One of the most awkward parts of riding public transportation is figuring out where to look. Most of the time, you're seated directly across from strangers, and saddled with the fun challenge of craning your neck for an hour to stare at a phone with no reception, or awkwardly darting your eyes around so you don't make eye contact with someone off their rocker. There's truly no winning.
In a popular post on the AITA subreddit, a woman asked if she was wrong for accidentally staring at a woman's disabled daughter. She wrote:
I (22F) just started a new job in a major international city, and I take the metro to and from work each day. I had just finished a 10-hour day yesterday and was headed home. I had my headphones in and was listening to music, totally spaced out after the day. I then noticed an angry-seeming woman saying something to me, and I took out one of my headphones to see what she needed.
I realized she was fully red-faced yelling at me and was totally confused. The conversation went like: Her: “Is there a problem?” “What?” H: “Do you have a problem?” “What do you mean?” “You were staring at her”
I looked next to her and realized she had a visibly disabled daughter. I must have spaced off while looking in that direction (above her head I think, but I’m not sure). I immediately told her I was just looking off into space, but she kept yelling at me. “No you weren’t, you were staring.”
I just put my headphones in and looked down at my phone, after which I heard her say extremely loudly to her friend, “Notice she isn’t staring now.”
I was so jarred about the entire interaction, and over a day later I still feel a little shaken up. I’m not sure if I should’ve just apologized and moved on, or whether I should be more careful with my eyeline (if that’s a public transport etiquette I’ve been failing at?) AITA for this interaction?
NTA. As someone with a pretty obvious disability, sometimes people stare, but usually it's kids and they really don't mean any harm by it. They've just never seen that before. Sometimes it's adults and while it is rude, it's not like ruining my life, ya know. But my mother has gotten upset about it before because it's more of a fresh wound for her than it ever will be for me.
You were spaced out, not staring, and at least to me, the difference is really obvious. The lights are on, but nobody's home. When people are staring at me, they like, give me an ocular pat down. It's super clear the lights on and someone is home. She's probably just ashamed or insecure and took it out on you. Don't let it hurt you too much.
And OP responded:
Thank you for the reply! I would never stare at someone intentionally regardless of who they are. I was just exhausted from work and had fully dazed on, which I also thought was obvious? I also don’t have an “RBF” or anything so I know I wasn’t making a nasty look. I was shocked she didn’t back down when I was clearly super confused after she initially yelled at me.
My uncle is blind. Barely shadows, been that way since childhood. He is also an incredibly talented drummer that has worked with some big names over the years. I drove him and his drums for a few years cause it paid well.
This one time we were at a charity event. Middle of the show, everyone is having a good time. This one lady gets a wild hair, rushes the stage and attacks him mid song. The band pulls her off of him and asks her what the problem is. "He was staring at me!" "He's blind he can't even see you." "Then he shouldn't be looking at me." I still wish I knew her name so I could tell everyone what a fool she is. NTA.
NTA, I can understand that her child gets stares and comments often and is looking out for her. But her causing a scene was unnecessary and an overreaction, she could have tried to go about this in a discrete and polite manner. There is a difference between staring and zoned out which you can tell if you pay just a little bit of attention.
NTA. Some people suffer from main character syndrome and can't be arsed to consider the possibility that not everything is about them.
OP is NTA here, although it's understandable where the mom's hypervigilance came from.