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I walk through what I call “the gauntlet” every day to and from work. It’s a stretch of Canal Street from the Canal Street N/Q stop West to the river. At night, it’s clogged with vendors hocking all manner of counterfeit goods and tourists getting duped. In the morning, it’s an eight block march of cat callers, each seemingly less original than the one before. I never wear headphones through this walk, since I’m constantly on alert for something that could constitute a threat. One morning, I was walking the gauntlet behind a very young woman apparently on her way to work, as she was dressed in a smart business suit. We reached the half way point, when a group of men who constantly give me trouble, started to yell out to her and move toward her on the sidewalk in a threatening manner. She put her head down and continued walking, but I stopped as I pulled up to them. I looked the ring leader in the eye, a older man, late 40′s, early 50′s around the same age as my father. And told him “have a little respect for her and for yourself. That’s not how you treat women.” He told me to “take a compliment” and that I was just jealous because I’m fat (which, for the record, I’m a size 8). I told him that despite his complete disrespect for women, I hoped his daughter and wife didn’t have to live with the daily fear of being sexually harassed by strangers on their way to work, or the movies or a date. I also explained that “it being part of the job” of a construction worker wouldn’t fly, considering my father is a construction worker and would fire and then beat the ass of any of his employees that behaved that way. His cohorts remained silent, but as I walked away, I could hear them all making fun of him by mocking me. I’ve never seen the men since and I always wondered if the woman in front of me called their employer.
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