Dealing with inappropriate actions

We can all contribute to taking a stand against inappropriate behavior in public places.

by Paul Hamilton

It’s been about three weeks now since I decided to check out how all of this sleeping (with books in hand) at Coffman Union actually works.

After pulling an all-nighter, I found myself having to lug my half-awake body to the area of the TV lounge because all of the best seats were taken near the cozy-looking fireplaces.

I saw my opening in the very back where a lime green couch was about to become my No. 32 sleep bed. And after having settled in around 8 a.m., I got a good two hours of good shut-eye in before the daily rush at Jamba Juice.

(By the way there is really something inherently evil about multiple blenders and a big screen television in the same location.)

Besides the noise of the TV and the high-speed blenders, there were a couple of homeless guys sitting in the lounge area – one of which was talking so loud that he woke me out of that restful and relaxing respite.

That this person was homeless is not at all the point of the story. I, too, have had the unfortunate experience of being homeless and endured the hell on Earth that was the Louisiana Superdome after the levies broke and floodwaters ravaged New Orleans.

Anyone who is acting in a socially acceptable manner should be allowed to enter Coffman Union and be able to partake in all the wonderful facility has to offer.

However, if an individual is not acting in an appropriate manner, then perhaps they should be asked to leave the facility, which incidentally brings me back to my story.

I was sleeping, and this guy has this booming voice. It’s vibrating much louder than the blenders and is louder than the TV. At first it was just the usual chit-chat, “Nice weather we are having, gee, I like your coat, where did you get it?” And then I hear this guy say to a young lady sitting next to him, “So would you like to have sex with me?”

She laughed and dismissed it; he changed the subject for the moment and proceeded to turn his attention toward the program on the television, which happened to be “The Price Is Right” (pre-Drew Carey so it was actually worth watching).

Next he gets the attention of a different young lady and says, “Your lips look so good I would just like to kiss you,” again making his comment into a joke and changing the subject.

Had it ended there I would have chocked him up to be an obviously struggling, but bourgeoning and persistent Casanova honing his craft. However, he then got up and whispered into the ear of yet another young lady who told him in no uncertain terms, “No.” She got up out of her seat and left.

So, now I am intrigued. I want to know what this guy is doing. I mean, does he know these people? Is he a regular here? What is the deal?

I have actually seen something of this type before while studying at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. I just so happened to run across a seemingly homeless man who would sit out in front of the Tower Records store right across from the student union there, the Cloyd Heck Marvin Center. He would be drunk, panhandle, ask people for food and flirt with the women that would pass by throughout the day.

It turned out that, after a University investigation (don’t ask me how, or why), this man was dating a young woman attending G.W. and had an apartment that the two of them shared. Before he was barred from the campus through the result of a restraining order, he had apparently been raking in an estimated $30,000 to $40,000 a year from members of the campus community.

Meanwhile, back at Coffman, apparently this guy goes downstairs to grab something to eat and he comes back with a box of chicken from Chic-fil-A. He proceeds to sit next to a fourth young lady and asks her for sex.

It was at this point when the young lady next to me apparently had enough and she asked me if I knew the person in question.

So, I replied, “No, but what did he say?”

She told me that he asked that girl for sex and that she was starting to feel very uncomfortable and asked if there was anything I could do about it.

The only thing I could think of was to get security involved, so I proceeded over to a desk in the foyer area of Coffman and recounted the story. And to the credit of staff and Facilities Management personnel, they sent three or four men over to the TV lounge before I even got back there.

One of the men asked me to point out the serial sex requester, which I was more than happy to do. After which several other people, including myself, filled out complaints. And, thankfully, I haven’t seen Mr. “I Want Your Sex” ever since.

One lesson I learned from this incident is that each one of us can make a difference if we make the choice to take a stand against inappropriate behavior when we come across it. It may take a little of your time and attention, but those of you who got involved with this particular situation are to be commended – from the students who filed complaints to the four men who first responded to the complaint.

All of you might have prevented a future mishap that one of your campus colleagues might have had to endure involving this particular person. It sometimes takes incidents like these to reinforce our appreciation for those whose job it is to look out for us.

In conclusion, I would like to point out that as much as we may not like it, people in authority often tell us things for our own good and for appropriate reasons. Things like: You shouldn’t talk to strangers, don’t put your drink down at a party and make sure if you are walking late at night that you walk with a group of people, or if on campus call for an escort.

Paul Edward Hamilton welcomes comments at [email protected]