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I take the commuter rail daily. Several months ago, I asked a woman who was talking in the quiet car to lower her voice. Another woman said, “What, I can’t cough if I need to?” She then fake-coughed for two stops before getting off, telling the first woman not to ever let anyone tell her to shut up while looking pointedly back at me. I held her gaze and said nothing. A few weeks later, we ran into each other getting off the train. She wrinkled her nose and said, “Eww, don’t talk to me” and shoved past me. This morning I sit down in the quiet car, and she is across from me. She said, “Of course, the freak sits next to me” and changed seats. I just want to get to work without a hassle. Any tips? I can’t change when I commute.
A.T. / Boston
You can’t change your train, but can you change the car you sit in? It doesn’t sound like the alleged “quiet car” currently provides you the peace promised in its name.
Your railway enemy is overtly unpleasant, but you aren’t making any effort to avoid her. She might well feel stalked by you! If I had had two unpleasant encounters with someone on the train (regardless of whether the unpleasantness was initially my fault), and then that person sat down right across from me, I’d be likely to think they were the ones behaving oddly. Note that her unpleasant comments have been followed by an immediate effort to get away. She’s certainly not trying to hound or bully you. You have to see her first, that’s all. Learn the pattern and cut of her winter coat and avoid it like the wily urban migratory animal you are.
YOUR TURN . . .