By Heather Abraham
Two years ago, on New Year’s Eve morning, I boarded a MARTA train at 7AM and began my journey to an office job in downtown Atlanta. Before the train reached the first stop, an inebriated man approached me and grabbed both of my breasts. All the while repeatedly screaming, “Mamasita!” I punched the man in the forehead, knocked him to the ground, stepped over his body, exited the train car, and entered another. For the remainder of the trip, I sat and reflected on the strange way I was ending the year and the robotic manner in which I reacted to my attacker.
Twenty minutes later, I exited the train at the Five Points Station and found myself in the middle of a freak show; Peachtree Road was in the chaotic process of transforming itself for the New Year’s Eve celebration and Peach drop. As I walked past the myriad of vendors setting up for the event, I was treated to dozens of off color comments and a few “men” who thought it appropriate to attempt physical contact. By the time I reached the front of my office building, I had fought off several perverts.
Thankful to have reached my destination, I entered the revolving doors of my office building only to be ripped backwards onto the street. Startled, I found myself in a vice like grip of a mystery predator. Before I could react, the security of my building ran to my rescue and beat the man from me. He escaped down the street and I shakily continued on to my office—desperate for a moment of silence and a hot cup of coffee. After the customary office greetings, I retreated to my office where I sat sipping a steaming cup of Joe and reflected, again, on the bizarre events of the last day 2009.
Thirty minutes later, I was summoned by security to return to the scene of the attack. The predator had been captured shortly after he pulled me from the revolving doors. He was found by the police and the security from my building, “dry humping” another startled woman up against a nearby office building. He had attacked five unsuspecting women that morning, all before 8AM. I spent the next half hour meeting the other women he had attacked, filling out complaint forms, and talking to the police.
Two years have passed and on each anniversary, I remember the bizarre morning of sexual harassment and physical assault as I sip my coffee from the safety of my home.
I also remember that the events of that day sparked a major change in my life. Already disillusioned with a dead-end job and having reached a saturation point with the seediness of MARTA and the dangerous characters I routinely encountered on my daily journey, I began to dream of quitting the rat race. I quickly came to recognize the New Year’s Eve predators as a wakeup call—a sign that I had chosen the wrong fork in the road.
A few weeks later, I got a second sign. One that left me reeling from an odious sensory assault.
The offensive, albeit, illuminating event occurred during a Friday evening ride home on the MARTA train. Entering just as the doors closed, I was delighted to find a vacant seat and gratefully settled in for the ride. Within moments, I realized something dreadful had happened on the train, as the unmistakable and overpowering smell of excrement enveloped me. My eyes darted around the train looking for the source. Within seconds, I had found it. Sitting beside my seat was a McDonald’s bag that someone had apparently used as a toilet! Overcome with nausea and the horrifying reality of riding alongside a bag of excrement, I frantically dove out of the train at the next stop.
Thankfully, I had the weekend to reflect on this most recent of bizarre events. My mind bounced around like a ball in a pinball machine. Maybe it was just a bag of excrement that, at random, ended up beside an empty seat that I randomly chose? Or, was the universe speaking to me? Believe me; sitting next to a bag of shit will make you rethink your whole life. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the offensive bag was warning me about my future. Or, was it chastising me for the choices I had made?
Earlier in 2009, I had graduated from Georgia State University with a master’s degree in religious studies. Unfortunately, the job market for those with religious studies degrees is extremely limited. After months of searching, I finally admitted defeat and took a dead-end boring job that left me craving intellectual stimulation. After five months of mind numbing work, I literally and metaphorically found myself riding home with a bag of shit for a companion.
I needed to make some changes.
In a strange way, Religion Nerd is the product of both the sexual assaults and my offensive train companion. These events made me reflect on the choices I had made and provided me with a clear understanding of what I did not want in my life. My future needed to be part of a conversation within the discipline I love so much.
Within a few weeks, I had quit my job and signed up for a class with Atlanta writer and blogger, Hollis Gillespie. Utilizing the information I obtained from Hollis’ class, “Atlanta’s Most Popular Blogging Workshop,” and the creative computer talents of my husband, Teo, Religion Nerd began to take shape. On March 28th 2010, ReligionNerd.com became a reality.
So, what is the moral of this story? Sometimes adversity inspires you to think outside the box and sometimes a bag of shit is a sign of good things to come.
To all Religion Nerd readers and contributors, I thank you for your support and I wish you a fabulous New Year!