No smoking on the train. No "please"s, "could you"s, or "would you mind"s. Just: NO.
A group of 6 drunk mid-to-late-20s guys decided to SMOKE A CIGARETTE on my train last night.
Everyone was looking around like “what the...?” These boys ('cause their behaviour made it clear they weren't yet grown men) were acting like entitled brats (+ drunk and/or stoned).
Normally, I’m kind of intimidated by groups of guys like that, because I’m so small. But no one else was doing anything about it (and what's so ironic is that the woman sitting in front of them was in full KLM flight attendant attire, haha. But I do NOT blame her for deciding to be "off-duty" and just ignore it!)...
I don’t know why, suddenly this time - there was just 0% hesitation...
I stood up from my seat, walked right up to them, looked the smoker dead in the eye, pointed at the cigarette and said:
"Put it out.”
Everyone on the train started to watch now. It got TENSE.
"What?" he said, smugly holding the cigarette somehow more obviously than before.
I repeated myself slowly, unmistakably: “Put. It. Out."
The woman who was seated in front of me had a cold and was coughing. Their smoke was definitely gonna make it worse. Plus, eww nobody wants to inhale your 2nd-hand carcinogens! So I added, "This is making people on the train sick.”
They started ganging up on me with crap like “we’re almost done” and “look it’s best if you just let us finish," and the one smoking, "I’m getting off at the next stop anyway"...
One guy said in Dutch (thinking I wouldn’t understand since I addressed them in English): “Mmm, lekker wijfie” (loosely: "mmm, hot chicka"), and more demeaning things to which I replied sarcastically, “ik spreek ook Nederlands. Ik begrijp alles wat je zegt, dus... goed gedaan.”
("I speak Dutch, too. I understand everything you're saying, so... way to go." It was all I could think to say under pressure, but clearly it surprised them, and that guy shut up after that.)
By now, I was trembling... I realized the 6 to 1 imbalance I was in the midst of was entirely my own doing, because I couldn't just sit back and let it slide.
The more alternatingly rude and moronic objections they came up with, the less I actually heard any of them. (Which is astounding, because in the past I could've easily gotten caught up in these exact types of red herrings!)
They definitely kept trying to throw stupid responses my way, to get me off guard and use that "6 to 1" dynamic to bully me away, but my ears were mysteriously impervious.
So, instead of falling into their traps, I said, gesturing to the whole train car, “I’m not the only one this is bothering," turning to the others and asking, "Am I?” to which everyone loudly agreed with me.
The biggest guy stood up and came toward me, “Let me just help you...” this a-hole was actually about to put his hands on me (I think he wanted to turn me around to go back to my seat). Thankfully, he was so out-of-it, that I just moved to the side and he accidentally kept walking past me. (Isn’t that a judo move? 😂)
At that point, I went back to my seat. People around me thanked me, saying it was good that I said something. I was shaking so much, it was really intense!
On the walk home I had such mixed feelings.
On one hand: I felt proud of myself. Not just for speaking up, but for handling it without falling into the traps they were trying to set.
On the other hand: I felt like that was not a wise move and definitely didn't solve anything. I kept wondering if there was any version of that where I could have said something differently to get the actual results I (and everyone else) wanted.
"Should I have said, 'Please'?" I even wondered.
I was also revisited by an old nemesis:
My tendency to judge myself as "self-righteous." Wasn't I just up on some anti-smoker high horse?
All of this self-doubt and second-guessing was threatening to take over, when suddenly, I stopped myself and decided-
NO. You know what? I’m super proud!! I know I did exactly what I had to do, and I did it well!"
One of my most favourite feelings to experience is that others feel lucky to have me around. And I realized right then the majority of that train felt just that way.
I also thought about how I commute nearly every day on these trains. I have enough experience and "ownership" of the "train experience" to know what’s best for that space, and its passengers in a situation like that (namely: no smoking on the train, duh!).
But something even more exciting popped to mind:
I have a right to state exactly what I want (especially when it’s perfectly reasonable). I have a right to knowing what I want and not listening to the garbage, non-sense objections.
I decided I was absolutely right to say how it knew it was supposed to be, and to not say "please" about that. Well isn't that interesting? This looks an awful lot like a metaphor for exactly what I'm up against in my head whenever I want something, big or small. Immature voices pushing back, being entitled, thinking they know better... but they have no power over me. The way I approached this guys is exactly the way I need to address the voices in my own head that try to hold me back from unifying with my desires.
Are you ready for some instant karma (in the positive way for me)?
In that exact same moment when I decided to just be proud of myself, I looked to the ground and found:
I could NOT believe my eyes.
ALSO, when I went to pick it up, a very sociable, sweet kitty came running up to me for a pat on the head.
At the end of this story, I came out of it with one of the MOST rewarding things that I think I have EVER EXPERIENCED!!!!
(I was also so happy because I hadn’t had any money to buy my husband a bday gift, and his birthday was the next day, i.e., today as I write this. But now I did! I wrapped the €10 up in a fun way, and gave it to him this morning, along with this great story that made him wanna high-five me at least 3 times when I told him. ;) Who doesn't like the feeling of wanting to high-five someone? That's a good gift to give someone, right?)
I feel like I TOTALLY earned those €10 :)