Hi guys. I know I promised to devote my blog this week to my reviews of (and crazy love for!) Kevin S. Kaiser’s new e-book, “@Wrimo: A 30-Day Survival Guide for Writers,” and, I promise, the love will return tomorrow night, but something happened tonight that I needed to put out there…to get off my chest. And how do I do that? By bloviating to all of you, of course. (By the way, I know I tend to ramble on a bit. Thanks and mad love to all of you who actually stick it out through my blog posts!)
We hear so much talk today about bullying. As the mother of a school-aged child (and a former target of bullying), I couldn’t be happier about the increased focus and light shed on bullying in our schools, and the countless campaigns to end bullying and to return our focus to respecting one another and acting in love. Because the incidents of bullying that we hear about occur in our schools, it’s easy to forget that this is a problem adults face as well. And by “adults,” at least in the context of this blog post, I mean me. I’ve been the target of a pervasive bully for the last several months, and have stayed largely silent about it because of shame and embarrassment. Tonight, the shame ends and the light goes on. Tonight, I took control of the situation.
Everyone who knows me knows that I work in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. I live in Johnson County, Kansas, and the commute is lengthy. To prevent wear and tear on my car (and avoid the huge costs of gasoline and parking in downtown KC), I take TheJO. TheJO is a large-scale, very upper-class bus service that connects residents of Johnson County with destinations throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area. I’ve been a JO commuter now for over five years, and I’ve so enjoyed the convenience and ease of travel that it provides. I am not a fan of driving, I’ll be honest, and it’s wonderful to not have to worry about traffic hassles and accidents…and weather. Driving in severe weather is the absolute worst. Plus, it’s nice to have some “Jennifer Time” where I can relax, unwind, and just be me. Knitting, crocheting, reading, listening to music…just some quiet “Me Time” or a chat with some of the wonderful friends I’ve met on the bus. I really appreciate and enjoy all that TheJO brings to my life. Until very recently, I’ve experienced no problems in riding TheJO. Sure, there are the days where the bus is running late or the heat or air conditioning can’t quite keep up with the climate, but barring that, it’s all been good. Until this summer. This summer, a hearing impaired woman began riding my route. I’d seen her on other routes before and she seemed friendly enough. Unfortunately. that was a first impression that later proved to be terribly wrong. This woman is very aggressive. She has to be the first person to board the bus. She’ll shove you over and cut in front of you in an effort to ensure that she is the first person on board. She also has to be the first person off the bus as well. If you’re in her way, she’ll mutter aloud and make it clear to you that you’ve inconvenienced you. She’ll also walk toward the front of the bus while it is still in motion (which is completely unsafe, mind you) just so she can get off the bus first. One day, I was just about to get on the bus (before her, mind you), and she put her hands in front of me and pushed herself right in front of me. I almost fell in to the street. Another time, I actually did get on the bus before she did and because she was angry, she bent down and put her face in mine (after she boarded, of course), and just screamed at me. Her words were unintelligible, of course, but it was visibly apparent that she was furious that I had gotten on the bus before her. Another time when she tried to pull a similar stunt, I held my hand out to block her from coming close to me and I said, “Today, I get on the bus first.” She muttered something aloud, and that something was, “Bitch,” I’m sure. One day when the bus was very late, she paced up and down the street, moaning aloud and giving all of us a very clear indication that she was angry. When the bus finally did come, she put her face in the driver’s and proceeded to yell at him just as she did with me. My repeated EMAIL messages to TheJO to ask for assistance were met with a deaf ear. They said that because her bad behavior was taking place off the bus, there was nothing they could do about it. They refused to come and speak with her or to make any effort to explain to her that riding this bus is a privilege, not a right. After several EMAIL messages back and forth, TheJO washed their hands of the situation and said that they couldn’t do anything to help me. So I changed routes. What’s that old adage? You can’t change other people, only yourself. So I made the necessary adjustments to my work and family schedule to take a completely different bus and avoid having another confrontation with her. In all honesty, I was concerned for my safety (and tonight’s events proved my concerns right!) and I felt it was just best to make the change and to sever myself from any chance that we might cross paths again. It worked beautifully, until she took my bus tonight.
While I was waiting for the bus tonight, I was chatting on the phone with my husband rather innocently. The bus stopped immediately in front of me, and she, yet again, did everything she could to slip in to the mere inch or two separating me from the bus. The last time she did this, I almost fell in to the street. I turned around and said to her (she reads lips), “Back off.” When I turned to get on the bus, she put her hands in the small of my back and shoved me, hard. A third passenger waiting for the bus saw what happened. When I got on the bus, I furiously left another message for TheJO, and then called the Kansas City Police Department. They advised me to get off at her stop and to have the Overland Park Police Department meet us there and take a statement. And I did exactly that. I spent nearly two hours explaining what happened to the police officers (who were great, by the way…mad props to officer Trenton G. Thanks for making me laugh. You were the best part of this entire mess.) They completed what they called an “informational report,” and explained that the Kansas City Police Department would have to order it. I made it very clear that my intention was to press charges. Assault? Battery? (In Overland Park, I learned that they call this “simple battery.” The officer wasn’t sure what it would be called in Kansas City). She said it was “an accident” and that she fell in to me. She also apologized and said that she would take the later bus routes. I don’t believe her. She’s “sorry” only because someone stood up to her. No one stands up to her, probably because of her hearing impairment. That stops now. Many people on TheJO asked me over and over, “Why is it you that she picks on, Jennifer?” and I had no answer. And I let it go on and on because (God, I am ashamed to admit this), I was intimidated by her. Her conduct in the past has escalated…from simply trying to cut in front of me to nudging me to yelling at me, and all the while, I put up with it (well, I did try to get TheJO’s management to do something about it, but other than that…) Tonight, I stopped allowing that mean and ugly-spirited woman to treat me like that. I called the Kansas City Police Department back, and they asked me to come in and file a complaint tomorrow. I then called my amazing boss, who will be taking me tomorrow to file charges. I want her arrested for assault (simple battery? You say tomato, I say John Deere tractor – ha!) According to Officer Trenton, most cases of simple battery result in jail time or fines. I don’t want her to go to jail. With her age and hearing impairment, she’s sure to be the target of harm and I don’t want that. I do want her to get the message that mistreating other people…and touching other people without their consent…is illegal and it won’t be tolerated. I know that if I had allowed this incident to come and go without fighting back, just as I have with all the others, it would be tacit approval and she’d think she was allowed to get by with it. And the abuse to my self-esteem would have been terrible. I let this bully bother me all summer. I stood up for myself tonight. I hope that tonight, she’s re-thinking the hurtful and hateful way that she has behaved (although I seriously doubt it, given her lame excuse to the officer that she “tripped” and that it was an “accident”). I also hope she’s a little scared. Scared of what happens next. I wonder if they told her that I was considering pressing assault (battery?) charges. You know what really scares me? That we’ll go to trial and her husband (who looks as crazy as she does) will have a gun and shoot me or someone I love. *sigh*
So that’s it. Bullies are only successful because people cower in fear and shame. My shame and cower days are over. Please say a little prayer for me as I head to the police station to make my first (and hopefully, dear God, ONLY) police report against another human being. Thanks for reading this. I know it was long-winded (just another typical Jen post – ha!) , but I appreciate you sticking it out. Please, please, if you’re the victim of bullying, step up and stand up. I’ll be right behind you, that’s for sure.