At the beginning of the year, I created a 101 in 1001 list. On my list was attending a Blue Jackets game. I had never been to an NHL game before, and the Blue Jackets are the NHL team in Columbus, OH, my husband’s hometown. So for Christmas, I bought three tickets for a game (for him, his best friend, and me) to attend while visiting Columbus for a weekend.
We went to the game a couple weekends ago. It was fun! The atmosphere at the game wasn’t quite as exciting as I hoped it would be, except when a shot was close to being a goal scored, a goal was scored, or a fight broke out. I’m used to college hockey games in a much smaller setting, so that might be why. The first period of the game was really fun, though! Hockey is definitely a sport, like football, that I prefer watching in person.
In between the first and second period Dan and his best friend, Tristan, said they were going to go to the bathroom and asked I wanted to walk around. I said no, I’d stay there. After a couple minutes by myself an older gentlemen came and sat next to me. He was friendly and was made small talk, and by all signs was harmless. But he kept touching my knee and my back, which made me uncomfortable. Then he asked me to blow my nose into a tissue and then give it to him so he could keep it in his special collection of tissues so the Blue Jackets would maintain their winning streak. I declined, feeling even more uncomfortable.
But I didn’t get up and walk away. I didn’t ask him to leave. I just kept making polite small talk. I don’t know why I didn’t pursue either of those totally logical and legitimate options when I was in a situation that, though extremely weird was most likely harmless, made me feel uncomfortable. I guess because I didn’t want to be rude or hurt someone’s feelings. I didn’t want to make “a mountain out of a molehill.” But I felt uncomfortable, so even if it wasn’t a situation in which I was in harm’s way, I shouldn’t have felt like I was being rude or dramatic if I spoke up or walked away. I am sharing this experience because I think a lot of people get into situations where someone is overstepping limits and nothing is said or done about because they fear being impolite or dramatic, or they just hope by ignoring what’s happening it will go away. I have no problem encouraging my students, family, and friends to stick up for themselves or defending them if I feel their well-being is threatened in the slightest manner, but for some reason, when it was just me, by myself, with no one else I knew around me, I shut down. I hope I’m never in an awkward and uncomfortable situation like that again, but if I am, I know I owe it to myself – and the person who is pushing boundaries – to speak up and make it clear what is happening is not okay.
Eventually the man got up and left, and I immediately texted Dan and Tristan what happened and to hurry back (why hadn’t I done that earlier? Because there was no way I could text without the man seeing what I was typing…and again, I was afraid of being rude). When they returned, we left our seats and spend the rest of the game walking around the arena and watching the game from another spot. We still had fun, but I hope I can go to another game sometime in the future so I can hopefully have a more overall positive experience.
Have you ever been in an awkward and uncomfortable situation where you didn’t speak up? Or that you did?