The Guy on the Bus Fondled My Knee (And Other New York Tales)

Yesterday, I arose at five a.m. BY CHOICE. For those of you who know me and have seen how I react when the sun first wakes me, this will probably shock you. I like my sleep (especially lately, when it’s been eluding me.) But I did climb out of bed before the sun was awake and got ready to go to NEW YORK!

I actually get up at five (or earlier) to go to New York fairly often, for auditions. But this time, I was not headed to an audition, but to my friends Molly and Ryan’s apartment to hang out before going to see one of Molly’s short plays in a one-night event. I’ve wanted to go to one of these monthly shows for awhile, and since I’m super free due to, you know, not working at all, I figured I’d at least fill my time with something.

So I got a window seat on the bus, hoping I could sleep a little bit. At the very last second, this guy around my age took the free seat next to me. I tried to sleep the whole way to the city because I knew I’d probably be out late that night and didn’t want to be dead on my feet. For a lot of the bus ride, I was leaning against the window with my eyes closed, listening to music, and the guy’s heavy canvas coat kept drifting onto my leg. I didn’t really think much of it or do anything about it; buses are close quarters, and it was just a jacket, and as a bonus, it was keeping my leg warm. But at one point, the coat was heavy enough that I was thought, ‘Obviously, the guy is asleep and it’s fallen on me. I’ll just make sure it doesn’t look like I’m stealing it.’ But when I went to move the jacket… it wasn’t the jacket, but his hand. On my knee.

For as much as I wish I weren’t, I’m a very naive, trusting person. I sincerely thought this was an accident. I didn’t look at him as I inched my knee out from under his hand, so I don’t know if he was asleep/pretending to be asleep/mooning at me, whatever. I just sat closer to the window. But then it happened again! I moved away a second time because I was wearing tights, not pants, so there wasn’t much between his skin and mine. I put my own hand on my knee, hoping that would sort of scare him away… and it didn’t. He took that as an invitation to touch my hand instead. I hadn’t been weirded out before, but that definitely did it.

When the bus stopped at the first drop-off point, my seatmate asked if I was getting off the bus. I asked him which street we were on, he told me, and I said no, I wasn’t. That was our only verbal communication on the trip. When we got to the place where we were both disembarking, he went to get his bags and I, having kept mine with me, went looking for a subway entrance. I found one, and guess who was standing at the top of the stairs? My bus buddy. “You going on subway?” he asked in his Asian accent. I said yes and he walked down the stairs next to me, then waited as I bought my Metrocard. The entire time I had my card out, I was thinking, ‘Oh, so THIS is the day I get mugged,’ and held onto my wallet very tightly. He accompanied me through the turnstile and asked where I was going. “To visit my friends,” I told him. “You have time for a coffee?” he asked. This took me by surprise and I think it was a few seconds before I replied, “No, my friends are waiting and I don’t want to be late.”

But he was not deterred. He asked me again where I was going. “Queens,” I told him. He kept after me as I figured out which line I had to take, and when I found the signs directing me there, I saw that they were leading me to an elevator. As nice as this guy seemed, NO WAY was I getting into an elevator by myself with him. “You know what?” I said as he walked speedily to the elevator. “I think I’m going to take the stairs.” And he followed me there, too. As we stood waiting for my train, he tried to get more details about where I was going, eventually asking for my phone number. I said no,trying to be as nice as possible because I have to be nice even to the strange men that stalk me into subway stations. Thank God, when my train pulled up, he did not follow me onto it. While I’m sure he was a nice guy, I think I would have freaked out if I had to ride the subway with him, because then he might have followed me all the way to Molly and Ryan’s, which would not have been good.

The last few times I’ve been to NYC, my bus has been super late getting in, and I didn’t want to show up on their doorstep two hours later than proposed, so I had gotten an earlier bus, and since, after I ditched my suitor, the subway didn’t take the hour MTA Trip Planner predicted, I actually ended up standing outside their door a bit earlier than expected, wondering if I should press the bell. (You have to remember that these are the friends of whom I am big fans. I had to act “right.”) I did, of course, press it, and Molly came down to get me. It was really cool to see their apartment- I’m kind of obsessed with seeing where other writers do their writing. They have tons of books, the titles of which I spent a long time tilting my head sideways to read. It was very much a fly-on-the-wall day for me as they finished up various chores, but that was fine with me. Ryan was finishing up some work, so after getting lunch, Molly and I wandered around some Williamsburg shops, and now I have a huge list of books that I need to get when I have an income again. Then we headed to a Manhattan arts company building  for the rehearsal of Molly’s short play.

I thought it might be weird for me to be sitting in on the rehearsal, since I obviously only knew Molly, but her director and her two actors were super nice to me, and when we all headed to to the theatre together for tech, we were all making conversation and they were really easy to talk to. It helps that two of them were really familiar with Philadelphia, and we talked about everything from the Fringe to the King of Prussia mall to the drag bar I once went to for my friend’s bachelorette party. Molly was very apologetic that I had to sit through tech and offered me some free wine to get through it, but it was only cue-to-cue and only about 45 minutes long, and I was just really excited to be at that show. Though I have obviously been through a million techs for my own shows, I always feel super special when I get to see other people’s tech.

Tech did run a little long, though, so there wasn’t time to go anywhere to get food. Instead, I just hung out in the lobby with Molly and and a few of her friends. The company had thought that they’d be able to squeeze a bazillion people into the theatre, as they usually do for these standing-room-only shows, but a fire marshal had been sent to make sure that no more than 72 people were sitting in the theatre. Because I had gotten there for tech, I got a seat, but there were 20 people who actually watched the show from the lobby (they got free wine, though, throughout the entire show, so I don’t think they were too put out.)

I really enjoyed the show. The basic premise of the event was that all of the playwrights were given a theme two Sundays ago and had a few days to write a script, and then they gave it to their actors and director. Because it’s script-in-hand, they playwrights are allowed to make changes basically right up until the actors make their first entrance. After the show, on the train home, one of Molly’s friends (who is a fantastic playwright himself, but had not taken part in the show) said that he wasn’t terribly impressed with the quality of the plays, but I enjoyed all but a few of them. While yes,  the quality of the writing wasn’t awesome, I also kept in mind that these plays were written in a week- probably less- and rehearsed in even less time. And to be honest, a few of them, and Molly’s especially, were in a state that mine are lucky to see after months of revision. Even with the ones I didn’t like, I tried to put myself into their shoes; my own play probably wouldn’t have been much better. In any case, I really enjoyed the show.

Afterward, I went to my very first dive bar. I don’t know what dive bars are supposed to be like, but this one was pretty nice, and dogs were allowed inside, so there was a Bernese Mountain Dog hanging out by the ATM. I don’t think I’ll ever feel the need to get drunk, but last night, I really did not feel like being the awkward of-age girl sipping a Coke. So I decided to put my pride aside and ask Molly for help in choosing a drink. She suggested a few, and in the end, I ordered a vodka cranberry. And you know what? I actually liked it! So now I finally have something I can order and know that I won’t be wasting my money on something I can’t stomach.

After about an hour of hanging out there, Molly, two of her friends (who live right around the corner from her and Ryan), and I left for home. Again, I marveled at the fact that I was walking through the streets of New York laughing with two playwrights I admire. When we got back to Molly and Ryan’s place, Molly made some pasta for us because she hadn’t had anything since lunch and then at 1 a.m., it was time for bed. Running around from five in the morning til one in the morning certainly solved my not-being-able-to-sleep problem. I was out the second I laid down.

Today was spent completely in their apartment. At first, Molly and I were going to go to a cafe and write, but in the end, the coffee in their apartment was free and neither of us got around to changing out of our pajamas (I only changed eventually because I had to go home.) So Ryan went out and got us some breakfast sandwiches and he worked on a lecture and Molly did a book review and I worked on a play. It was really nice and I got some good (well, hopefully good) work done. When three o’clock arrived, I sadly had to leave. I wish I could have stayed forever and ever because I had a such a great time, but sadly, that can’t be done (mostly because I would feel bad making them keep an air mattress where their kitchen table usually is.) But for the first time in recent NYC trip memories, the real life truck did not hit me in the face on the way home. I actually have some stuff (which is stressful stuff, but in a good way) to look forward to this week. I was also all aglow with happiness because I got a frantic e-mail from a director whom I love and who cast me in my first Equity show four years ago, asking me if I would be willing to step into the assistant stage manager spot for a show that opening tomorrow night. In the end, I wasn’t able to do it and they found someone else, but it was a completely unexpected e-mail and I was shocked and flattered that he thought of me.

So all in all, bus stalkers aside, it has been a fantastic two days. I’m so glad I was able to go up to see the show and my friends 🙂

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Shareen
    Feb 05, 2013 @ 22:44:14

    Ok seriously that bus guy was a total creep. I’m so glad nothing happened to you. Other than that – great post!

    Reply

    • Rachel
      Feb 05, 2013 @ 22:45:35

      I know, right? Like I said, I’m fairly naive, so it took me awhile to get creeped out, but looking back on it, it was totally weird and I am very, VERY glad that I decided that I would rather offend him than get in an elevator alone with him.

      Reply

  2. Ursa Bowers
    Feb 09, 2013 @ 00:45:40

    The whole Bus Creep scenario was hilarious in the way that you related it, but, jeez! I’m very glad that he finally left you alone; his behavior seems very disconcerting. It’s generous of you to say that he’s probably actually a nice guy, but I dunno… I find it dodgy how he started touching you without permission, and how he didn’t respect your clear signals that you weren’t interested. I feel like a nice person would have some awareness that their actions could come across as threatening; would have asked you for coffee (minus the knee-groping) and then, having been turned down, said, “I understand,” or something to that effect, and left it alone.

    Beyond that, very entertaining post! You had me giggling a lot!

    Reply

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