This morning, I was walking in the freezing Chicago cold on my way to work and something strange happened. A man honked at me. And leered. You know, the vehicular equivalent of a "Nice ass" in a bar.
But--and I don't mean to sound conceited, please hear me out--the fact that a man honked at me was nothing unusual. Women get honked at, grabbed, catcalled, hissed at, and generally assaulted everyday. What was so bizarre was that the man behind the wheel, the man staring me in the eyes and licking his lips as I stood on the corner swathed head to toe in earmuffs, scarf, a faux-shearling coat, gloves, etc...was driving a school bus.
Yes, that sound you hear is me screaming inside.
And yes, I mean just what I said - a bright yellow, full-length school bus, complete with a smattering of young children and their impressionable young minds. Was I the first woman he had sounded his alarm over, so big and tough behind his steering wheel, with a windshield keeping me from pushing him, telling him to screw off? No, I'm sure. Were these kids learning all the wrong things about how to treat a woman, a fellow human being? Absolutely. Conscious or not, the boys were learning that it's OK to whistle/holler at/disrespect a woman, that a lady is based on the sum of her outside parts (no matter how covered up they may have been); the girls were catching an early glimpse of life in a beauty-over-intellect society, of how so many men think it's acceptable to comment without invitation.
I have been honked at many times. By dumb college kids; by police officers. A man in a wheelchair has said disgusting, sexual things to me and a girlfriend as we attempted to take a stroll along the lake. Sometime I talk back; today, the bus flew by too quickly, the canary yellow blur at once symbolizing a man whose education had failed him and a generation desperate for schooling.