly that's when you say something back. For now they're effectively just gossiping behind your back so just pretend it doesn't phase you.
posted by nixerman at 6:27 AM on February 7, 2006

Can you open your window as she's riding so she gets an artic blast? If needed, sit in their seats, forcing them to sit in yours.
posted by reishus at 6:29 AM on February 7, 2006

See, this is what I don't get. I mean, I totally understand the desire to say this sort of thing, but what does it get you? Do you live in a world where if you say just the right "shaming" thing, bullies stop bullying?

The women on the bus think they're being funny and cool, and other people are laughing with them at cior. Turning the tables so that people are laughing at them with cior is at least somewhat likely to make them stop, in my experience with being bullied. (I was a fat, smart teenager, I have a fairly large amount of personal experience with the subject. It wasn't until I learned to be faster and funnier than the assholes that it largely stopped.)

It might not work, it might escalate things. Human relationships are never perfect or predictable. Cior's in the best position to know about the likely successs - can she pull it off and actually *be* funny/mean or will she sound wimpy and rehearsed? will the women actually respond or just escalate? - and now she can consider this as one of her options.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:31 AM on February 7, 2006

You won't win a snarky comment war with them. It's no use even trying.

Get an ipod/mp3 player/walkman/whatever. Turn it up loud enough so that you won't hear their comments and, thus, won't be tempted to turn your head when they make them. After a day or two, it will be obvious to them and the others on the bus that their comments were just wasted breath because you didn't even hear/notice them. After a couple more days, they will look pretty stupid and pathetic to all the other bus riders if they keep making them because they aren't even getting a rise out of you.

Problem solved, "power" regained and you don't even have to utter a word.
posted by necessitas at 6:39 AM on February 7, 2006

Do you live in a world where if you say just the right "shaming" thing, bullies stop bullying?
Yeah, pretty much. I don't know what you mean when you say, "bullies are simply a force of nature." You'll have to explain the significance of that phrase. How does thinking of a bully in those terms help you function better than thinking of him as a jerk?

I'll admit, I was never the smallest kid in the class; but one of the first lessons I learned about bullies was that if you get knocked on your ass, you get up and punch right back. You'll probably get knocked back down — but when that bully comes looking for someone to push around tomorrow, he's going to remember getting punched in the face. In my experience, he'll decide you're not worth his trouble — probably due in part to the fact that there's always some other kid who won't hit back.
posted by cribcage at 6:41 AM on February 7, 2006

You have two choices:

1. Suck it up. Roll your eyes theatrically at their juvenile bullshit but hold your tongue. (Probably what I'd do.)

2. Play the dozens.

Who does she think she is?
"I'm the one picking up after your lazy self."

Look at Little Miss Thing
"Well, if I was carrying all that around, I probably would be cold either."

Uhn-uh, she's closing the window again.
"That's right. And if you leave any garbage up in here, I'll fix that too. I'm delicate like that."

Don't pick Door No. 2 unless you can smile when you insult people.
posted by sacre_bleu at 6:42 AM on February 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

"...wouldn't be cold either."
posted by sacre_bleu at 6:44 AM on February 7, 2006

one of the first lessons I learned about bullies was that if you get knocked on your ass, you get up and punch right back. You'll probably get knocked back down — but when that bully comes looking for someone to push around tomorrow, he's going to remember getting punched in the face

Unless you actually manage to hurt them, you're just giving the entertainment of watching some dweeb try to get a punch in. It just encourages them.

I withdraw my original comment. The only way to deal with bullies is to ignore them. Literally pretend they don't exist. Close the window if you want the window closed, but do not engage them in any other way.
posted by cillit bang at 6:48 AM on February 7, 2006

Have you thought of, you know, talking to them?

Like "Good Morning, how are you doing, how are the kids, where do you work, do you like your job..."

that kind of thing.. you know, small talk.
posted by empath at 7:02 AM on February 7, 2006

(I'm guessing these are blue-collar black women, and you're either white or "boogee" ("bourgeois"), and white collar.)

Look right at them.
Smile while nodding your head up and down and raising an eyebrow, the way that communicates "yeah, this is how the world is, isn't it, and I know and you know it".
Chuckle to yourself.

They'll drop the attitude.
posted by orthogonality at 7:11 AM on February 7, 2006

There's nothing you can do to beat them at their own game. Genuine witticisms will either be characterized as "Little Miss thing putting on airs" or fail to be understood at all, and if you sink to their level of base stupidity then you're fighting them on their own ground and will lose.
The main point is that there are several (or many) of them and only one of you. This is (a) why they will always win and (b) why they do it in the first place. I am guessing that there is a social class issue here which you had the delicacy not to spell out in the question.
Your best bet is to just ignore them; wait until they're off the bus before closing the window and try to appear unruffled by their remarks. If they address you directly you might try responding with mild, friendly humor; maybe something a little self-deprecating. That might even win them over.

It occurs to me that whoever sits behind you probably also wants the window closed; you could try sitting tight until they get up and close the window?
posted by nowonmai at 7:14 AM on February 7, 2006

I agree with not engaging them in any way whatsoever. They're simply not worth the effort. I'd just continue closing the window and go back to reading the book I always have with me when I use public transport. Can you imagine just how powerless these two must feel that they take offense to you closing a window on a public bus that they're not even on (since you wait til they're off)? That's sad & pathetic, treat it as such in your mind and don't feel bullied. No one on that bus matters, none of them are waiting for you when you get home, none of them sign your paycheque, none of them determines anything of consequence in your life. There is zero reason for you to feel anything but a slight contempt for such ill bred troglodytes.
posted by zarah at 7:17 AM on February 7, 2006

"Oh yeah? Well the jerk store called, and they're all outta YOU!"

It's been my experience that when people act like these women are acting, they do it because they think you are better than them in some way, and therefore have to drop you down a peg. My personal favourite thing to do in this situation would be to get to a seat in front of them, and open the window so that THEY get a blast of arctic air in the face. Or, failing that, when you get on the bus, ask the driver to turn up the heat, since *SOME* people (inserting pointed look at said woman) insist on opening the windows despite the fact that it is below freezing outside.
posted by antifuse at 7:20 AM on February 7, 2006

Just close the damn window and ignore them.
posted by eas98 at 7:23 AM on February 7, 2006

At this point, everyone on the bus stares at me and laughs

Is this happening every day? This sounds like a bus ride through the Twilight Zone.

And are you really ok sitting there while this arctic blast blows your newspaper, your hair and freezes your nose?

If it were me, I'd ask the woman to please close her window a bit because it's blowing right on you. If she refuses, at least ask if she'll close it when she leaves the bus. If she still refuses, I'd say loudly "thanks a lot, that's really big of you" and just continue to close the window as you've been doing and ignore their remarks. Screw them and all the people that laugh.
posted by gfrobe at 7:28 AM on February 7, 2006

I second nowonmai's comments, although I don't think you need to wait for someone else to close the window.

I wouldn't try to engage them, but what about just saying something along the lines of, "It gets really cold in my seat with that window open, and I don't mind it while you are on the bus since it seems like you enjoy the fresh air, but that's why I close the window." Say it completely sincerely, no attitude, and try to do it before they actually get up to leave.

Then you can be done with it. No, you don't owe them an explanation, but I don't think it hurts the situation.
posted by KAS at 7:32 AM on February 7, 2006

What orthogonality said. Or just smile and shrug, or just totally ignore them. Don't change your routine, they'll notice and it will keep them interested. Don't respond, because they'll just spend their whole shift thinking up better things to come back with. Remember that while it's 6.45am to you, it's 5.45pm to them.

They're doing this because it's like a little soap opera to them, a funny little thing that happens at a set time each day. The only way to end it is to make it boring and repetitive to them.
posted by crabintheocean at 7:33 AM on February 7, 2006

Like mojohand, I wonder if there are class issues here as well: possibly age and gender issues also.

If it's the case that the two women are members of a culture in which witty insults are a regular practice, and you yourself are not a member of the same or a similar culture, then verbal retailation is a course that you can't take--you'll certainly lose. It's not just a matter of knowing a scathing comeback, but of speed, timing, and delivery, which take a good deal of practice. I don't know your age, but if they are in their 40s or 50s then I would guess that they have several decades' worth of practice on you.

You should also keep in mind that by retaliating, you're in effect proposing a contest whose winner would be determined by audience approval. It is unlikely that you would win such a contest, which would likely consist of several exchanges over the course of a few days. You'd provide feeble entertainment for the other bus riders for perhaps the better part of a week, and then you'd lose.

The following paragraph is long, and may seem off-topic at first, but I don't believe it is. The issue with "reclaiming power" is in itself problematic--it sounds as if both you and the woman next to the window have different conceptions of private rights in public spaces. The woman who opens the window is similar to a person who'd smoke in a non-smoking section of a restaurant, or who'd leave his cellphone on in a movie theater. In the hypothetical case of the smoker and the cellphone user, though, there are explicitly stated rules that govern the etiquette of the public space so that, ideally, the effects of private behaviors aren't felt by others who aren't themselves participating in those behaviors (signs that say no smoking, or please turn off your cellphone). In the absence of such signs, though, it tends to be the case (at least in many aspects of American culture) that anything goes. This is why in rock concerts at American venues everyone ends up standing--the person in the front row stands, obscuring the view of the person in the second row who's forced to stand in turn, obscuring the view of the person in the third row, etcetera. (It's also a reason why I no longer go to rock concerts.)

My point is that, even though it's unfair, you can't reclaim any power because you never had any in the first place--it's the owner and operator of the public space who has the power over your own private space while he's providing you with a service, and if he chooses not to exercise it, then there is little you can do.

I think your best choice is to address the problem by speaking to the woman directly, making it clear that you are not doing so for the entertainment of the other riders, and that you are making a statement of fact and not a request of her. Enter her personal space and pitch your voice low so that others cannot overhear. ("Hey, you seem to have had a problem with me closing the window you were sitting next to yesterday.* Well, it's really cold these days, you know?" And so on.) Once it's clear that the situation you describe in your original post is inherently absurd, then I would guess the confrontational aspect of all this would end. At least, it'd be unlikely that she'd indirectly address you on her way off the bus, since you've already established yourself in her personal space by speaking directly to her.

It seems like what you'd like her to do is not open the window at all, though. Honestly, I'm not sure you could pull that off.

*Note that in this scenario, you don't say "closing your window". Make it clear that once she leaves, space that could once arguably be considered private is no longer hers.
posted by Prospero at 7:33 AM on February 7, 2006

I would find the window that would give them the arctic blast of air and open that one. Then I would hit them with pepper spray and a taser gun. They kick them as they lay writhing on the floor. Then throw them off the bus while the bus is at speed.

I do like the super glue idea too. But wait for it to be hot before you do that.
posted by a3matrix at 7:35 AM on February 7, 2006

antifuse writes "It's been my experience that when people act like these women are acting, they do it because they think you are better than them in some way, and therefore have to drop you down a peg."

antifuse pegs it. If you treat them like you're sharing a joke and/or understand how they understand the world (see my previous comment), they'll feel that you're not in fact looking down at them, and less need to "take you down a notch". This is a general technique that works across race and class differences; it works best if you're a member of the "higher status" group.
posted by orthogonality at 7:36 AM on February 7, 2006

I'd go for listening to music and simply closing the window. Just take quiet comfort that you don't live a life where you sorry enough to get offended over something like a window being closed AFTER you've left the seat.

I mean, c'mon. These aren't bullies, they're losers. Keep that in mind, do what you want to do, and ignore the rest. They only have a power over you because you let them.
posted by Atreides at 7:36 AM on February 7, 2006

Response by poster: After all of this, I'm tempted just to print out the thread and hand them both a copy. Good idea or bad idea?
posted by cior at 7:38 AM on February 7, 2006

Are you the only one this is freezing? I would bet that there are a few people near you who are also cold, and they're bound to be in the same spot every day. Why not ask them if they're cold, at a volume just loud enough that the obnoxious ladies will hear? "Hey, are you getting kind of cold? That window is lettting air blow right at us!" Then, politely ask the ladies if they'll partially close their window -- that way you have an ally in the ordeal. Unless the people near you are climate-adjusted or spineless.

From my bus riding experience I seem to remember that opening the window next to you is always an inefficient cooling technique. If the ladies are there when you get on, try requesting that the person in front of them open his or her window -- that'd be ideal because it'll cool down the people who are warm and you'll get a little less of a draft.
posted by mikeh at 7:40 AM on February 7, 2006

I say don't engage. You're an adult, even if they aren't acting like adults. Take the higher road and wait til they are off the bus entirely and close the window. No one has time to comment, no one turns around and laughs, no confrontation. There's no need to play a power struggle game with them.

Or move to another seat.
posted by jerseygirl at 7:43 AM on February 7, 2006

Print out the thread? Horrible idea! Their only knowledge that you're cold is what they see as a passive-agressive gesture -- you closing the window when they get off. It establishes that you control the territory when they're gone, and they're obviously territorial. Somehow you need to get to the point where you're a group, and it's your bus -- as a group. Unless they're just assholes, you need to establish that:
1. You're cold.
2. You understand they want the window open, and don't want to stomp on their right to have a reasonable temperature, too.
3. We're all just in this together.
posted by mikeh at 7:44 AM on February 7, 2006

After all of this, I'm tempted just to print out the thread and hand them both a copy. Good idea or bad idea?
posted by cior at 10:38 AM EST on February 7 [!]

Bad idea. This may be the equivalent of telling a childhood playground bully he's taking out repressed anxiety and sadness about his homelife on you by giving you wedgies. You're only going to get more wedgies, the kind that rip your underpants.
posted by jerseygirl at 7:45 AM on February 7, 2006

Incidentally, this is probably happening in the first [place because you've been too polite, and that's been taken as evidence of fear (or "white guilt"). They initially put the window down to see what you'd do in response, and assume that you're not asking them to put up the window while they're still onboard the bus, because you fear them because of their race or class.

That in turns makes you appear to them as racist or classist, because -- to them -- you're applying some stereotype that informs you it's not safe to get into a dispute with them, because of their race or class.

(This reminds me of a funny story: one time I got some direction reversed by 180 degrees, and ended up walking through "The Projects" at about 9:30 at night. Naturally, there were a large number of young men standing around and shooting the shit for lack of anything better to do, and naturally, when I -- apparently a WASP and an obvious non-resident -- hove into view, I was greeted with lots of catcalls, including, "Show us your gun!"

The funny thing was, they knew damned well there was no reason for someone looking like me to be in their neighborhood at that time of night, and the "show us you gun" -- it took me a second to realize -- was prefixed with calls of "Narc!" That is, the residents assumed anybody looking like me, in that neighborhood, had to be a "narc", an undercover cop -- who would, of course, have a (concealed) weapon.

I just gave them a smile of chagrin meant to communicate "damn, I guess you figured out my disguise" -- and kept walking.)
posted by orthogonality at 7:49 AM on February 7, 2006

Jesus. This is such a foreign situation because I can't imagine NOT calling someone out about this. It's bullshit. C'mon.

Since they've made fun of you, the time for politely asking them to close the window is gone. That's what you should have done first, because doing it after they're gone makes you look passive-aggressive. Which maybe you are. You might still want to ask them politely. I know that's what my girlfriend would do, because she doesn't like confrontation, especially not in public. Me? Well, the menopause jokes would be the first line, I'd think. "It's too cold for me, but I'm too young for hot flashes." You can always proceed to things like "Bitch, I know you were too poor to grow up in a house with windows, but this is how they work." A good ol' "I'm just closin' 'em because you're too dumb to know they go both ways" might also be helpful. But you gotta be able to say it clearly, not muttering, and defiantly. Step that shit up, y'know? "I know you want that window open so you can't smell your own rancid-bacon ass, but the rest of us ain't got your stank. That's the only reason I let you keep it open while you on the bus— I don't want your stink fumes knockin' us all out."
Be prepared for her to get in your face and insult you back, but stand your ground. If she keeps comin', tell her to get away before her breath perms your eyelashes, or before her fat ass sucks you in. And you're going to have to ride the same bus after this happens, so if you feel like it's scorched earth or nothing, you may just want to catch a different one.
posted by klangklangston at 7:52 AM on February 7, 2006

I think you should just ignore them. Eventually they'll stop.

Do you think people are really thinking nasty thoughts about you, or that they remember what the joke was for 2 seconds after it's made? I mean, don't be paranoid- it's not like anybody's going to go home at night and be all, "You wouldn't BELIEVE what happened on the bus today!!!! This bitch got CALLED OUT!!! WOOO HOOO!!!" What i'm trying to say is, your humiliation shows that you're drastically overestimating your importance to your fellow bus-riders.

I'm not saying it's wrong for your feelings to be hurt- I've been in your situation before and it feels horrible. I just think you're on the wrong track to want to retaliate.

Another point: if these women, as you say, are nurses on their way home in the morning, think of how shitty their jobs must be. I'm sure they have to take crap from people all night and just want to blow off some steam. I'm NOT saying it's okay to make another person feel bad on the bus, I'm just pointing out an aspect of the situation.

Really, though: lighten up.
posted by elisabeth r at 7:52 AM on February 7, 2006

Best answer: printing the thread is a bad idea.

The next time they say anything while you are closing the window, simply smile sincerely, wave, and (if they can hear you) say "See you tomorrow! Have a good one!" sincerely.
posted by terrapin at 7:53 AM on February 7, 2006

Catch the 6:44 bus.
posted by solid-one-love at 7:59 AM on February 7, 2006

Don't respond with hostility or insults; it's not nice and you wouldn't be good at it anyway.
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:05 AM on February 7, 2006

Whatever you try, PLEASE update. I'm curious.
posted by agregoli at 8:05 AM on February 7, 2006

Best answer: Terrapin's got it.

Be friendly, unruffled, and unafraid. If you can give them the feeling that not only are they not getting under your skin, but that you are amused by the interaction, you've won.
posted by skryche at 8:13 AM on February 7, 2006

I agree with those above saying engage these women in real conversation about this. They're most likely taunting you because you seem to be behaving passive-agressively: You're upset about the window, but rather than saying anything, you act like you're fine and then make what seems like a big show about closing it once you don't have to interact with them to do so. You're treating them like lesser beings who don't deserve polite interaction, and they're calling you on it. You can "reclaim your power" by shifting the interaction into human beings having a conversation, rather than a silent woman huffily showing off how much she's been aggrieved. (Not that that's your intention, but that's probably how you're coming off to them.)
posted by occhiblu at 8:14 AM on February 7, 2006

Response by poster: occhiblu: To clarify, I haven't been huffy, I haven't made a big show about closing the window. If that's the way I'm coming off to them, it's in their imagination. I truly don't care that they want the window open while they're on the bus. I only started caring when they began to publicly humiliate me.
posted by cior at 8:22 AM on February 7, 2006

I don't know what you mean when you say, "bullies are simply a force of nature." You'll have to explain the significance of that phrase.

Pretty much what Nowanmai said: There's nothing you can do to beat them at their own game. Genuine witticisms will either be characterized as "Little Miss thing putting on airs" or fail to be understood at all, and if you sink to their level of base stupidity then you're fighting them on their own ground and will lose.

You don't try to fight a hurricane, because you can't win. You accept the fact that a hurricane will do what it will do, and you figure out ways to cope with it.

I find that if I think of bullies as human (even as "jerks"), then I tend to take what they say personally. And such thoughts may trigger a fight instinct. If I fight them, it will escalate the whole battle, which is the OPPOSITE of what I want. (Of course, I might fight them and win -- and win in such an extreme way that they don't engage me for a rematch -- but this is unlikely. I'm a small, gentle sort of person.)

So I dehumanize them. They become like sharks who must bite whatever touches their jaws. In my mind, they can't NOT bully me. When I think of them that way, they become like any other inanimate obstacle in my life. And I can dispassionately find ways to deal with them. As an added bonus, my dispassion makes me feel more powerful than them. They can't touch me where it counts.

There are major drawbacks to this strategy. When I was a kid, I was bullied every day for years and years. I disconnected in the way I mentioned above, and it stopped the bullying. But it took a long time for me to be able to think of these people as people again -- even after they matured and stopped bullying and basically became nice people. I didn't hate them. I didn't think of them as people at all.
posted by grumblebee at 8:26 AM on February 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Oh they're just fucking with you. If it's really bugging you, you've got to stand up for yourself. You don't have to be polite about it, you don't have to hurt them back. Don't leave notes, don't do anything elaborate or passive aggressive.

Just stop near them when you get on and say "hey, do you mind closing that window when you get off? i'm freezing my tits off back there." Okay you don't have to say 'tits' but don't make it an ignorable statement or they'll play the "did you hear something?" game. It's gotta be something that opens up a new situation, something unexpected, something that makes you more human.

Honestly they don't sound like real bullies. Don't just silently take it and defer and defer and let them do their stupid little riffs on you. Stand up for yourself, but be ready to shrug it off and make peace at any time.

And maybe the most important thing to do is act bored with them. Talking over them with "yeah yeah whatever" really loud is sometimes effective. If they don't play along, make it clear that they've lost human status in your eyes, and you're done with them.
posted by fleacircus at 8:27 AM on February 7, 2006

After all of this, I'm tempted just to print out the thread and hand them both a copy. Good idea or bad idea?
posted by cior at 7:38 AM PST on February 7

Jesus, no. This is why you're being bullied: what a weird, passive thing to do. If they only called out to you once after you closing the window - it's not clear based on your post if this happened once or many times since last week - then ignore it. The reason that they said it was because you closed it as soon as they were up and moving towards the front - this is a clear signal that you were pissed at them but too chickenshit - sorry - to ask them to close it. Right or not, they were probably both ashamed and offended.

If they mention it again as they're getting off, simply make eye contact and say "What the fuck do you care? You're off the fucking bus." Do not mumble this or look at your navel or act like someone who once thought that printing out this thread was a good idea. You are Cior the Mighty, Slayer of Dumb Bitches, Scourge of the Impolite, and you don't need this shit.

Bullies are cowards, and if they were truly as hard and bad-ass as they think they are, they wouldn't wait until they were safely off the bus before starting shit with someone.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:28 AM on February 7, 2006

cior: I'm talking about how they're seeing you, not your intentions. Your intentions here don't really matter, since they're obviously not translating.

And, you *do* care that the window's open, otherwise you wouldn't bother to close it. That's where the accusations of passive-aggressive are coming from.
posted by occhiblu at 8:37 AM on February 7, 2006

Best answer: I think you should do nothing and I'll tell you why later... switch to novels (that newspaper isn't going to do anything except make you depressed anyway), wear a hat or pull back your hair, get an iPod. Complete nonresponse will bore most bullies away in the end. Alternatively, get a new job in a different city, change your name, start over with a fresh resolve to be more direct in the future. Or find a carpool.

What seems obvious to me is that they are feeding off your discomfort - there is no doubt that they are perceiving your silent suffering about the window - I can just see you smoothing out that newspaper you're hiding behind and rearranging your hair with increasing impotent frustration. It is the very fact that you are visibly bothered by it yet not confronting them that creates their contempt, and then you go scampering over to close it as soon as their backs are to you, hell, I'm not surprised they pick on you, you sound like such a patsy. And the rest of the bus is laughing at you because they've been cracking out loud about your sorry ass before you get on.

You really did let this go too far and get too weird for their to be a totally graceful solution. Grumblebee's is, I think, the closest. Balls out confrontation might also work, but frankly I don't think you could pull it off. And a tight lipped, stick-up-the-ass, passive-aggressive confrontation would be worse than none. If you could pull it off, simply saying something to the effect of, when you get on the bus, "I'm sorry, but does it bother you that I close the window when you're getting off? You obviously like having it open but I think it's kind of drafty so I like to close it when you get off." Really nice and polite and eager to please, but also sort of, like, puzzled, like, "so curious that someone would take exception to that." This approach does a few things: it highlight the fact that they aren't so brave themselves - cracking wise about you on their way out and (as I said) likely before you get on. By taking it to them face to face you're the more direct, braver person. Second, it showcases the absurdity of their position - what the fuck do they care what you do with the window after they get up? As well as acknowledging that yes, it bothers you, but you leave it because you're magnaminous, not because you're scared of the mean old ladies. And what could they say? No, bitch, you leave that window open after we get off? They might even say, if it bothers you why don't you ask me to close it? If you keep your head and eschew false politeness you could actually win the brass ring at this point by shooting back "oh, really, would you? That would be great thanks." But the main thing is to keep that fake polite face on and stick to getting a straight answer - does it bother them if you close that fucking window after they get off. If it does, they're ridiculous. If it doesn't why get on your case?

Aha, but that is a best case scenario, based on these being basically decent individuals who have just gotten into a bit of an unfortunate social exchange based on mutual misunderstandings. I can see an alternate outcome, involving you getting a high-pitched, spittle-flecked, holier-than-thou lecture about how you sit there with your little newspaper sniffing and looking sideways and fixing your hair, fixing to jump up as soon as they get up, putting on airs, think you're better than anyone, won't say a word to their face. Some people like to make other people uncomfortable. They are probably compensating for their impotence in other parts of their lives, if it makes you feel any better. But the main thing is they are better at it than you are. The chances are very good that these are just pathetic middle-aged bullies, and if you explicitely acknowledge that you are in fact hung up on the whole window thing it will just write them carte blanche to take the teasing to the next level, including confronting you directly over it. Take another look at all the possible solution in this thread, including mine, and think about their potential outcomes based on that premise. That 6:3ish bus not looking so bad now hmm? You could spend an extra 15 minutes in the morning drinking coffee, reading your newspaper.
posted by nanojath at 8:42 AM on February 7, 2006

I think you're making too big of a deal of this. This isn't public humiliation, it's not about reclaiming your power, it's a couple of women who like to squawk. It sounds like you're making this sort of a big drama for yourself, and it would probably be best if you stopped doing that.

That said, the best course of action is to be just as sweet as pie and continue your normal routine until they say something. From there, you've got two good options: 1) Laugh along with them, like you're friends and they're giving you a hard time, or 2) Give them a look like they just shit on the carpet. Choose based on the option that you think you can better carry off. The first option is better, especially if you can believe it yourself. Absolutely refusing to take offense at that kind of thing usually stops it dead, after an extinction burst or two.

Don't do anything that escalates the drama, either for yourself or for them.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 8:42 AM on February 7, 2006

Just ignore them. They'll stop when they see you don't react and really, how many times is that sort of thing going to be amusing to the rest of the bus? I'm guessing not much more than once. If you need comeback lines off the internet, you're not going to be able to deliver them well enough to do anything besides look silly anyway.
posted by undertone at 8:43 AM on February 7, 2006

I'd just look at them quizzically and say, with a shrug, well, I'm cold." I would then grin goodnaturedly for the benefit of the rest of the busriders as if to say "dunno what their problem is."
posted by desuetude at 8:45 AM on February 7, 2006

I think what orthogonality and nowonmai and a few others have said nails it--it's likely there's an underlying class issue here. And as others have said, they're probably really burned out after a long shift at what's probably a crap, low-paying job. There are two of them, and they feel comfortable being mean about the perfectly reasonable thing that you're doing. And what nanojath said: They can tell you're made uncomfortable by them.

You seem like a very polite, caring person, but I think you're being overly sensitive to what (you perceive) other people think of you, and it's keeping you from letting something small like this roll off your back. I doubt that everyone on the bus is laughing at you. I guarantee you that most people don't really care. That's the secret to enduring the stupidity of strangers: Knowing that most people do not care about you and will not give a single thought to you once they step off the bus, etc. So why give them a single thought?

My advice would be a) Continue ignoring them and closing the window when they get up or b) Simply look at them and say, neutrally, "I'm cold." For the love of all that's holy, don't attempt to do the dozens with them, as klangklangston suggests. That really won't end well.
posted by veronica sawyer at 8:49 AM on February 7, 2006


OK, I didn't see whether anyone else has explicitly asked this, so cior, straight up, no business about "racism/classism issues", are these women black? Are you white? What is the racial makeup of the bus (the audience)? And how different are you in age? Because that is going to have a tremendous effect on the best way to approach the situation, simply because when the aggressors are coming from a different cultural background you have to address it in a different way.

I'd have to observe the situation, but if they're black my gut reaction is the women are simply playing with you. Maybe there's some actual "What's she doing?" sentiment behind it, but all you have to do is reply to 'em. You don't even have to do it well. In fact, you can totally suck at it, but provided it's delivered in a joking manner you're going to show you have a spine but no hard feelings, ya hear? Something like "I ain't no thing and this ain't no thing, so you got no reason to mess with me." I dunno. But if they've already stepped up the action you can't go in there and say "Pretty please, ma'am, do close your window." They're going to think you're ridiculous and will lay it on even harder.

Or, like fleacircus said, act bored.

Whatever you do, do not print out the thread. That would be awful, and they'd never read it, and they'd think you were a fucking weirdo. And for the love of God, if they are black and you're white do not make any comments about them being on or off the bus, or moving their seat on the bus, because you're just inviting all kinds of awful comparisons to historic racial bus problems.
posted by Anonymous at 8:56 AM on February 7, 2006

Don't listen to anyone who tells you that you are too sensitive, or what you *should* feel. That's bullshit. What bothers you, bothers you. You are entitled to your feelings, and they are valid.

I've encountered this attitude before, in fact I grew up with it. It's much easier to try to convince the bullied person that *their reaction* is the problem, and not the bullying. This is probably often done because a) the people saying this have a lot thicker skin than you do, just because of how they turned out, and are trying to apply their standards to you (which is bullshit) and b) it is hard to stop bullies - most people will just avoid the problem (which is also bullshit, and why there is so much bullying in the world).

I think the simplest and most low-key way to deal with it is what desuetude suggested. I don't think anything elaborate is going to feel natural to you or easy to pull off, but I know little about you - that's just my guess.
posted by beth at 9:07 AM on February 7, 2006

Speaking as one who bullied and was bullied as a child (Damn you, cycle of bullying!), and is one of those creepy intimidating guys who no one ever sits next to on the bus, your choices are to go along with the joke, ignore 'em, or be a hardass:

"Look at Little Miss Thing, she's closing the window again."
"Hey, Little Miss Thing's little miss ass is about to freeze off, okay?"
[Big smile, laughter ensues. Best option.]
"Look at Little Miss Thing, she's closing the window again."
You say nothing, since you're listening to your brand new MP3 player and can't hear them. While I really doubt that the entire bus laughs at you, I guessing what amuses them is how you react to the womens' comments. If you don't react, you have no problem.
[Good, neutral solution, may not be as personally satisfying as you'd like.]
"Look at Little Miss Thing, she's closing the window again."
"Is this your fucking bus? What the fuck do you care what I do after you get off?"
[Glare, serious as a heartattack. Downside: Instead of Little Miss Thing, you'll be That Bitch, or worse. Also shows vulnerability, unless your delivery is stone-cold.]

You're not Dorothy Parker; no one is at 6:00AM on the bus. And while I'm not saying you're not clever, if these women are getting a rise out of you already, you are not going to win or shut them down with a well-placed dis.
And for the love of God, don't try to engage them on an intellectual level. Their teasing isn't a cry for help, it's a way for them to have fun at the expense of someone whom they wouldn't be able to otherwise.
Everyone is equal on the bus.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:11 AM on February 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

(Of course, I might fight them and win -- and win in such an extreme way that they don't engage me for a rematch -- but this is unlikely. I'm a small, gentle sort of person.)
Yeah, well, bullies tend to be bigger and stronger, and you'll usually get knocked on your ass. The purpose of fighting isn't to win. It's to fight. 'Cause he can knock down any kid on the playground, so why's he going to bother with someone who will hit back every time?
When I was a kid, I was bullied every day for years and years.
That's because your strategy didn't work — or more accurately, it wasn't intended to achieve anything. To use your analogy, you didn't build a house or grab a coat. You stood in the middle of a hurricane and pretended it wasn't windy.

Having said all that: Two things.

1.) The differences between male bullying and female bullying are the differences between kittens and cigarettes. In hindsight, guys like me probably have nothing of value to offer your situation. Sure, I've read about Mean Girls, but I honestly can't imagine what it's like. Seek advice from women.

2.) The fact that you even suggested printing out this thread speaks volumes about your social ineptitude. Don't get offended; people have strengths and weaknesses, and I didn't say you're a bad person. But seriously: Optimus Chyme is right. That's an incredibly weird, passive thing to do. And because you suggested it, I have to say this: Abandon any plan of striking back.

I advocate standing up to bullies. I advocate teaching people to swim in the deep end of the pool. But if you're considering handing a bunch of paper scribblings to a couple strange women, lady, you're not learning to swim; you're learning to breathe. Stay out of the deep end. Stay out of the friggin' pool. I hate saying "You're not ready for this," because life rarely waits until you're ready; but seriously, drop any ideas about confronting these women with witticisms and tirades. You're not ready, and you won't like what happens.
posted by cribcage at 9:16 AM on February 7, 2006

Long-term solution: be good with your money so sometime in the future you'll have some alternative ways to get to work if you want. Public transportation shouldn't mean you have to get up early just to be hassled by some fat wenches.
posted by shoos at 9:17 AM on February 7, 2006

I just want to say - and a few people have alluded to this - that I find it incredibly odd you ride on a public bus with "assigned seating"! Never have I encountered this before. Do new people ever ride the bus? Where do they sit?

If this is a problem that ONLY YOU are having (arctic cold wind in your face), then sit another seat! How hard is that? Or ride another bus. It seems clear that you don't want to confront these women, which is fine. So just sit in another seat. Or sit behind the driver until they leave, then go back, shut the window, and sit in your old seat. Or, best case scenario, just ride the bus at a different time. I think you'll be much happier to not have to worry about them.

A lot of people are giving you advice on how to behave, which is pretty ridiculous because we don't know your personality or all of the details and history of your bus-riding experience. The fact is, if you weren't riding on a bus from The Twilight Zone, you wouldn't have these problems, because on a normal bus, you would sit in another seat. I see that you live in Louisville. Surely there has to be another bus that comes through your area. Or the same route at a different time.
posted by billysumday at 9:21 AM on February 7, 2006

"Don't listen to anyone who tells you that you are too sensitive, or what you *should* feel. That's bullshit. What bothers you, bothers you. You are entitled to your feelings, and they are valid."

I'm sorry, but that sounds like advice from someone who doesn't have to ride busses. The proper advice is not that your delicate desert bloom is perfectly valid, the proper advice IS to grow a thicker skin. Jesus. If you go on believing that your feelings are sacrosanct, you're going to keep feeling like shit. Instead, time for some stoicism. You might not be able to control your feelings, but you can control your reaction, and you have to either hit it or quit it here. Give it up or turn it loose, if I may be allowed another funk cliche.
posted by klangklangston at 9:27 AM on February 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

"The fact that you even suggested printing out this thread speaks volumes about your social ineptitude."

I thought she was joking about that. I hope so. Though, if not, the MOST WEENIE THING EVER would be to say "I discussed this on the internet, and here's what my computer friends think." Christ, everyone on the bus would line up to take turns giving you wedgies.
posted by klangklangston at 9:30 AM on February 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

> What else can I do? What witticism can I lob in their direction? What should I do when my witticism provokes a tirade in response?

Not only can you not win this game, it's not even worth winning. Holding on to your compassion and humanity in the face of rudeness - that's worth having. What if you loved these people? What would you do then?
posted by teleskiving at 9:34 AM on February 7, 2006

What if you loved these people? What would you do then?

But she doesn't love them. She rides the bus with them. This question may be a great indicator of how other people would handle this situation, but Occam's Razor suggests cior just find another seat.
posted by billysumday at 9:38 AM on February 7, 2006

klang: There was a guy on an AOL message board who did something like that, once. He was a PhD teaching grad students, and he didn't like the way he was being treated by the forum members; so he printed out a bunch of sarcastic posts and brought them into class for his students, to illustrate how cruel people could be on the internet. Then he announced what he'd done to everyone online, as if they were supposed to feel ashamed.

As you can imagine, he was always treated with utmost respect thereafter. :-/
posted by cribcage at 9:40 AM on February 7, 2006

Essentially it boils down to a fight about social status. You must not let yourself be intimidated by their dominant behavior. Bullies can smell fear and humiliation like dogs and get a kick out if it.

Don't close the window when they exit the bus, this is passive-aggressive and submissive behavior. Instead, confront them about the open window the minute you enter the bus. Just talk to them about the problem and try to reach a solution. Be calm, friendly yet assertive, act as their peer. Try to keep the conversation going, even when they reply with insults or irrational statements. Don't get angry or passive; focus on the arguments.

Remember that you occupy the strong position in this argument: it's not acceptable for them to take an action that has minimal positive effects for them while it has substantial negative consequences for you. Most people in the bus while share this viewpoint. Hopefully the bullies will realize after a while they are making fools of themselves. If not, just ignore them and do move to a seat that's more comfortable to you.
posted by koenie at 9:43 AM on February 7, 2006

Response by poster: Riding another bus isn't an option, as it either puts me at work before the building opens up or after my morning meetings. Another route isn't really possible either, as my destination is a somewhat obscure office park out in the middle of nowhere. I do wear earphones, and in fact, missed out on several days worth of teasing because I wasn't entirely sure they were talking about me.

I wasn't entirely serious about giving them a print-out. Though, it was fun to think about. Being able to say, loudly, "I discussed this on the internet and here's what my internet friends think!" would make my day.

I do plan to grow thicker skin and I do plan to respond differently to any future heckling. Haven't figured out exactly how yet, but I'm leaning towards the direct-but-snarkily-polite tack.
posted by cior at 9:49 AM on February 7, 2006

That's because your strategy didn't work...

Wrong. It worked really well. Too well. I WAS bullied for years and years BEFORE I started looking at bullies as forces of natures (as mindless animals). Once I rethought them this way, the bullying stopped almost instantly.

It stopped, because when I saw them as people, I got really upset by the bullying. And since they saw I was upset -- and their goal was to make me upset -- they bullied me more. Once I stopped getting upset (it doesn't upset me that winter is cold -- I just bundle up), they stopped bullying me.

As I said, my approach DID have problems. I started thinking of bullies as machines when I was about 12. It wasn't until I was about 16 that I could think of them as people again (even the ones that grew out of bullying two years earlier). If you think of ANY people as inanimate, it can hurt your own ability to socialize. And I was pretty anti-social between 12 and 16. I saw myself (and my friends) as living in a world of zombies.

As an adult, I am able to use this detachment as a strategy without totally sinking into it.

The purpose of fighting isn't to win. It's to fight.

I'm sure this does work for some people. But it won't work for all people, and it certainly wouldn't work for me. First of all, I HATE fighting. Fighting -- just for the sake of fighting -- give me no pleasure. In fact, even if I fight a just fight, I feel dirty afterwards -- just because I hate fighting so much (and I'm not just talking about physical fighting). Some people just have -- for lack of a better term -- "gentle" natures.

Now, I know you didn't mean "fighting for the sake of fighting." Your point was that if bullies see you fighting at all, they will naturally figure you're more trouble that you're worth and turn to someone who doesn't fight at all.

Again, I'm sure this does work -- sometimes. But not all the time with all people. I'm a little intellectual guy with glasses. Me fighting = funny. I never did fight, but I had some friends who did -- friends who were little and nerdy, like me. It DIDN'T stop them from being bullied. In fact, they got bullied more, because the bullies were entertained by the nerdy fighting. Some of these nerds kept fighting anyway -- but that was because they enjoyed fighting (they were little scrappy fellows). Maybe they felt like fighting -- even if they lost -- preserved their dignity. But I don't care about my dignity. I just want to be left alone.
posted by grumblebee at 10:02 AM on February 7, 2006

Riding another bus isn't an option, as it either puts me at work before the building opens up

How is this not still an option? You will not be able to modify their behaviour (and should not try) and you don't appear to want to adapt to the situation or modify your own behaviour (and must try).

Sitting in front of the building for a few minutes a day until it's open sounds to me like a small price to pay. And unless you work in a building in the middle of a vast, featureless plain, surely there is something you could do or someplace you could go before work. Use it as an opportunity for exercise; catch the earlier bus and then get off the bus a few stops before work and walk, with the intent to arrive at the time you normally would.
posted by solid-one-love at 10:02 AM on February 7, 2006

If an open bus window is letting in air too cold to deal with, I'm guessing that hanging out surrounded entirely by the same cold air is not much of an option, and would in fact be worse than her current situation.
posted by occhiblu at 10:07 AM on February 7, 2006

You don't have nearly as many years of practice, so you are unlikely to "win" at playing their game. Participating in their game will only add fuel. Play your game. Next time, say directly to whoever is giving you a hard time "I don't know why it bothers you that I close the window." Maybe they think you're shutting it in a huff. Maybe they think it's personal.

Lots of people are bored senseless, and very tiny events give them conversation fodder for days. For many people this sort of jeering is their normal method of communication. That's why some people on the bus are laughing. The others are probably laughing out of nervousness.

Your question and comments suggest to me that you have or will have more situations like this. Take a self-defense course, not so you can beat them up, but to develop your physical confidence, which will help you project more emotional confidence. Good luck & please update.
posted by theora55 at 10:10 AM on February 7, 2006

I think grumblebee and Optimus Chyme have it right. And to others who say this isn't bullying - it is. Not physical, but social/emotional bullying. It sucks.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 10:12 AM on February 7, 2006

Typical advice to bullied women & girls is "ignore it". This doesn't work. You need to stand your ground. I like the suggestion from Alvy Ampersand to tell them that "Little Miss Thang's ass is about to freeze off" and smile.
posted by raedyn at 10:13 AM on February 7, 2006

Not only does "ignoring it" fail to stop the treatment that's bothering you, but it also succeeds in making you feel like shit. Not good.
posted by raedyn at 10:14 AM on February 7, 2006

Well, whatever you choose to do, good luck. No one should have to be bullied.
posted by billysumday at 10:14 AM on February 7, 2006

(1) I do wear earphones .... (2) I'm leaning towards the direct-but-snarkily-polite tack.

If I were in your shoes, I would want two things: (1) to hide behind earphones or some other igore-them-and-they'll-go-away strategy and (2) a snarky comeback.

Trouble is you CAN'T do both. They contradict each other. So which do you want more? As I've stated previously, I'm happy if I can make bullies leave me alone by ignoring them (or confronting them in a genuinely polite way). On the other hand, my wife is happiest if she gives as good as she gets -- even if this leads to an all out war. She can't understand why I just ignore it; I can't understand why she behaves in ways that escalate the problem. But the point is, we're both pretty pure in our ways of dealing with it. And I can't see how a mixture works.

Think of the times people get snarky online. IF everyone would totally ignore the snarker -- and I mean TOTALLY ignore him -- he would get bored and go away. But there's always at least one person who flames back, and this is generally all it takes to start a war. And -- this has taken me YEARS to understand -- some people ENJOY these wars. Fine. Just decide whether or not you're one of these people.
posted by grumblebee at 10:14 AM on February 7, 2006

billysumday writes "I just want to say - and a few people have alluded to this - that I find it incredibly odd you ride on a public bus with 'assigned seating'! Never have I encountered this before. Do new people ever ride the bus? Where do they sit?"

The seating isn't "assigned", everyone just sits in the same spot every morning. This is very common behaviour where a bus doesn't start at a transfer point because the same 1-2 people get on at the same stop and make the same decision on where to sit.

It can be a bit uncomfortable to be getting on the bus once it is a full to the point where you have a choice between sitting alone in the seat behind the heavy smoker (window openner in this case); sitting next to the biker; or sitting next to some full of herself wannabe who thinks you sitting next to her is equivelent to you hitting on her. Or I suppose the always popular standing for 45 minutes. My bus kind of loops around my house giving me a choice of 3 equidistant stops to board. Because of a similiar situation to cior's I leave my house four minutes early to catch the first stop just so I can pick a seat that doesn't have me interacting with losers.
posted by Mitheral at 10:20 AM on February 7, 2006

Just laugh. Laugh at what they say. None of the quoted remarks sound in any way threatening; they sound like the kind of things that hurt when we're six, yeah, but as grownups, you can just smile at them and laugh. They took it personally when you shut the window; they got embarrassed and are coping in what is a really dumb way, so just laugh and break the tension for everyone.
posted by JanetLand at 10:25 AM on February 7, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks Mitheral, you saw my point.

Sitting in front of the building for a few minutes a day until it's open sounds to me like a small price to pay.

Actually, it's more like a full hour in 20F weather.. sometimes rainy.

And unless you work in a building in the middle of a vast, featureless plain,

Oh, but I do!
posted by cior at 10:28 AM on February 7, 2006

"Yes, well, the rest of us don't have a thick layer of blubber to keep warm."

Do not say this.
posted by crabintheocean at 10:28 AM on February 7, 2006

I advocate standing up to bullies. I advocate teaching people to swim in the deep end of the pool. But if you're considering handing a bunch of paper scribblings to a couple strange women, lady, you're not learning to swim; you're learning to breathe. Stay out of the deep end. Stay out of the friggin' pool. I hate saying "You're not ready for this," because life rarely waits until you're ready; but seriously, drop any ideas about confronting these women with witticisms and tirades. You're not ready, and you won't like what happens.

Best. Advice. Ever.

Sit somewhere else. Screw the assigned seating.
posted by frogan at 10:33 AM on February 7, 2006

I guess the next three unmentioned options, then, are to buy a cheap used car, find a new job, or move. My gut feeling is that your current bus experience is not going to change.
posted by solid-one-love at 10:36 AM on February 7, 2006

grumblebee's got the best advice. Remember the different speaking levels, Child and Adult. You can speak to them in four ways: As an adult to an adult, adult to a child, child to a child, or a child to an adult.

Your two most effective ways of speaking to these people will be as an adult (ovbiously). If you want them to continue being children, speaking down to them as if they are children will do it ("That's not very nice. Please stop." type of reaction). If you want to force them to act as adults, then you need to treat them as the most adult adults you know of. Pretend you are speaking with the boss of another department at work and want him to do something. Talk over top of their childish actions, talking louder as they act more childish. Apologize, like grumblee said. But, if you want to be effective, you need to combine in a little guilt and fear in it as well... "I'd really appreciate your co-operation with this, as my doctor has explained that my flu is presently extremely virulent, and cold air not only makes me sicker, but spreads the disease much faster".
posted by shepd at 10:36 AM on February 7, 2006

I disagree that bullies are a force of nature, it isn't unstoppable since the behaviour is predicated on the passiveness of the victim and those around them to do what they do, just need to find a weak spot so you cripple their efforts just enough to get them to stop. I would do what fleacircus suggests since my guess is that they have misinterpreted your reasons for closing the window when you do.

Last week, as they did the little dinger thing that signals for a stop (bonus question: what is that thing?)

A buzzer?

(klangklangston's answer made me laugh)
posted by squeak at 10:37 AM on February 7, 2006

They sit across from each other rather than beside each other, and talk loudly, and open the window in the winter, specifically to annoy people like you, because this is the only opportunity they have to deny the economic and political powerlessness in which they know they are trapped. The lower classes - might be white, might be black, but certainly poor and poorly educated - use the protection of the law to claim some little power in the public spaces. You might read Ralph Wiley's book Why Black People Tend To Shout for some insight into this.

It's not a question of "reclaiming your power" - their power is to bully you on the bus, and your power is your ability someday to deny a job or a promotion to someone who reminds you of the mean bus ladies. But if you just want to "shut them down", you can explain this to them: that you'll let them be the queens of the bus but they and their daughters - and their daughters too - will have to wipe old men's asses for a marginal living. And that they'll still be the queens of the bus while you're driving to work in a series of new cars, and queens of the bus when you've retired on your earnings. Do this cheerfully and politely, and you will be "Little Miss Thing" indeed.

Or, just go stand by the driver when they open the window, and when he asks why, say "some people in the back have opened the windows and it's freezing back there". Do this every day. He'll deal with them, but you'll still be known as a coward and a whiner.
posted by nicwolff at 10:40 AM on February 7, 2006

The key to shutting down the bullying is a hilarious retort. It shouldn't be insulting - it could even be self-deprecating. It just has to be funny. If it's funny enough to get the bus laughing (at the joke, not at the women), you've won. A single one-liner probably won't do it either. They have to believe that you can out-witticism them every time. (Maybe "out-do" is the wrong way to think about it. You are using humor to make people happy and diffuse the tension.)

Winning doesn't mean that the window will stay closed, just that their dissing you will stop, and you'll be able to close the window with impunity after they leave their seats.

Unfortunately, this may be much easier said than done. It takes a lifetime of practice in the right culture to be quick with the tongue. If you're the wrong type of person and/or from a subdued culture, this may be tough to pull off. I'd suggest talking to the funniest person you know about this.
posted by mediaddict at 10:41 AM on February 7, 2006

I'm having trouble visualizing this. They sit across the aisle from each other, but one of them sits across the aisle from you? Can you sit next to the woman with the open window? That would make you not cold, and would probably somewhat address the issue that I think is going on, namely that these women are mocking you for being afraid of them.

Seriously, you've frozen your ass off for how long and haven't said boo to these women? You're going to have a hard time getting your power back, considering you've been handing it to them on a platter this whole time.

The easiest thing would be to sit elsewhere. What's the worst that could happen? Just say, "I get too cold from the open window. You don't mind if I sit here, do you?" Considering the weird dynamic of the bus, you'll probably be considered a dangerous rebel for a while (which will help with the wimp image you're getting mocked for) then they'll get used to the new seating arrangement and forget all about it.
posted by stefanie at 10:45 AM on February 7, 2006

Why does this have to be a game? All the responses seem to continue a tit-for-tat theme or just passive-agressiveness. Try being an adult.

"Pardon me ma'am, I know you might not realize it, but the wind from your window being open hits me directly and it's cold out there. Could you close your window or maybe we can switch seats?"

Who the hell is going to say no to that? They'll be taken off guard by your polite bluntness and you'll probably be able to work out an acceptable solution. If they say no, another bus rider should come to your defense, unless this bus is full of nothing but spineless people.
posted by Mijo Bijo at 10:48 AM on February 7, 2006

The only link I could come up with quickly relates to standup comedy and hecklers: "The thing is the retort really does need to relate to the heckle for it to really work. The key is to ignore it if you can, otherwise you must keep the rest of the audience on your side so while a "put down" often works, don't be too abusive or you'll lose the sympathy of the rest of the audience.
Personally I think retorts come with experience, so if you can't ignore them just say whatever comes into your head and try to move on asap!
posted by mediaddict at 10:49 AM on February 7, 2006

DO NOT DO the "Queens of the Bus" thing; they'll listen to you for about 5 seconds and then ask why you think your shit don't stink since you're riding the bus too. Saying "Oh yeah, well ten years from now, you'll still be trash and I'll have a corner office," is a moot point, and would make you look like a snobby, humorless bitch. You are riding the bus now, and will have to deal with the consequences of your response for a while to come. Right now, you are just a source of amusement because you mouse up when someone takes a small poke at you. They aren't picking on you because they hate or fear you, they're picking on you because you're an easy mark.

I missed fleacircus' comment before I made mine, but he nailed it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:54 AM on February 7, 2006

Sorry, "he nailed it" should be "the first three paragraphs nailed it".
(I think the "Yeah, whatever," would only add to the Miss Thing mould they're trying to fit you in.)

posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:10 AM on February 7, 2006

Is sitting in the back and making friends with the "scary guys" an option?

Are they younger 'hoods acting tough, smelly, or developmentally disabled? If not, odds are that they're just normal people and in no way actually scary other than their physical appearance.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 11:10 AM on February 7, 2006

A veteran of hour long bus trips in the arctic north I say go with the simple solution, namely tell them why you close the window: That it gets colder in the back and draughty too, and you are a tender (feel free to choose another adjective) person that you don't want to freeze to death on you way to work. Thankyouwverymuch, have a good day. Worked for me. Alternatively, change seats. Give a good damn in seating arrangements, people need excitements in their lives.
posted by mummimamma at 11:12 AM on February 7, 2006

Not only can you not win this game, it's not even worth winning. Holding on to your compassion and humanity in the face of rudeness - that's worth having.

Amen, a million times.
posted by scody at 11:25 AM on February 7, 2006

Tell them that ever since you started the new round of antiretrovirals (or substitute some other treatment that implies a serious life threatening disease), you've gotten really sensitive to cold.

Watch them and the rest of the bus shrivel in shame.
posted by jasper411 at 11:33 AM on February 7, 2006

To get your brain into the right mode, read these the night before: Viva La Repartee, Giant Book of Insults, Classic Insults. Just remember, the goal is laughter.
posted by mediaddict at 11:39 AM on February 7, 2006

bake them some cookies and try to win them over with love. be genuine and honest and diplomatic. speak for everyone on the bus. they are going to respond to you how you act around them so being a jerk is going to beget more jerkiness. it doesnt sound like you really care for these people but you could try and make friends. also try and get some other riders on your side after the ladies have left and talk to the driver. ive seen bus drivers who will bitch about opening the windows if its cold outside because the heat is on. if it doesn't work out you can always spit in the cookies beforehand and spike their drinks. from the sounds of it though your best bet might be to get a scarf and wrap it around your head and wear a parka and pretend to sleep with your headphones on full blast. wear sunglasses and learn to read lips and if they say anything defaming you sue them for all they are worth. lastly the weather is only going to be crappy for another month anyhow might as well put up with it.
posted by psychobum at 11:42 AM on February 7, 2006

"Pardon me ma'am, I know you might not realize it, but the wind from your window being open hits me directly and it's cold out there. Could you close your window or maybe we can switch seats?"

This is excellent. Nonconfrontational and a clear, polite request. I'd be amazed if they said no to this, but if they did, it would provide a good opportunity to ask them if they realize how cold they're making the rest of the passengers. Don't make it just about you; include the whole busload. I mean seriously, how rude are these women?

Beyond this, I wouldn't give a hoot what someone exiting the bus thinks. They're leaving. The territory is now yours to make comfortable to suit your needs. If they continue to make comments, look directly at them and say, "Excuse me?" as though you didn't hear. Say it loud and clear so they're sure to hear you. I've learned that someone may make a rude comment once, but when asked to repeat it in this way, they become a fumbling, babbling mess and don't know quite what to say.

My other suggestion is to simply choose a new seat to become "yours". What's someone going to say if they find you sitting where they usually do? If they do have the nerve to actually ask you to move, simply explain that you've decided the other seat (NOT "your old seat") was uncomfortable and I'm sitting here today. Or, you could be a real rebal and sit in a different seat every day!

Whatever you do, do not bow down to these childish women. Stand your ground and do what/go where you're comfortable.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 12:08 PM on February 7, 2006

Introduce yourself, and talk to them, which is what you should have done in the first place. Regardless of your intentions, getting up to close the window the moment they move out of their seats does look passive-aggressive. So they probably escalated it because they thought you had been sitting back there fuming, but were too scared/stuck-up to speak to them woman to woman and ask them to close it.

So the next time you get on the bus, try this: Smile at them and say, "Hey, I just wanted to introduce myself to y'all. My name's cior. When the window's open it ends up blowing right in my face. I know the heat in here makes it hotter than the beach in summer time, so I don't mind if y'all have it open while you're riding, but I'm going to slide it closed when you get off."

If they keep mocking you after that, then feel free to just put on your headphones and ignore them or roll your eyes, but do try dealing with them adult to adult first.
posted by MsMolly at 12:15 PM on February 7, 2006

If their idea of a witticism is "look at little miss thing", then you're not going to get anywhere by eliciting bon mots from Metafilter. Their response is always just going to be some canned cliche that gets all of its sting from the way it is said to you. What I mean is, if they're like some people I know, their power is in their confrontational attitude, the tone of their voice, and the fact that there are two of them and one of you. You can't outwit them, because they're not concerned with wit.

I'd just give them a casual "fuck you," and then ignore them, personally. A good pair of monitor headphones help the ignoring process along nicely. This is how I generally deal with people who need confrontation in order to sustain their self-esteem: starve them.

You use the word "bully", but I think that what they're doing is just being assholes. "Bully" is a transitive verb, i.e. it's only bullying if someone is on the other end. If someone tries to bully you and you don't allow yourself to be bullied, they're just acting like fools. You know, there's actually not much they can do to you if you don't let them, and in this case you don't have to fight back in order to win.

What you're describing is a situation I used to find myself in until I changed my attitude about it. It doesn't happen to me anymore, for some reason. Maybe people are still trying to bully me and I'm just not noticing it? At any rate, good luck.
posted by Hildago at 12:40 PM on February 7, 2006

Get mp3 player. Don't respond to them. Just shut the window as they leave. This is much preferable than being beat down by a mad black woman. Sho nuff.
posted by pieoverdone at 12:41 PM on February 7, 2006

Answering their direct questions with some simple, neutral variation on, "It's cold, this seat is empty," is the best answer. Any "witty commentary" that is not a direct question should be ignored.

It's honest, and no one but a psychotic could take it as a challenge. If it gets a rise out of them, they'll come across to the other passengers as belligerent, not amusing.

Avoid using words that imply control of the public space. It's not "their window" or "their seat", it's "the window, the seat". Don't say "You" are cold, say "it, (the bus, the wind)" is.

Don't ask permission (never, "Is that all right?"). Just state the facts.

Finally: Lighten up a bit. What the heck do you care what anyone on the bus thinks? Do you imagine anyone is thinking anything at all about what happened even 30 seconds later? They are not. Holding on to that angst is just you bullying yourself, worse than they've done.
posted by Crosius at 12:48 PM on February 7, 2006

I agree that one way or another you should try your best to take the high road. You'll feel better about it in the long run.
posted by lampoil at 12:55 PM on February 7, 2006

Most of this thread makes absolutely no sense to me. I'm not exactly known for my assertiveness, but in that situation I imagine even I would stand up for myself. This is not a a game to win or lose, it's about your self-respect. How can you live with yourself backing down when you're so obviously in the right?

I agree mostly with Mijo Bijo. Just be straight with them! Not agressive, not witty, not sarcastic, just civil, because you are all adults, and you are right. Explain to them, as civilly as you can:

"You see, when the window is open, it is very cold. I try to be considerate to you when you are on the bus, as I understand that you may want the window to be open for fresh air or because you feel hot. But when you get off I see no reason then not to close the window. I don't see why you have a problem with this."

Anymore from them and continue with
"Do you like to see other people cold and uncomfortable? Is that what you do with your life, enjoying other people's discomfort?"
This has nothing to do with race and class. Don't be so patronising. They are human beings, just like you. Human beings who are being stupid and casually cruel to you, possibly without realising just how much, but human beings all the same. Appeal to their reason. Stand-up for yourself.

And then if they don't respond to reason, close the fucking window whenever you feel like it. If they don't appreciate courtesy, they don't deserve it. They are not going to physically fight you for a window, and unless everybody else on the bus is stupid they will be on your side.

Really, do it for your self-respect. What kind of a life is it to have to start every morning with something like this?
posted by questionmark at 1:03 PM on February 7, 2006

Do what you're good at, don't try to out bully them, go after them with some aggressive passive-aggressiveness. Get a 64 oz. big gulp instead of a coffee and trip as you go by their seat, flinging it on their lap. It's perfect turnabout, they did something rude, but made you look silly for it, this time you will do something rude and they will look silly walking down the street looking incontinent. When they attack you curl in a ball and maintain your innocence; someone will pull them off you eventually.
posted by 445supermag at 1:10 PM on February 7, 2006

So many answers here, and you still haven't cleared up the key issue. Too many people are responding like this is a bullying situation, because that's how you framed it, when it seems clear it is a class/race interaction. I guess in your passive/aggressive manner, you think it's best to ignore the questions of class/race since confronting that issue head on would make you seem like you were somehow elitist. But as others have already pointed out, this doesn't sound like a school yard bullying struggle, it sounds like a class power struggle, and the two should be handled very differently.

So come clean. What is the real issue here? There's no way they actually care about you closing the window. It sounds like you are an outsider on this bus, which they see as their turf, and they are taking the opportunity to make that clear to you. They are probably right. You aren't going to "win" by being confrontational.
posted by team lowkey at 1:48 PM on February 7, 2006

Response by poster: Come clean? whoa team lowkey.
posted by cior at 2:00 PM on February 7, 2006

I really like the "I have cancer" approach. CLASSY!!!
posted by sluggo at 2:00 PM on February 7, 2006

it seems clear it is a class/race interaction - team lowkey

How is that clear? Several posters guessed this, but it's just a guess. Cior hasn't told us if any of these assumptions are correct or not.
posted by raedyn at 2:02 PM on February 7, 2006

You must channel your inner Corrections Officer and yell this loud enough to make everyone on the bus turn around and stare at you:


Why are you coming at me with all this attitude?

I didn't come at you with any attitude.

Let a bitch close the GODdamn window."

Close the window and sit down. I learned this conflict-resolution approach from a CO.
posted by Marnie at 2:03 PM on February 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

You, I think, have two options here:

1) Ignore them. And I mean really ignore: don't hide from them, don't worry about them. Don't give a shit one way or another about their presence. This works because it bores them and also because if you're really ignoring them then whatever they're doing won't bother you (because you won't notice it).

2) Something like: "Ma'am, I was wondering if you'd mind closing your window, at least a little. Where I'm sitting it blows very strongly and, you know, it's pretty cold outside now." Do not beg; make a polite (really polite; don't be a snarky bitch about it either) request, and do it firmly, and, if you can manage it, warmly. (A "man, it sucks being out there in the cold" camaraderie feeling is what you're going for. Humanize yourself.)

It sounds like you're one of those women who spends her entire time on the bus trying to pretend she isn't on a bus, isn't in public, is in a nice little world of headphones and newspaper. If that's the case (and pardon my assumption if it's not), then in public you're always going to lose to people who actively make public areas their territory.

p.s. The back of the bus is where the cool kids sit. Don't you remember high school?
posted by fidelity at 2:04 PM on February 7, 2006

it seems clear it is a class/race interaction - team lowkey

How is that clear? Several posters guessed this, but it's just a guess. Cior hasn't told us if any of these assumptions are correct or not.
- raedyn

Yeah, Cior hasn't told us if the assumptions are correct. Which is why I asked again.

It's clear that it's a class issue because it is ridiculous to think they have really have any problem with the window being closed after they leave the bus. The responses of "Who does she think she is?" and "Little Miss Thing" are status attacks, not personal attacks. They don't have a problem with her, they have a problem with what she represents to them.
posted by team lowkey at 2:11 PM on February 7, 2006

[my spitballs suggestion (which was no snark but seriously what I would do) gets deleted but a3matrix's suggestion regarding tasers and literally throwing them off the bus stays?...] What i was going for in my previously deleted comment was to shake things up, come at them with something that they would never in a million years expect, because as many folks have already pointed out, if you play their game you will lose. People such as these ladies don't start games they don't feel confident enough to win. Much like the suggestion of picking a different seat will cause confusion and disorient them into seeing that you don't have to play by their rules, something outlandish as walking onto the bus in the morning and handing them each a cup full of ice cubes and a hand fan and simply saying "please use this to cool yourselves instead of opening the window as the wind is quite cold," would likely stupefy them into leaving you alone.
posted by iurodivii at 2:22 PM on February 7, 2006

"I'd really appreciate your co-operation with this, as my doctor has explained that my flu is presently extremely virulent, and cold air not only makes me sicker, but spreads the disease much faster".

This is going to stop them from calling her "Little Miss Thing"? Yeah, they'll change it to "Little Miss Priss." If it were a bus full of Ivy League students, I still think this comment would be a bad idea -- not only does it make you look like a whiny hypochondriac wimp, but I mean, "extremely virulent"? They're going to think you're a whiny hypochondriac wimp who's talking down to them.

Coming at them from a new and surprising angle is not going to make them stop. They'll just think you're a freak, and will get you for that, too. If there were one of them, and if you'd done it right away, it might have worked. Maybe. But there's two of them. So if you do something weird, they'll turn and give each other an is-she-from-this-planet? look, and then they'll appeal to the rest of the bus, who will keep siding with them.

If you have the nerve, this is what I'd recommend. They're at the top of the aisle getting off, you cross to close the window, and they say whatever they say. Then you say "You're leaving. Who cares?" -- not with an in-your-face attitude, but as a simple statement of fact. There is a specific appropriate face to match -- a puzzled, slightly amused one that signifies that you can't possibly imagine something so trivial is worth of their (or anyone's) notice. I don't know if this will work now -- it depends on exactly how you've seemed so far. This almost certainly would've worked if you'd done it as soon as they'd started.

Anyway, if you think you can pull it off, do that once. After that, do the same face every day, possibly with a bit more amusement but without the accompanying line, and start holding it later to appeal to the bus with it a bit more. This should be gradual.

A safer course would be -- as everyone else has suggested -- to ignore them, the window, and the rest of the bus completely. Headphones can be used or not.
posted by booksandlibretti at 2:42 PM on February 7, 2006

This thread is blowing my mind. Why even ask them? Go sit in another seat where it's not cold, make it someone else's problem. Preferably, the someone else is either the driver, or someone a hell of a lot more determined than you are.

Or, if for some "you-are-a-crazy-person" reason you can't just sit in another goddamn seat where it's not cold, then just go over and close the window when you get on the bus. As you say it's fucking cold outside, it's 20 degrees and in the middle of winter. Why are you even waiting till they get off before you fix the problem: namely, that it's fucking cold on the bus because the damn window's open? That's why they think you're an easy target: you don't say anything even though you're obviously cold! Why the hell not?!

All these passive-aggressive suggestions and namby-pamby new age conflict resolution bullshit is simply not going to work. If you don't have the damn fortitude to go close the window when it's cold, you probably also don't have the damned sense to come in out of the rain, and it's a miracle you've made it to adulthood. Either grow a pair, or sit in silence and suffer. It's cold, the window's open, solve the problem- move to where it doesn't bother you, or just close the window. Don't engage them, just close the window and sit back down.

I've done this on the bus myself, close a window that's bothering me and don't say anything. Most times, people are so shocked you simply did what you wanted, they don't re-open it. Now, these hosebeasts, they'll probably re-open it, so just keep re-closing it, or sit in the seat next to them so that you don't even have to get up to close the window (you did say they sit across the aisle from you). Other options include finding out who your allies are on the bus- you can't be the only person who is bothered by the open window, so figure out who else is, and go close the window as a group- take turns shutting it each time they re-open it. Strength in numbers. I also haven't heard if you've ever just asked the driver for help- s/he probably won't give a shit, since most drivers are bastards, but it's worth a shot to at least rule out the possibility.

You could go all "crazy" and do things like open every last window on the bus when you get on, and make it everyone's problem, or just open the window that will make them freeze their asses off. But you probably don't have it in you, and it's too late to go all Gary Busey on their asses... so really, you probably should just focus on solving the problem.

The problem is the window is open in February, and blowing right on you. The problem is not these two women. Solve the problem by either moving or closing the window. Everything else is a waste of time, including any form of dealing with the problem only after they get off the bus- which is precisely what you've been doing.
posted by hincandenza at 2:49 PM on February 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Come clean? whoa team lowkey.
posted by cior at 2:00 PM PST

I'm gonna guess that means you'd rather not reveal any more details. Fair enough. As long as you can make the distinction and weigh your options accordingly.

If you have the appearance of being of a higher status than the rest of the bus (as simple as you wear a suit to work and they don't), any kind of confrontation, no matter how well you "play", will only result in being further ostracized. You're not going to win over the crowd by taking down one of their own.

Your best bet is to either ignore it and accept being an outsider, or find a way to show that you shouldn't be considered an outsider. But that would mean talking to people and making friends, and it seems like you'd rather just be left alone. The best you can do if they say anything again is just to respond with something like "Hey, I gotta ride this bus everyday, just like you, and I'd rather do it with the window closed". Definitely nothing with even a hint of snark. Just let them know you're neither intimidated nor do you think you're better than they are. They'll either ease off, or they won't. It's not under your control.

If you do appear to be the same status, then, yes, you're letting them knock you down a peg in front of your peers, and you should have attacked back in the first place if you wanted to win. But don't worry too much about reclaiming your power on the bus to work. Let them be catty. It only hurts if you let it.
posted by team lowkey at 3:06 PM on February 7, 2006

When they get off the bus, close the window, smile and wave... Keep your headphones on so you can remain blessedly ignorant. Show them that you know their comments are about you, but you could totally care less. No need to talk to them or change your behavior.

If you really must say something, the "little Miss Thang is freezing her little Miss Ass off" is the best. It's not a put down, it's slightly self deprecating, and it's funny.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:15 PM on February 7, 2006

Wow! If that is the only seat available, why don't you simply STAND....right in between them or right in front of them. This will obviously cause everyone to be incredulous or in hysterics. You're probably going to get comment a like 'What the hell are you doing?' from one of the women. This is your perfect segue into explaining the situation, and requesting that they close the window. Your explanation should have a little bit of humor in it with a bit of a wise-crack, like 'Your freezin my ass off every morning with this open window sh*t. My dad is 1/8th Cherokee, but as far as I know, I ain't no Eskimo." If that doesn't do it, pay the scary guy in the back to make sure its closed next time.
posted by jasondigitized at 4:07 PM on February 7, 2006

By now, I really need to know who's black and who's white in this scenario -- apart from anything else, because it's been asked many times and for some reason cior won't tell us.

My take on the problem: it's divided into two parts.

1) There are people who like to open the window.

2) You're scared of them.

The problem with the window can be solved in a number of ways, one of which is asking them politely. But the real problem is the fear.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:18 PM on February 7, 2006

Response by poster: I'm not scared of them as much as I'm scared of confrontation, in general. I don't like that it's being lobbed my way because I like the window closed after it no longer benefits the one who opened it.

At 130+ comments strong, I don't need to make this thread about race and class. I consider that topic to be an un-fun quagmire filled with, perhaps, more confrontation?

I wasn't looking for a debate. I was looking for a pep talk -- some ideas about responses and hints about conflict resolution. I see that retorts and peace don't go hand in hand, but I liked the idea of weighing my options. Damn, I wish there were more fans behind the print-out idea. If this scene were staged in SF, I might try it. Hell, I might recruit other MeFites to ride with me for the sheer joy of witnessing these ladies in action.

Thanks everyone for all of the ideas and insights.
posted by cior at 6:06 PM on February 7, 2006

They're just messing with you, like someone else said. If it were me I would have laughed along with the others on the bus. What do you care what they think? They aren't going to start anything while on the bus with you. Relax, it's really not a big deal. Next time they say something, just look at them and give a friendly laugh.
posted by Salmonberry at 7:21 PM on February 7, 2006

1. politely ask them to close the window.

2. repeat daily as needed.

the. end.

if you don't explode, try making small talk with them.

but please also try sitting in another seat (or! a different seat! each day!), simply to fulfill my strictly scientific interest in how that would play out in this bizarro universe you inhabit in which public buses have assigned seating and, presumably, everyone has assigned payphones, buttons to indicate that they'd like to cross the street, etc.

(sorry - big city dweller. the situation you describe is barely conceivable to me).

this bus you ride on sounds like a pressure cooker of alienation and i imagine everyone might benefit from some judicious exhibitions of genuinely human behaviour. your stipend for existence is one (1) life and it is ridculous to spend it on being afraid and fretful of insignificant things.

F'rinstance, there are real, significant things to think about:
I don't need to make this thread about race and class. I consider that topic to be an un-fun quagmire filled with, perhaps, more confrontation?

yes, well, white supremacy and all the resultant prejudices and privileges do tend to be "an un-fun quagmire", but that doesn't make it all any less real. being aware of how social privilege (yours? theirs?) concretely affects daily social interaction doesn't have to lead to confrontation. some basic understanding of it can ease confrontation, or at least make it more understandable.
posted by poweredbybeard at 8:28 PM on February 7, 2006

Well, you didn't seem to mark it as answered, so I'll continue.

So, it seems like it is indeed a race/class issue, you just don't want to go into that aspect. Which is admirable, but does indeed limit your options.

You can't retort or insult back too much, because of the above which you don't want to get into. If you choose this approach, go with the miss thang freezing her butt, tits, whatever off.

If you really want to reclaim 'power' or 'respect' or some such nonsense in the eyes of the other bus riders, you're only real option is to shut them down immediatly and make sure that everyone knows what they are doing is unacceptable socially. And there is only one real method of doing so. Lieing.

Walk up before they get off, let them know that you respect all people who work in the public health industry as they are always overworked and underpaid. Tell them you are sorry if it offends them that you close the window when you leave, and then let them know that you are diabetic and have poor circulation. And then let them know they are free to continue to call you names and leave the window down, but that they should know they are insulting a medically disabled person, which is a pretty shitty thing to do.

So, now comes the hard part, make sure you read up on Diabetes, or any other condition you want to search around for that has sensitivity to cold or poor circulation. I'm not an expert here. I know Hyperthryoidism causes it, and if you are thin it would work. I'm not even sure if Diabetes will work, so check before you do. They are nurses, so you have to really read up on it and know what you are talking about in case they call you on it.

And, if they ask why you didn't say so in the past, simply let them know that you like to go through life dealing with your illness yourself without any special treatment, and you don't see why it's their business that they know your medical history.

This should appeal to their profesional nature, and make it clear to anyone on the bus that their continued harrasment of you is not socially acceptable, and their previous harrasment of you was wrong, and in fact, not funny at all.

Personally though, that's alot of work, so I'd just go with freezing my backside off, and call it done. You might add the respect of public health workers and realize they had a hard day at work, and then say that you are freezing your backside off. This should cover most of the issues without resorting to making up stories.
posted by Phynix at 2:04 AM on February 8, 2006

So what happened this morning?
posted by orangemiles at 9:44 AM on February 8, 2006

Response by poster: I drove my car. I'll ride the bus tomorrow and let you know what comes of it.
posted by cior at 10:03 AM on February 8, 2006

I'm having trouble visualizing this. They sit across the aisle from each other, but one of them sits across the aisle from you?

Yeah, how does that work? If the following is the seat layout:


and so on, where letters are seats and --- is the aisle, where are you and where are they?
posted by sennoma at 11:34 AM on February 8, 2006

Response by poster: I sit in CC. One of the twosome sits in front of me in AA. The window-opener sits in BB. The wind blasts behind her head and onto CC/DD/EE/FF.
posted by cior at 11:57 AM on February 8, 2006

Ah, I get it.

I suggest closing the window when they get off, and if they have anything to say about it simply express your genuine puzzlement: "What the hell? Why do you care what I do after you get off the bus? Why does this matter to you?" You might initially say to B/DD, "Mind if I close this? I'm freezing!", by way of establishing the reasonable nature of your behaviour.

Under most circumstances, I think the UNreasonable nature of their behaviour would then be sufficiently clear that they would back off and your neighbours would be on your side. If that doesn't happen, it would seem they're looking for a fight -- and you'll have to decide whether to fight or switch buses, but at least you'll know what's up.
posted by sennoma at 12:59 PM on February 8, 2006

I don't get why it's funny that the OP drove. She has a car, but chooses to ride public transport -- that's a good thing, right? A responsible thing to do? Fewer cars, less pollution/congestion/energy consumption, all that good stuff.

So if some jackass makes her so uncomfortable that she decides, "fuck the environment and the traffic problem, I'm driving", that's a bad thing. Right?

Where's the funny?
posted by sennoma at 1:02 PM on February 8, 2006

Response by poster: It's a bitch of a drive, 16 mi. one way in heavy traffic on a route that puts sun directly in my eyes.

After obsessing about this issue yesterday, I wasn't up for encountering the ladies this morning. I still haven't formulated my strategy, but am leaning towards this approach:
  1. Smile warmly as I board the bus.
  2. Sit and endure the open window.
  3. Close it after they vacate the seats.
  4. Use a combination of "Excuse me?!" and "It's cold, you're leaving, what do you care?"
I'll ride tomorrow and update everyone by 9am EST.
posted by cior at 1:35 PM on February 8, 2006

So what happened this morning?
posted by Mave_80 at 5:49 AM on February 9, 2006

Response by poster: Here's what I did:
A coworker came over to my house last night for a worknight sleepover. We caught the bus together but didn't act like we knew each other. I sat up front in one of the sideways seats, she sat in my assigned seat/CC and closed the window in much the same way I do. They didn't heckle her, didn't look surprised.

However, I did take an opportunity to give them a gloaty look as they passed by me.

We'll see what happens tomorrow.
posted by cior at 6:25 AM on February 9, 2006

Excellent plan you came up with! So crafty.
posted by orangemiles at 6:42 AM on February 9, 2006

So far, so good! Please keep up with the updates, I'm fascinated to know how it all turns out.
posted by sennoma at 9:27 AM on February 9, 2006

hope everything went okay on Friday. Good luck.
posted by terrapin at 7:05 AM on February 12, 2006

For the love of God, do not print out the thread. That may be the worst idea I've heard in a looong time.
posted by graventy at 12:04 PM on February 12, 2006

So what's the latest?
posted by JanetLand at 8:44 AM on February 13, 2006

I just want to say that this is an absolutely fascinating thread.
posted by Vidiot at 8:11 AM on February 14, 2006

Holy Hitchcock, what's the latest?
posted by boombot at 8:15 AM on February 16, 2006

They sit across from each other rather than beside each other, and talk loudly, and open the window in the winter, specifically to annoy people like you...

So true, and doesn't have to be about race or class position, either -- some people just enjoy annoying other people. Look at it this way: if you care about social convention, then you are not comfortable being aggressive and confrontational. Therefore, people who don't care about social convention know they are safe being obnoxious, because you won't be able to respond.

One thing: if they sit across from each other (presumably each occupying a set of two seats), do NOT get on the bus a stop earlier and take one of "their" seats -- all that will happen is they'll sit next to you and annoy the crap out of you by invading your personal space as much as possible, as if you didn't exist, and once again you won't speak up. Heck, even if you did, since you picked "their" seat, it'll look like you wanted the confrontation.

Still, the most important thing about the whole business is this: as we live our isolated lives in isolated spaces, we lose the ability to truly interact, and so we lose respect for each other and treat each other like garbage. It's a sad indicator of the world we live in.

Oh, and surely you're not the only one freezing on the bus? Are the people sitting in front of and behind you riding in giant foam containers, or are they too gutless to even close the window? Just asking.
posted by davejay at 5:52 PM on February 17, 2006

I'd like to suggest this thread itself as a solution. No, I don't mean printing it out, but that maybe the solution lies outside the bus. Since much of the suggestions here deal with sucking it up in one way or another, one does need a valve for stress/angst/frustration. We need a support system and that can take many forms.

the things we can change, the things we can't change, and knowing which is which....etc. etc.

Just for argument's sake (since there has been so much posted already about what to say, do, not to say, not to do, etc.) imagine the situation continues and your discomfort with the situation continues. Look at what happened here - a huge amount of support (some portion of it critical but most of it helpful and positive), some humor, some great venting of collective pissed-off-ness.

So, why not start a blog? busbitches.blogspot.com - and post an update every day. Post your fantasy reactions. Draw pictures of exploding buses or superglued windows (or whatever turns you on). Take sneaky digital pictures.

Make it a shared joke with you and the rest of the world, beyond the 25 people you ride with.

It won't change the situation but it may change how you cope with the situation.
posted by stevil at 6:09 PM on February 17, 2006

Grumblebee is my hero; his post is right on target.

There's an imporant corollary to his argument, though. The reason you shouldn't see these bullies as human is that they do not see you as human, either. To them, you're at best a lower animal -- something like an annoying chihuahua or a rat -- and, at worst, a malicious fungus of some sort. The immense class/race disparity between you and them makes it impossible for them to relate to you on any level; the environments you live in are simply too different. You have no common ground.

You cannot talk to someone who doesn't see you as human; when you speak, all they hear is the agitated yipping of a chihuahua. Therefore, it is physically impossible to positively affect your situation by snappy retorts, or polite conversation, or appealing to their pity, etc. The bullies are unable to hear you, because they do not see you as a creature that is capable of speech. Note that you can't "make them understand" that you're human, because that involves speech. This is why most of the advice on this thread (which involves conversation) will not work.

These bullies are, indeed, a force of nature. Attempts at communication with them are fruitless, just as politely asking the rain to stop is fruitless. Therefore, your only options are to close the window (and keep it closed by force), to move to a different seat, or to endure the cold.

Am I being to harsh on these poor, blue-collar women ? Maybe, but it doesn't matter. This is not about maintaining your love of your neighbour and good will towards men, this is about not freezing to death -- and to do that, you'll have to face reality. If you're worried about physical escalation, buy a tazer.
posted by Bugmaster at 8:00 PM on February 17, 2006

Why don't you laugh at them? It can be a little smirky laugh or a loud, brassy laugh. Either way, you are both expressing your immunity to their jibes and their utter childishness.
posted by sid at 10:01 PM on February 17, 2006

Grrr, it makes me mad when people want to blame you when it’s obvious that they are being extremely rude, and there is no excuse for it. The window should not be open if it's bothering ANYONE on the bus.
Their reasons for being rude are irrelevant.
If it were me, I would not want to engage them in any way. I would try to sit somewhere else (there MUST be another place on that bus) and if they directed any comments toward me, I would ignore them. If that was not a possibility, I would take the earlier bus. Life is too short to deal with this sort of thing on a daily basis.
Call me a coward, I don't care.
posted by marikob at 11:07 AM on February 18, 2006

Step 1> Find out where they work
Step 2> Use the obvious class difference between you two to get them fired, thereby removing them from your bus.
Step 3> Don't really do step 1 or 2, grow up and either shut the window, sit in FRONT of them so you don't feel the window, or move elsewhere on the bus. I'd suggest a new seat somewhere else entirely.

posted by gte910h at 8:37 AM on February 20, 2006

This is another candidate for Ira Glass. I need an update!
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:08 AM on February 21, 2006

I just finished reading this whole thread, and now.. I demand an update! :)
posted by JoshTeeters at 7:43 AM on February 24, 2006

I would like to put in my vote for an update. I am way too emotionally invested in this story to just let it go! Spill!
posted by ian1977 at 2:55 PM on March 6, 2006

posted by headspace at 5:45 AM on March 20, 2006

Response by poster: Random updatey goodness:
  1. They still make fun of me.
  2. A few weeks ago they took a new angle, now the "fun" starts when I get on the bus.
  3. They've got a schtick worked up about how sad it is that the bus has to stop for everyone -- including Little Miss Thing.
  4. Earlier this week they did a big routine about my skirt, which admittedly, was a weird skirt.
  5. I've stopped closing the window, period.
  6. I listen to my ipod and try not to care. On good days I think it's funny.

posted by cior at 8:00 AM on March 23, 2006

I know someone who said he used to *rot out* the entire bus in high school- I didn't ride his bus but was married to him so... yeah. He took full credit but it could play out passive-aggressive too.

He would sit in the back, crack his window and fart. Windows would cascade down all the way up to the front of the bus.

posted by auntbunny at 4:32 AM on March 24, 2006

Response by poster: oh god, aunt bunny...
posted by cior at 6:48 AM on March 24, 2006

That is too bad that things haven't improved, and actually sound worse. Were you able to try any of the suggestions here?
posted by JanetLand at 9:35 AM on April 20, 2006

Response by poster: I've tried the ignoring. Most of the time I just wait to close the window after they leave the bus.

Lately, the teasing has been really awful. They make fun of my clothes, where I sit, my book reading, my earphones, etc. It's truly insane how much stuff they get on me about.

That said, I've begun to notice that they do this to other people too. It makes me mad, it makes me laugh. I don't know how to fix it, they don't seem ready to stop any time soon.
posted by cior at 1:43 PM on April 20, 2006

I've just read through this for the first time, and it's sad that the situation has escalated. I would respectfully suggest that, though you think you are ignoring them, the reality is, you are not. As others have suggested, it's possible that your discomfort and anger at being teased and made fun of is making it through the layers of distraction you've tried to draw across yourself - a facial expression, a sideways glance, an involuntary adjustment at a particular joke. They've picked up on this, seen it as a validation of their behaviour and, seeing no response from you, have taken it to the next level.

I think that, now that things are where they are, that you need to refocus on something else besides ending it. You need to accept that you cannot change their behaviour. In the circumstances you are in, and with the history you have, there is little or no authority or pressure to change that you can bring to bear to make them behave any differently. The opportunity to do this, by asserting your rights or by engaging with humour, has long gone. Accept this - it's the truth. You can't change them anymore.

So, having accepted that you can't change them, I'm going to suggest that you change you - but not that you do it with the intent of stopping the bullies from doing what they are doing - because you can't. What I suggest is that you take some action to - well, frankly to regain some self-respect - to build your self-confidence - to be able to tell yourself that "these people are not putting me down". You don't need other people's approval or approbation - but you do need your own. I'm am, of course, assuming from what you've written that you are angry with yourself as well as them, and that some part of you is beating yourself up for your ineffectual response to this situation. All I think you should do is take a couple of small steps that mean you don't have to beat yourself up anymore.

So, it's along the lines of suggestions like this and this, and the first time you do this it'll be the hardest thing in the world. The next time you get on the bus, and you pass by your nemeses, smile pleasantly/politely at both (a real smile, not a rictus - practise in the mirror beforehand) and say "Good morning". Then sit down. That's it. No hyperbole, no attempts to engage, no dodging that fact that these people have really hurt you. Just say good morning and sit down.

After you do this, one of two things will happen.
  • They will escalate their behaviour - become more threatening verbally, and possibly physically
  • After an incredulous look at each other and you, things will continue as normal.
The first one is a possibility, but I think it's a slim one. If this does happen, then it's a different ballgame, and you need to either stop taking that bus, or get some help from authority. The second is the most likely option. And there is no third option. But remember, you're doing this for you, not to change them.

After you've sat down, you'll ignore them. You need to school yourself to really ignore them. Once you've sat down, you bury yourself in your book and your headphones and you give no-response-whatsoever to their barbs. No glances, no fidgeting, no changes of expression. Absolutely nothing. Close the window after they've left the bus. You've done your bit - you've confronted the beast, you've proven to yourself that you can do so. Anything they do or say means nothing - you can't change their behaviour, so you've not going to try.

You do this the first time, you have to do it the next morning, and the next and the next. You can't stop, so don't stop. It's difficult, but it will become easier. And you'll feel better about yourself. You're not lowering your standards. You're not throwing yourself against a brick wall. And you're not responding with fear anymore. You can't change their behaviour, but you can take the challenge being presented to you and say "Good morning" to it. You're taking a step into the unknown, and maybe things will get better - maybe they'll get worse, but at least you're not just letting the world throw you around anymore.

Maybe later (much, much later) when you have more confidence you can, after you've sat down and they've started up, look up when you hear a particularly hurtful statement, and smile at them. Just that. Just once - not more than once per bus ride, and not all the time either. It's not a formula, it's a genuine response. You know now that what these people say means nothing to you (you've acknowledged your aggressor, looked them in the eye and said "good morning" - of course it means nothing) - hey, maybe some of what they say is actually amusing. It's engagement. But only do it if you really mean it. It's much more difficult to bully someone who is actually a person, not some stuck-up bitch who rides the bus with us po' folk.

I hope things work out for, if you do this or not.
posted by rootz at 3:01 AM on April 27, 2006

As I see it, it doesn't matter whether these beings make fun of your clothes, your reading, or whatever. Remember: they're not human; they're a force of nature. Do you get angry at the wind when it blows your hair all out of shape ? Do you get angry at the rain when it drips down the back of your neck ? I don't.

So, the only issue here is the window. The open window makes you cold. Find a way to close it, and keep it closed. The women will undoubtedly make more noises about it; these noises are about as important as the rumble of cars passing by.

If they start getting physical, call the authorities, or whip out your tazer.
posted by Bugmaster at 2:08 PM on April 28, 2006

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