Home CommentaryOpinions For the love of courtesy, would you please stand up?

For the love of courtesy, would you please stand up?

by Archives January 29, 2008

People often think that I’m an angry person. But I wasn’t born this way.
In fact, the true source of all my pent up frustration is the 18 long hours a week (minimum) I spend on buses and on the subway. I know – I should learn to drive already, but that’s beside the point.
I’ve seen pretty much everything: people have coughed, sneezed, spit and slept on me. Once, a woman even clipped her nails next to me. But I have to say that of everything I’ve seen, I’m most surprised at some people’s reluctance to give their seat to someone in need.
It’s like all social conventions break down on buses and we’re thrown back to the dark ages when everybody had to fend for themselves.
So who gets to sit and who doesn’t? Apparently, this is a complex issue for some, so I guess I’ll have to lay it out.

The rules

1. The blind, pregnant and handicapped get first pick – obviously.

2. Parents and their children should get to sit together. But there is a catch here; past a certain age, children don’t get sitting privileges. I’d say 10 or 12, depending on the size of the child, is the upper limit. Anyway, by that point they’re full of energy and are probably running around, yelling.

3. Visibly sick people get to sit. They should even be quarantined in a special section so they don’t infect everyone else.

4. The elderly. This is a tricky one. Is the magic age 60 or 70? What if you are faced with a person who’s obviously 80, but is trying to look 20? Use your judgment here, or better yet, pretend you’re me and use my judgment: the person must be considerably older and frailer-looking than you.
Last summer, I was on the bus and this girl, who must have been 13, turns to me and asks, “Excuse me madam, would you like to sit?” What the hell was that? I’m not that old. I don’t even look my age. People guess I’m 16 all the time (I’m not). When I was job-hunting last year, somebody even suggested I get white and grey highlights to look older. By the way, that was the dumbest suggestion ever.

5. People who look like they are genuinely dying of fatigue or are carrying a thousand bags. This is my favourite rule, because it pretty much gives me license to sit all the time.
Oh, and beware of swoopers. Last week I was on the subway when a (considerably) older man walks in. I offer him my seat, but as soon as get up, a woman in her forties swoops in and sits down. She even flashes me a triumphant smile, completely smug. Stealing a seat from an elderly person is the equivalent of stealing candy from a baby. Realizing that I was in the presence of great evil and bad karma, I chose to say nothing and back away very quietly. Thankfully, the (considerably) older man did not seem to notice that someone had blatantly violated his right to sit.

The Test

What if you are sitting on a bus and an elderly person and a pregnant woman get on at the same time? You look around and see that no one else is getting up – as usual. After rolling your eyes as far back as you can, you realize that you’re obviously the most polite person on the bus. What to do? This is a tough one, so I prepared a multiple choice to help you out.
A) You remain seated.
B) You get up and let them decide among themselves.
C) You pick the person who looks like they need it the most.
The right answer is C. Picking B would imply that you are forfeiting your power to choose who gets to sit. Never forfeit your power, unless it’s to me.

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