As a young adult without a vehicle, I take transit a lot. To school, to work, to Krav Maga, at all hours of the day and night (I cannot begin to tell you how many podcasts I’ve listened to.) I’m actually writing this on the bus, perhaps fittingly, but that’s more because I have a tendency to procrastinate. I started relying of the bus when I reached my late teens and my parents didn’t want to drive from Langley to Richmond anymore. So instead of a one hour drive to UTKM, it was two hours spread across one bus and two SkyTrains to be able to keep up my training. And as a young teenager with no social life, I went “cool” and proceeded to download a ton of music.
Suddenly having a lot of time to waste, I had to find ways to entertain myself. I personally don’t like studying or doing work on transit unless I absolutely have to (procrastinating strikes again). So in the beginning I used to bring books to read, but I would get too distracted and be more likely to miss stops. So situational awareness, that thing that Jon likes to beat into our heads in class? Nah. So headphones and podcasts! I started listening to the UTKM podcasts, and countless more from there. I really only listen to podcasts on transit, as they require some amount of focus but I can still be paying attention to my surroundings. I’ve talked to some people who prefer being able to hear what’s happening around them, which is fair. I just need something to do before my thoughts spiral into madness. As a tactical compromise I listen at a low enough volume that I can hear what I’m listening to, but am still aware able to hear if something is happening around me.
Thanks to years of Krav, I now factor in threats when I chose where to sit. Thaaaaaanks. On the SkyTrain, I’ll take the single seats and sit however I need to so that my back is to a wall or barrier. I don’t like standing in the middle of the SkyTrain if I can stand against the door. On the bus, I do the same thing, but I’ll hide in the back of the bus. Yes, I’m further from the driver and the exits, but I can see everything and usually people will fill up the front first anyway. I also have the problem of needing to transit to Vancouver for work now, which is another two hours… one-way. Having given up on getting a good night’s sleep on weekdays means I have dozed off on transit more then I would care to admit. This hasn’t resulted in any problems yet, but I still wouldn’t recommend it. That’s when choosing a safer place to sit can be helpful, because I do not want to sleep when someone is sitting beside me. I tend to not actually fall asleep, rather I just doze, opening my eyes every so often to make sure I haven’t missed my stop. If you are going to sleep though, make sure there is a decent amount of people around and that you have a way to wake up before you need to get off. Taking out headphones so you can hear more clearly could also help, and is generally a safer choice. Just remember that choosing to sleep is putting yourself in White, in a public area.
Then there’s the delightful people you get to meet. Ugh. There’s a few different types of people, some more tolerable than others:
- There are people who come up and ask for money or food. I don’t tend to carry cash and I say so, this usually isn’t a big deal and they move on.
- Then you have people “selling” something. Whether it be their religion or a cause, they stand outside of stations and try to give out fliers. Don’t look, don’t engage, just keep moving, throw out the flier later, whatever works. This type are unlikely to hassle you or escalate the situation.
- Then you have transit police. I honestly don’t see them a lot unless they are dealing with an issue or the SkyTrain is closing.
I had one person who was bothering me about buying him food. Not to judge, but he looked pretty rough. He went to go sleep once I agreed, ’cause it’s ten bucks and I had a bit of time before my bus, so whatever. He was standing over me, dozing, while I was sitting down. I was leaning away ’cause, yeah, that was an uncomfortable situation. It must have looked bad to the other man in the SkyTrain car with us, ’cause he came over to ask if I was okay. We get to my stop, and as the guy was still sleeping I just got up to leave as fast as I could. And there, waiting outside the door, are an officer and a medic. I just leave as they go into the train because I don’t want to be anymore involved then I am already (1st stage of self-defence: Avoidance). I figure the second man could let transit police know enough about that guy. Thanks, random stranger! I would not have done it so I appreciate you doing so.
Lastly, as a young female, I’ve had guys come up and start talking to me. If you, as a male do this, you can fuck right off.
I’m not joking.
I can guarantee you are making someone feel uncomfortable and they are talking to you because they don’t want to be rude.
When I was younger, this used to scare me. As I’ve learned more Krav, I’m more confident in my ability to stop something bad from happening, but it’s still awkward for me. As someone who was raised to be polite (and due to the way women in our society are socialized), shutting down strangers I don’t want to talk to is difficult, but it is something I’m working on. Don’t let people get harassed on transit if you see it happening; be like the man in my story. Translink now has a posted number you can text if you are worried about something that’s happening if you take transit in the Lower Mainland.
That’s all I got. Be safe. Try not to become too paranoid, like myself, as staying in Orange too much can also be bad. Go read the post on the colour code if you don’t understand what I’m saying. Don’t bother other people. Also when you complain about how far away Krav is from your place, remember that I used to take the bus for four hours for a one hour class.
Written by: Karis M. – UTKM Green Belt
If you would like to submit a story about your transit experience in relation to self defense or violence please make submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org . Min 500 word. Published Submissions will be rewarded with 3 months free access to UTKMU.