Ha. Tricked you into reading this. But this headline isn’t just a gratuitous, April Fool’s Day-inspired hook. I am going somewhere with it. Please wait.
So, I was eavesdropping on the bus tonight.
It’s nothing new really. I find myself doing this when I am in between books or when I’ve boycotted substantial thoughts. The conversation was between a lady and a dude who I assumed to be on a first date because they were asking the typical “getting to know you” questions about roommates and jobs.
I started to get bored with the conversation until they broached a subject that has been on my mind: When do you give up your seat on the bus or train? There seems to be no documented etiquette on this subject beyond the CTA’s announcement to “Please give up your seat for elderly passengers or expectant mothers.”
It’s hard to define “elderly passengers” (which, by the way, is not exactly a PC term) and “expectant mothers.” What does “elderly” look like? I’ve interpreted this as someone who is older and, by definition, has earned the privilege of sitting. I’ve received grateful smiles in return for giving up my seat. However, I’ve received sighs and eye rolling in this same scenario. What is the right thing to do?
Sometimes, it is obvious that you should offer your seat. A few weeks ago, I watched in horror as a cute, old man in a tattered Izod sweater clung on for dear life as the oblivious seated passengers read magazines and listened to their iPods. I was seconds away from giving the seated passengers a piece of my mind, but luckily, someone exited, and he was able to take a seat. Now, insert “very pregnant woman” for “cute, old man.” I’ve witnessed that too. It’s true that you can’t always tell a woman is pregnant until she is very pregnant, but there is a point when it’s clear that it’s the right thing to do.
Is that the key…just knowing when it’s the “right thing to do?” I was chatting with my friend Ryan about the subject the other day. He described how he recently gave his seat up to a girl who had a lot of shopping bags because “she looked like she wanted to sit.” That seems like an interesting gauge…perhaps it’s more about reading people.
When do you give it up…your bus seat, that is?