The look on his face…

The look on his face…

tutuquoteI get a lot of pleasure from subway seat vigilantism. I secretly hope I’ll be there to witness an able-bodied young person sitting on a crowded subway, pretending to be engrossed in his or her phone when an elderly or disabled person gets on. I’ll wait a few seconds but if they don’t get up before the train starts moving, I ask (always politely) that the person stand up and offer the seat. I get the most wonderful smiles from elderly people when I do this for them, they always thank me and one time I was offered a chocolate. I like to think that later on when they’re lamenting the self entitled youth of today they will pause and think, “well, except that lovely woman on the subway who helped me get a seat, she was splendid.”

I have been told that confronting strangers is a distinctly American thing to do. My Canadian friends call it embarrassing, I call it justice. Earlier this year, I witnessed domestic violence and called the police. There was no pleasure in that but I was glad I did it. I think it’s the right thing to do in any culture.

Today in London, land of restraint and the stiff upper lip, I cried in a laundromat.

A woman stopped in to say hello to the attendant, she wasn’t doing laundry. She read the paper over his shoulder and commented on an article which said that women in London are more likely to be raped than in any other part of the UK. Her friend made a joke I won’t repeat, and it made her visibly uncomfortable. She told him in a solemn tone that it wasn’t funny. He chided her for not having a sense of humour, and she changed the subject. He didn’t let it go, and she suddenly remembered an errand she needed to do. We made brief eye contact as she hurried out.

I wanted to stand up for her, but she was already gone. I wanted to do the socially acceptable thing in my adopted country, but I also wanted to change what is socially acceptable around the world. I wavered as I finished folding my laundry. My face started getting flush, I was angry. I hated the smug prick and I decided to say something on behalf of the girl who ran out of the laundromat.

Clever things never come to me until after the moment has passed, and this one was about to, so I blurted out “She’s right. It’s not funny.” And he looked right in my eyes and smiled and asked “What’s that, love?” And I said, “Rape. Rape isn’t funny. You should feel ashamed.” I’d like to tell you about the look on his face when a stranger scolded him. But I can’t because I ran out of the laundromat, about to cry.

Normally, I’d have spent the rest of the day thinking about what I wish I would have said. Now, I’ve spent it wondering why I was crying. I’m genuinely confused. It wasn’t the joke, it wasn’t rape in general. I think it was frustration, maybe embarrassment. Maybe I feel stupid for thinking it would make any difference at all.

I thought it would be satisfying, like asking a 20-something in a suit to stand up on the subway during rush hour and seeing him blush. But somehow, being the guy who doesn’t give up his seat to a blind person carries more stigma than being the guy who makes fun of rape victims.


This started out as a Facebook status update and now it’s a whole blog post. This is bothering me more than I want it to.


And then I searched for an image to accompany the post, and found this article from the Today show which explains it all. I am just sad because I’m a woman who longs to be doing laundry for her family.

Sobbing during spin cycle? Here’s why Laundromats can make you sad

But there’s something deeper going on with Laundromats, mental health experts say, that can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety in even the most stoic dryer jockey.

“The Laundromat can be fraught with anxiety and negativity,” D’Orazio told “There’s the anxiety that comes from dealing with unwanted and often unasked-for interaction with the public during an intimate chore [like] folding underwear.”

There is also the fact that one is often alone at the Laundromat.

In general, Salerno added, women are more susceptible to this Laundromat-induced loneliness than men, because women have been historically more socialized toward domestic activities and the concept of having a family to care for.




Lauren Reid is the founder of When You're, a three time survivor of rape who built this community to let other survivors of sexual violence know that they're not alone. When you're ready, I'll be here.



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