We were talking at work about how hard it is to engage someone you don’t know into a meaningful conversation that would, eventually, lead to work getting done. It’s not only that it’s hard to “crack open” (in a very positive way) someone you don’t know; it is just as hard to find the inner resources required to open yourself up first.
For one reason or another, this discussion made me ponder a phenomenon I encounter infrequently on public transport.
As a non Anglo Saxon living in Australia, I generally stand out from the crowds. People notice me more.
The manifestation of this, when it comes to public transport, is that usually the seat next to me on the train is the last to be taken in the carriage. People are afraid of the unfamiliar, and to the majority I look unfamiliar: even fellow minority members prefer to seat next to members of the majority before they’d risk sitting by me. Sure, it is sad, but at least I can understand where they’re coming from.
Things are even worse with women. As much as it is rare for a man to end up sitting next to me on public transport, having a woman sit next to me is the equivalent of winning the lottery, odds wise. I can understand the reasons for that way better than I understand the general case, given everything women have to go through in this world; let’s face it, Weinstein and Trump are far from being the only predators around.
What happens next is the infrequent phenomenon that triggered this post. I had found, on several occasions, that once a woman sat next to me, she will not hesitate to sit next to me again the next time we bump into one another. Even if the seat next to me is not the last remaining seat.
I find this interesting, because of the things it indicates at. Firstly, it makes it evident I definitely stand out from the crowd; they remember me. And secondly, it shows that once it becomes clear I am a rather benign person whose public transport escapades are usually consumed reading, I no longer inspire fear among my fellow public transporters.
Quite interesting, this inherent fear of the unknown.