You really do see allsorts on the public transport here in Berlin – the teeth suckers, the foghorn nose-blowers, the people who talk to themselves, the people who sing to themselves, the people who pee into a bottle when the train stops for no apparent reason, and the people you’re convinced you can still smell in your clothes and hair a week later. All of this I can cope with but, this week, I had the misfortune of bumping into the lowest of the low – the groper.
I was on my way to my afternoon lesson with my Costa Rican student, where I usually spend the guts of 90 minutes saying, “WHAT?” It was just after 1pm and a beautiful, sunny day. I had achieved the most coveted of all train manoeuvres and bagged four seats to myself. After a couple of stations, however, a man got on and sat next to me.
Apart from a quick “tsk” of annoyance that he had chosen to sit next to me in a half-empty carriage, I didn’t pay him any attention. He did the typical “man thing” of spreading his legs as wide as they could possibly go and placing his hands on his knees. Scheiße, his hand was brushing my knee.
I moved over a bit, but I could still feel his hand, so I moved over even further. I ventured a look at him in the glass panel in front of me and saw that his face was glistening with sweat. Willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he was just an inconsiderate space-invader, I squashed myself up against the window. Nope, I could still feel his hand. This definitely wasn’t right. I looked down and saw that he had extended two fingers and was touching my knee with them.
After a very brief, incredulous moment during which I processed that this was actually happening to me in broad daylight, I lost it.
“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING, YOU FUCKING WEIRDO?! GET YOUR FUCKING HAND OFF ME!”
Yes, there was a lot of swearing and I
spoke roared in English but, really, it was simply a knee-jerk (pardon the pun) reaction. I was just happy to get words out in any language. He got up quickly and walked to the opposite end of the carriage, getting off at the next station.
There is no handbook to tell you what to do in situations like this. Should I run after him? What then? Grab him? Hit him? Pin him down and get someone to call the police? But what if he turns violent? Maybe he has a knife? What if he gets his willy out?
The only other time something like this happened to me was while I was living in Lyon. That time, I ended up with a knife held to my throat for telling a handsy Algerian something rather rude he could do to his mother’s posterior. I wasn’t keen on repeating the experience.
And so I did nothing. Yes, I got him away from me but I probably only drove him onto another train where he’d pull the same act on some other unsuspecting woman. I feel useless. I’m frustrated that I was put in this position and that I did nothing to stop him from doing the same thing in the future.
When I saw this man on Thursday afternoon on the S25, he was wearing blue jeans and a navy jacket. He has dark slicked down hair and wide, high cheekbones. I only saw him in the glass reflection so I can’t give a better description than that, unfortunately. However, someone out there knows who this sweaty pervert is and I would kindly ask you to get him some help before he runs into me again.
The saddest thing is that this seems to be so common. Nobody was particularly surprised or outraged that I was groped. I would go so far as to say that it’s almost expected that this will happen to a woman at some point in her life; I have very few friends that haven’t had something similar happen to them. Do men ever have to deal with this crap? I’m really interested to find out.
If nothing else, at least I’ve added one more word to my ever-expanding German vocabulary – ein Grabscher, a groper. Pretty appropriate, wouldn’t you say? I just hope I don’t have cause to use it again.