Safe Space

This is the story of John.

When John goes out, he gets spat upon. Not every day, and not by every person, but in many of the stores he enters, someone will spit on him. Sometimes it’s only 10% of the customers. Sometimes it’s more. None of the other customers say anything. They may not spit, but they aren’t willing to say something to the ones who do.

For years he puts up with it because he doesn’t think he has a choice. That’s the way it’s always been; he just has to accept it. But then he starts to realize that the spitters themselves never get spat upon. Why does it have to happen to him?

So he starts speaking up about it. Sometimes he tells the customer he doesn’t appreciate being spat upon. Sometimes he tells the managers. It’s exhausting spending all his time confronting people, but sometimes they stop, and sometimes the manager kicks the spitter out. But more often than not, instead of getting people to stop, he hears the same things over and over:

“That’s the way it’s always been.”

“What’s the big deal? It’s just spit. It’s not like anyone’s hurting you.”

“I have a friend who doesn’t mind being spat upon, so it’s not really a problem.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t see any spitters.”

It’s disheartening, and he becomes nervous and uncomfortable any time he has to go out.

But then something happens. He started to find places that don’t allow spitters. Oh sure, the occasional spitter will walk in the door, but the manager is quick to show them the exit. The store makes it very clear they don’t tolerate spitters, and they have to go some place else. John starts spending more time at those stores, but the other stores have things he likes, so he keeps hoping they, too, will take an anti-spitter stance.

When it becomes clear the other stores will not, he knows it’s no longer worth going to them for the few things he likes. Sure, he can confront the spitters again and again and report them to the managers, but sometimes he just wants to go shopping without fear of being spat upon. After yet another person spits on him, he tells the manager of his favorite store why he will no longer return. The manager’s responds, “Why didn’t you tell me? I would’ve kicked the spitter out.”

The manager doesn’t get it. It isn’t that the one spitter chased him off; it’s that the manager doesn’t deem it worthy to discourage spitters to begin with. Why should John have to be responsible for keeping the store spit-free?

Saddened, John leaves, never to return. Sure, he’ll still fight the spitting when it happens, but he’s no longer willing to patron those places that don’t discourage spitters, and he now knows he has places he can go where he can feel safe.


[Update: I wanted to direct you to a post my friend, Mikey, made on the subject. Go read it; it’s powerful stuff.]


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