Teach me subway manners
September 21, 2006 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Teach me manners: when to give up my seat on public transportation. Much

I'm a healthy 20-year-old male. The other weekend I rode the subway extensively. At one point, we got onto a train that was just about empty, so myself and the girl I was travelling with (same age, just a friend, if it changes anything) both sat down. The train got progressive more and more crowded; eventually, a lot of people were standing.

Although my parents always stressed manners, we never took public transportation, so I'm not quite sure where the bounds of this are. And it's particularly compounded by the fact that by offering my seat, I'd be subjecting the girl I was travelling with to sitting with a random stranger.

Where do I draw the line? Do I offer it to a 40-year-old man? How about a 40-year-old woman? (Is this insulting?) A girl/woman my age? (Does it then appear that I'm hitting on her?) Senior citizens only? Do I say something to them, or just stand up?
posted by fogster to Human Relations (67 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Senior citizens and pregnant women and people with small children.

And I always use a "Would you like this seat?" said whilst in the process of standing up. I have in the past been told to sit back down by aggrieved looking septagenarians, though.
posted by handee at 8:33 AM on September 21, 2006

I am a mid-30s woman. I give up my seat to people who look like they're having difficulty travelling/standing (people with small kids - usually to the kid, older people, pregnant people, etc).
I think that's more than fair, especially if you're travelling with someone.
posted by j at 8:33 AM on September 21, 2006

Here are my rules-o-thumb. I'm a healthy 37 YO male, and I will always give up a seat for someone who, for lack of a better way to put it, looks like they need it more than I do. "Need it" could be for reasons as varied as age, to volume of stuff being carried, to obvious need (person on crutches, person with little kid, etc).

As for the mechanics of it, I always say "would you like to sit?" and make like I'm standing as I do so - if they accept, I keep moving into the aisle, and if they say "No, thanks, I'm fine" (which will happen occasionally...), then I sit back down and resume my zoning out.
posted by pdb at 8:36 AM on September 21, 2006

Handee's got it. Seniors, pregnant women, small children or anyone that looks like they definitely should be sitting (crutches, etc). Anyone who clearly looks like they can handle the challenge of standing for 20 minutes, regardless of sex, can suck it up and fight like the rest of us.
posted by spicynuts at 8:37 AM on September 21, 2006

You give it up for anybody who looks like they are having a hard time standing up, and is more or less right next to you. You can't run across the train to grab someone who looks kinda hobbled and give them your seat at the other end of a crowded train. If the moment presents itself as people are getting on, give up your seat and make a verbal offer to the person you see. Otherwise, anyone might snatch it. You should already be standing when you say "Would you like to sit down?"
posted by scarabic at 8:38 AM on September 21, 2006

Echoing senior citizens, pregnant women and people with children. Also if someone is carrying lots of groceries or something to that effect.
posted by jckll at 8:39 AM on September 21, 2006

I usually try and get sneaky about it. If I'm on a train and it's starting to look a little crowded, I just stand up before it gets to the point where it looks like I might need to interact with someone to give them their seat.

If I'm on a bus, I never take the seats at the front, I will stand before sitting in them, since they're priority for folks who can't make it to seats in the back of the bus very easily.

In cases where it happens quickly, I use the same criteria as j. If someone looks like they are struggling, I give up my seat. So even if someone is young and able bodied, if they have a bunch of bags or look tired/uncomfortable, I will just stand up, and if they want the seat, they can have it, and if they don't, I just stand.

In the situation with your friend, I would simply say "hey, that man looks like he could use my seat, I'm going to stand so he can take it - do you mind?"

She can then either stand with you if she doesn't want to sit next to a stranger, or just stay where she is. I don't know if that's rude to your friend or not, but I'm pretty certain most people wouldn't be offended by that.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:40 AM on September 21, 2006

I ride mass transit a lot, and I give up my seat to those having difficulty or are encumbered by luggage or kids or just look like they could really use a seat. Barring obvious strugglers, I do think it is a wonderful courtesy for a younger person to at least offer to give a seat to an elder, or if you've got the chivalry gene, a man to a woman. That offer can come with just a query glance -- in NYC, straphangers know the look. Leave it up to the standee whether or not to accept, but by all means, make the offer. It's a bit of humane interaction that might make someone's day!
posted by thinkpiece at 8:40 AM on September 21, 2006

I always like to say "Please" as I stand up and offer my chair with an extravangent sweep of the arm. It makes me feel much more chivalrous. :)
posted by Jofus at 8:41 AM on September 21, 2006

Handee's "Would you like this seat?" is a key part of this, because if you just make eye contact with someone and then stand up so that they can sit down, some conscienceless clod may angle in there and swipe it.

My rule of thumb is that, as the train fills up, I am way more likely to offer my seat to someone as I approach the end of my journey-- because the people getting on are just beginning theirs. As far as who to offer it to: whoever looks like they need it the most. And yes, it may look like you are hitting on someone your age if you offer them a seat, but as long as you don't make it seem as if accepting the seat binds them to you conversationally, I doubt they'll mind.
posted by hermitosis at 8:42 AM on September 21, 2006

Agree with handee, adding injured people.

No need to feel guilty letting any healthy, not preggers woman stand. But, of course, it's a personal thing and there's never anything wrong with offering your seat to anyone you please.
posted by lampoil at 8:43 AM on September 21, 2006

If someone who needs the seat (as defined by others above) is standing right next to me, then I just get up and take a few steps away without saying anything. I think it's only necessary to say something if there's a danger that someone else will get to the seat ahead of them.
posted by winston at 8:47 AM on September 21, 2006

Best answer: I remember once, it was sometime in the weeks after September 11, I got on a crowded train after work and I almost burst into tears. It was just too much. I was exhausted, I was mourning a friend, I just wanted to be home in bed. Basically, I felt like I was at the end of my Just then a man got up and gave his seat to me. I don't know if he saw my face, or if it was something he always did. And even though I can't remember really what he looked like, I will always be grateful to him for throwing me a lifeline. I still remember that one random act of kindness five years later.

I don't know if that's helpful, but I just wanted to illustrate that sometimes the act can be bigger than you think it is.
posted by witchstone at 8:48 AM on September 21, 2006

Best answer: Time for an anecdote - at my sister's "sure start"1 class a woman described being on the tube and standing, when a seat came free. She moved to sit in it and a young lad of 20 or so ducked in front of her and took the seat. She said "Sorry mate but I was going for that seat and I'm 7 months pregnant and really want to sit down". He says "You don't look pregnant to me". She says "Well I am". "Well I'm sittin' here now".

So she vomited on him.

Moral of this story?

Give up your seat to pregnant women or else.

1 (uk project for pregnant women and young mothers)
posted by handee at 8:48 AM on September 21, 2006 [10 favorites]

(oops, add "rope" to "at the end of my" and before "Just")
posted by witchstone at 8:49 AM on September 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

The situation is different in a bus than a subway. But for a subway you can make a verbal offer or just stand up if it appears someone needs the seat. BTW, a 40 y/o man is not a senior citizen, k? Unless they are on crutches then there is no need to give them your seat. Typically when travelling on a subway I have always stood even when there were a few seats unless I was travelling far.

On a bus, sit near the back as a first resort. If the seats are full then stand near the back. One thing that bugs me on buses is when people hog the narrow aisles when there are seats somewhere. Then I have to push past them to get to seats in the back to avoid clogging the front. In a subway it's different because there are multiple doors and the aisles are typically wider.
posted by JJ86 at 8:50 AM on September 21, 2006

Response by poster: BTW, a 40 y/o man is not a senior citizen, k?

I didn't mean to imply they were. My question was more just wondering if I was supposed to offer my seat to my (non-elderly) elders, or if it was only to senior citizens.
posted by fogster at 9:05 AM on September 21, 2006

Do I offer it to a 40-year-old man?

I'm 41 and offer my seat to those who look like they could use it. But man, if I was just standing there and you offered me your seat I think it would depress the hell out of me. I'm glad you asked here first before ruining someone's day ;)
posted by gfrobe at 9:11 AM on September 21, 2006

I too travel the NYC transit system a good deal, and my general rule is this: stand whenever possible. Some buses can make this difficult, but for the most part its do-able. I like to think of it as the "Let-someone-else-be-the-asshole" rule.

I used to sit and then offer my seat when one of the qualified (ladies, elderly, pregnant, disabled, etc.) was standing nearby, but after so many weird / uncomfortable situations of people refusing a seat, or just staring at you like you must be a terrorist, I just gave sitting up altogether. Standing isn't that big a deal, I find it gives me less proximity to strangers more often than not.

I have told other guys on the train to get up when I've seen a pregnant lady standing, or something of the sort, and as of yet its never caused an altercation.

As for travelling with a lady-friend, I usually offer her a seat if there is one, and then stand nearby. This bothers some of them, especially when there are open seats next to them, so I try to let the situation dictate. But in any case, as I was raised, a gentleman does not sit while a lady stands.

I remember back around the blackout in NYC a couple years ago, I was recovering from a fracture in my heel and had to walk with a cane. In over 2 months of riding the tubes to work with that cane, only 3 people ever offered me a seat. All of them were women.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:20 AM on September 21, 2006

From what I understand of Miss Manners, the polite thing to do is not verbally offer your seat, thus implying that the person you're offering it to is weark or in need, but simply standing and unobtrusively moving out the way.

I've found that when everyone's taking the front seats of buses, which here are labeled as reserved for seniors and disabled people, and I see a bunch of seniors coming on to the bus, simply standing up and moving back as they're coming on will often encourage other people to do so as well (but I live in a pretty polite city).

And during my days of subway commuting I generally found that people were pretty good about letting the most needy person have a vacated seat.
posted by oliver at 9:21 AM on September 21, 2006

And as for the elder thing, I think its in good taste that you're asking that. I would try to approach it generationally. If the guy looks old enough to be your dad, yes. If he looks old enough to be your older brother, don't sweat it.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:21 AM on September 21, 2006

Also, yeah, it's really annoying when someone is so stuck on his chivalry or grand gesture that he gets indignant when the person refuses his vacated seat. Simply giving up the seat without specifically giving it to someone solves that issue.
posted by oliver at 9:23 AM on September 21, 2006

From what I understand of Miss Manners, the polite thing to do is not verbally offer your seat, thus implying that the person you're offering it to is weark or in need, but simply standing and unobtrusively moving out the way.

That might work in a city full of polite folk, but many places I've been to, some jerkass will jump in and take the seat in place of the person you intended to get it. So great, you didn't imply that the person was weak or in need, but now you're both stuck standing and some jerk has your seat. :)
posted by antifuse at 9:29 AM on September 21, 2006

In over 2 months of riding the tubes to work with that cane, only 3 people ever offered me a seat. All of them were women.

I noticed a similar thing while pregnantly riding the subway in NYC. I was rarely offered a seat, and when I was it was almost always from either a white woman in her 20's or 30's or a Latino man of any age.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:47 AM on September 21, 2006

Best answer: One of my proudest zing! moments came on the T when a man asked a middle aged woman if she could please move her lone bag off the seat next to her so that he could sit down. She was pissed that someone dare ask her to move her shopping (a bag containing a shoebox), so pissed infact that she stood up and offered both seats to the man in question shouting "I didn't know The King of the Train was here!"

She shuffled over to the pole where I was standing and, looking for support, asked loudly "Can you believe some people?!"

To which I replied, loudly as well, "Yeah! And you had bought a train token for your shoe bag and everything! Jeez!" People laughed and she got off the train at the next stop.

So, my answer is: Give up your seat for anyone who looks like they need to sit, minus the jerks. Standing teaches humility.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:48 AM on September 21, 2006 [3 favorites]

Women, old people, injured or disabled people, women with child or people with young kids. And anyone who politely asks: while I look young and healthy, I did ask for a seat once or twice, when really out of breath, in the months immediately after having had an MI.
posted by orthogonality at 9:58 AM on September 21, 2006

So great, you didn't imply that the person was weak or in need, but now you're both stuck standing and some jerk has your seat. :)

I think what I try to cultivate is more a change in attitude. It's not so much that one particular person needs my particular seat, it's that there are people on the subway more in need of seats than I, so I should be standing. It keeps me from having to evaluate potential seat-takers on an individual basis, or from getting upset or overly possessive of who gets my particular seat.

And like I said, to some extent when you just see that other people need the seat, and you look at them as you're getting up, a great deal of the time other polite people will follow your lead, which they probably won't do if they see that you've chosen one person worthy of sitting, and that person has sat, so now the problem's over.

"Your" invalid might not get your seat, but seats will free up for those who need them.
posted by oliver at 9:59 AM on September 21, 2006

(On the other hand, I *much* prefer standing on subways than being squished into crowded seats, so this may just be my way of avoiding the problem entirely.)
posted by oliver at 10:02 AM on September 21, 2006

I'm pretty sure federal law (Americans with disabilities act probably?) actually requires you to give up your seat to disabled or elderly people if you're in one of the seats that faces in (is hadicapped accessible). I don't know if that also applies to pregnant women, but I think it does. Not sure about women with children either, but it's definitely the right thing to do. I doubt you'd get fined for not giving up such a seat, but just do it. If you're in one of the front or back facing seats farther from the doors, I don't think that law applies, but the same idea does. If all the more accessible seats are taken, then give up your seat.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 10:03 AM on September 21, 2006

P.S. "Women with children" should read "people with children".
posted by gauchodaspampas at 10:05 AM on September 21, 2006

I'm totally offering my seat to an able bodied person next time I use the subway, just to freak them out. "Oh man, would you like my seat? Yeah, you clearly need it more than I do."
posted by electroboy at 10:07 AM on September 21, 2006

The injured, pregnant, elderly-and-in-need (merely being old isn't enough) and parents with young kids. All get my seat.

I am more conscious of this than I used to be. I was on crutches for several months this year, and was gratified by folks giving up their seats for me. And absolutely baffled at the fucking rudeness of the people who would not.

Dude. I'm on one leg. If the train brakes suddenly, your face is the first thing I'm gonna grab for balance.
posted by solid-one-love at 10:09 AM on September 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think keeping a considerate mind is essential when giving up your seat. I've offered my seat to a woman I had believed was pregnant before she corrected me (probably noticing my eyes at her belly) and informed me that she was just bloated. Fortunately, she was good-natured and I was the only one mortified. Along the same lines, try to avoid embarrassing people who may be nearing having the appearance of "elderly." Being a 20ish female myself, I probably would hesitate before offering my seat up to a seemingly super-fit man in his late 50's.
posted by pinksoftsoap at 10:20 AM on September 21, 2006

I only give up my seat if the person asks. Only. Why? Because I fscking hate all the "should I or shouldn't I" rubbish, and I hate people guilt-tripping me, or pointing to the "please give up your seat" sign.

There was an old couple on the Tube a while back who started muttering incoherently at me while I was engrossed in an article I was trying to read. Having already interrupted my flow, I looked up and asked what they wanted. They pointed to the "Priority Seating" sign and said "this is a priority seat". I said "I know. And?" The old guy said "Well, could I sit here?". "Sure. You only have to ask". I then got up and moved to the standing area.

Don't wait for me to move. I've got books to read and MP3s to listen to. If you are of the generation that needs priority seating, my taxes are already paying for your prescription medicines (because your politicians couldn't balance their goddamn budgets) and, no doubt, your second home in the sun (we're also the poor sods who are going to have to clean up the mess you've made of our planet), so a polite request in an audible tone - preferably utilising the words 'please' and 'thank you' - will get your arse in the seat far quicker than trying to play guilt-trip conscience games.

All the priority seating folk are the ones with the unnaturally high expectations of chivalry from complete strangers. We're nice people - we're not actively trying to prevent you from sitting down - you only have to ask politely and you shall recieve!

This rests the case for the devil's advocate.
posted by tommorris at 10:28 AM on September 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

I am totally pregant right now and take four NYC subways a day... WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN, MIFI? I've been shocked - SHOCKED! - at how many people don't or won't get up during the morning commute. Many people appear to "sleep" and so can't be accused of being so impolite as to deny an 8-month pregnant woman a seat, but they always seem to "wake up" in time to get off at their stop. AGH! But what really gets me is the people whose noses are so buried in their daily religious texts that they don't "see" me until they're getting off.

Sorry to rant. Pet peeve, lately. Frankly, I could've used the seat a lot more in my 1st trimester anyway, but I can't hate on anyone for that.
posted by DenOfSizer at 10:28 AM on September 21, 2006

A big part of the rule (which people always get wrong) is giving-up your seat without making a huge deal of it or expecting any sort of acknowledgment from the person you just gave your seat to. Don't make an elaborate show of how altruistic or thoughtful you are...because the person in need will just resent you (and possibly their handicap/status/disability), and everyone else on the car who didn't give up their own seat will want to throttle you for being so lame.

The best protocol (on nyc subways, anyway) is to give-up your seat without words, gesture, or show, and then walk to another part of the car so that the person who you gave the seat to doesn't feel like he/she owes you any sort of gratitude.
posted by naxosaxur at 10:35 AM on September 21, 2006

I wish more people would just ask if they want a seat. If someone asked me, for whatever reason, I would move without issue. That would alleviate a lot of this should I/shouldn't I nonsense. Most people try to get a seat on the train to zone out with their paper/ipod/book/whatever. I know that I don't pay a lot of attention to the goings on of the train if I'm reading something. So while it seems like I'm being a jerk, I really haven't noticed the person who needs the seat more, and asking would solve the problem. (Of course this doesn't work if the person being asked said no.) This thread has reminded me to pay a little more attention though, so I don't continue to be that person who looks like they are ignoring people who need the seat more than they do.

However, most people are shy, or don't want to talk to people they don't know. I like to say "Why don't you and I switch spots" as I get up out of the seat to people who are obviously in need of it. I then go to another spot so they don't feel like they have to say anything. If talking doesn't seem like a good idea, I just get up and move somewhere else.
posted by melissa at 10:55 AM on September 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Everyone above me has answered your question quite well. I just want to add that it's okay to subject your friend to a stranger. I sit next to strangers all the time on the subway and have survived just fine. Also, anyone that you think needs a seat enough that you'd be willing to give one up for, is probably not someone that you'd have to worry about in terms of "subjecting" your friend to anything (except the woman in handee's sister's class, watch out for her!).
posted by ml98tu at 10:55 AM on September 21, 2006

I'm intrigued at how many people have answered that they always give up their seat in x circumstance, because I have so rarely observed anyone give up their seat in my years of commuting in various cities (metor/bus).

Granted, I almost always take public transportation at rush hour, and most of the people riding public transportation at that time are not elderly + feeble/on crutches/ toting a little kid /bursting with pregnancy.
posted by Amizu at 11:24 AM on September 21, 2006

I specifically *don't* give my seat to pregnant women (and I'm a woman). Their sense of self-entitlement astounds me. First they act like being pregnant makes them invalids, then they give birth and try to run you over with prams. I mean, vomiting on someone because they won't give you their seat? That's fucked up. I'll offer my seat to elderly people, especially if I'm sitting relatively close to the front of the bus, but even they can be a bit sniffy about accepting sometimes.
posted by speranza at 11:25 AM on September 21, 2006

I also readily give up my seat on public transit for the elderly, disabled, or those with children and pregnant. But where I get uncertain is with obese people. I have seen some who look uncomfortable standing and I feel guilty for not giving up my seat. But then I assuage my guilt with the typical they’re-fat-and-I’m-not rationalizing.
posted by peeedro at 11:27 AM on September 21, 2006

+++ anyone who looks like they need it.

Elderly folks, pregnant women, folks with little kids, disabled are more likely to need/appreciate a kindly and gracious, "please have a seat." Because (see upthread) they're used to people being jerks. No need to make this ostentatious...you can just say it quietly.

I do the "let's switch spots" line, too.

When I give my seat up to the guys who are 30-50 but look dog-tired from manual labor jobs, it's all nonverbal and fairly subtle. Stand up, head tilt towards seat with possibly slight handwave of invitation to sit, step towards door with look as if to say "s'okay, my stop is coming up coupled with upturned hand of "nahh, it's no trouble."

Not making any indication, even a hand wave, is a good way to get your seat taken by the wrong someone else. Who should then be possibily be puked upon.
posted by desuetude at 11:30 AM on September 21, 2006

I specifically *don't* give my seat to pregnant women (and I'm a woman). Their sense of self-entitlement astounds me.

I sympathize with this, but ultimately reject it. Those of us who have chosen not to reproduce (e.g. my wife and I) often feel like "breeders" have a sense of entitlement. They get all sorts of special favors and expect all sorts of special treatment. As if their choice -- to have kids (and thus inconvenience other people -- was not a choice.

Well, I guess it's a choice, but MANY people don't see it that way. For many people, having kids is just something you do. At the very least, it's something that many people do without considering all of the ramifications beforehand. We can shake our heads at this and call such people stupid, but that doesn't change anything. Whether they are stupid or smart, they are still pregnant and uncomfortable -- and it's hard for them to stand.

You can say, "Well, that's not MY problem. They made their choice, and now they have to live with the consequences." Fine, but how far are you going to take such reasoning?

I know many elderly people who can stand just as well as I can. They have lived healthy lifestyles: exercising, etc. If you reach 70 after spending a life smoking, eating crap and sitting on the sofa all the time -- then you're going to be a messed up and frail. Is that MY fault?

What if you're handicapped because you CHOSE to take part in some extreme sport? Is that MY fault.

I guess pregnancy is different. We don't know if someone made a bad choice and is handicapped or if they've been handicapped from birth. But we KNOW why someone is pregnant. Or do we? What if the woman was raped? Not all that likely -- but possible.

Are you going to spend all your time doing complicated moral calculus? Or are you simple going to give up your seat for someone who needs it?

More important: are you going to operate under the selfish principal of "I'm going to try everything possible to justify sitting and only give up my seat if I HAVE to." Or are you going to take a general attitude of helpfulness and selflessness and EXPECT to give up your seat -- look for opportunities to give up your seat.
posted by grumblebee at 11:43 AM on September 21, 2006 [2 favorites]

Speranza, I don't think pregnant women can vomit on command (though it would be a handy skill). To your response: a pregnant friend was specifically advised by her doctor to stop taking the Metro/any related shuttles because people were not getting up for her. He was concerned about the health of the baby with all the banging around (particuarly the stop/start when people aren't expecting it), tightly packed bodies that could ram into her, her possibly falling over, etc.

That is the main reason I give my seat up - for people where there is an indication that the instability of standing might be a risk. That group always includes old people (particarly those that look frail-ish), pregnant people, and anyone like solid-one-love. I will generally do the same so families can sit together, little kids, etc, but that's a personal preference and probably not directly related to manners.

Not to sound spiteful, but I'd be interested to hear if you feel the same way later on if and when you are pregnant...
posted by ml98tu at 11:50 AM on September 21, 2006

Best answer: Their sense of self-entitlement astounds me.

I think it's less self-entitlement than being tired, and sore, and uncomfortable, and nauseous. Oh, and with swollen ankles from standing, if you want to specifically address the act of standing itself. Certainly feeling worse than the presumably healthy person sitting down.

I have been raised to cede my seat to those who need it, as pregnant women often do. Is it that much of a stretch to desire similarly polite behavior when I am in need?

Have you been pregnant?
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 11:54 AM on September 21, 2006

He was concerned about the health of the baby with all the banging around (particuarly the stop/start when people aren't expecting it), tightly packed bodies that could ram into her, her possibly falling over, etc.

Weird. Most docs I've seen have been fairly unconcerned about jostling to the baby--it's *very* well cushioned, what with the fluid filled sac around it and all.

To get to the more salient point, though:

It seems a big issue is that of whether is incumbent on the rider to always be aware of their surroundings so that they may cede their seat to one who needs it. I can see the point that that may be considered unreasonable; certainly the typical rider behavior is obliviousness.

However, I personally have been brought to be aware of my surroundings, both for reasons of courtesy and security. I do feel that it is my responsibility to be aware of people needing help, and to offer it. I can certainly understand if others feel otherwise.

In addition, it is a good idea to be aware of the world around you to be safe. :)
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 12:01 PM on September 21, 2006

I am not sure if it's federal, but in many places you can be cited for not giving up certain seats to the elderly & disabled.

BART Police can and will yank you off of a train if you're enough of a turkey to yield seats to those in need.

I took BART to & from San Francisco every weekday for quite a while, and it was rare to see anyone offering to give up seats. And ever since the extension to SFO finished up, it's even more common to see people hogging up seats with their luggage.

It makes me happy when I see someone offer up a seat to someone that could use it.
posted by drstein at 12:03 PM on September 21, 2006

Have you been pregnant?

This came off a bit more confrontational than I wanted; my apologies. In addition, I should note that I have never been nor will ever be pregnant.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 12:03 PM on September 21, 2006

Another misanthropic vote against pregnant's women's sense of self-importance and self-entitlement. Sorry, but the fact that you've managed to mix together sperm and an egg does not make you special (although it's reason enough for the government to steal a large wad of my cash and spend it on educating your sprog). You having a kid isn't big or clever or particularly useful. Ask and you shall receive, but don't bitch if you don't get a seat - crowded compartments are a risk you take by travelling on the train. If you don't want it to be crowded, take a cab.

There was an "exposé" in one of the London papers a while back with a woman wearing a sticker that said "I'm pregnant" and then complaining about how people didn't give her a seat on the Tube (she didn't ask - what did she expect? I hate travelling on the Tube, so I read a book - I'm not going to not read my book and spend time looking at strangers' chests whether they've got a retarded sticker on them or not). I feel like wearing a sticker that says "Old? Pregnant? Say 'please' like the rest of us. It's not that difficult."
posted by tommorris at 12:07 PM on September 21, 2006

To be honest, I don't care if a pregnant woman is tired, sore, uncomfortable, etc. You (mostly) choose to be pregnant, everyone knows it's not the most pleasant experience in the world. Why anyone should be expected to adjust their behaviour to accommodate someone else's lifestyle choice is beyond me. When I'm on a bus, I'm probably just wanting to get where I'm going with the least amount of hassle - I'm not doing complex moral calculus, I'm just wanting to be left alone.

If I was pregnant, I'd avoid public transport as much as possible so that I could avoid people like me - and I'd probably be inwardly cursing the little brat that didn't give up their seat (hell, I do that now when I'm tired, wet, cranky and can't get a seat) but I still wouldn't think they *ought* to give it up. :)

Oh, and I'm pretty sure if you're vomiting you can at least aim it in another direction (i.e. the floor) if there's a person right in front of you. What that woman did was a hundred times worse than the kid's "bad manners". And I hope he sat there covered in vomit and still didn't give her the seat.
posted by speranza at 12:12 PM on September 21, 2006

First they act like being pregnant makes them invalids...

Well, it isn't so much the being pregnant that makes them want to sit down; it's being exhausted and in pain. I would give up a seat to _anyone_ who was exhausted and miserable, but it's not always easy to tell that someone is. If you see a woman who's hugely pregnant, chances are good that her feet and hips hurt and she can't breath normally.

You can say, "Well, that's not MY problem. They made their choice, and now they have to live with the consequences." Fine, but how far are you going to take such reasoning?

Before giving up a seat to anyone, I ask them to fill out a three-page form. "Are you missing a leg because of a drunk-driving motorcycle accident, or was it amputated because you had cancer?" "Are you really old, or did you just fail to moisturize in your youth?"
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:20 PM on September 21, 2006

crowded compartments are a risk you take by travelling on the train. If you don't want it to be crowded, take a cab.

Whenever people feel entitled to something that I think is my choice to bestow or not, it annoys me. I don't think I have to give up my seat unless it has been labeled priority, etc., and so it would annoy me if someone insisted on my seat if it weren't labeled priority.

However, while in theory I agree that taking public transportation is a choice accompanied by certain risks/discomforts, and people should not complain about not sitting when they take public transportation, the fact is that many elderly people can't afford a cab. And there are pregnant women who can't either. I don't feel that they are entitled to my seat by virtue of their choice to procreate, but I do feel that, if they're heavily pregnant and have to take public transportation everywhere, their situation stinks enough that I would be happy to give them my seat. If they could afford it, they probably wouldn't be taking public transportation.

Vomit story - yes, definitely worse than the kid who wouldn't give up the seat.
posted by Amizu at 12:44 PM on September 21, 2006

My rule is quite simple: I give my seat away to anyone who is older, more feeble, or more encumbered than I am.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:47 PM on September 21, 2006

I'm not going to not read my book and spend time looking at strangers' chests

I think it's simpler than that.

IF you notice someone who looks like they need a seat more than you, offer them your seat. But you're not required to constanting look up from your book to check.

IF you need a seat and you notice, and the best candidate is occupied by someone reading a book, accept the fact that he won't notice you (because he's reading a book) and ask him for a seat.
posted by grumblebee at 12:56 PM on September 21, 2006

I guess the difference is whether you give up the seat because someone might deserve it more than you, or whether you give up your seat because someone might appreciate it more than you. I'm not saying one is better or worse, but it looks like the differing opinions boil down to that. The former view raises the issue as to who meets the qualifications of deserving the seat, which is based on your own unique perceptions of being deserving or in need and can differ based on how you are feeling at that moment. As for the latter, I'd imagine most people would appreciate a seat, I certainly would regardless of my physical condition - it's no fun to stand.

Though I have not had to deal with this, I'd actually be afraid to ask, since I suspect most people operate under the deserving paradigm and might not find me deserving of their seat. No one wants a confrontation on a public transportation system. I think a lot of people stay quiet in the hopes that someone will offer a seat, but they don't want to risk someone's ire by asking for one. Currently-seated people feel entitled to the seat because they were there first and they could possibly get quite upset if you suggest that you deserve the seat more than them. It seems easier to hope someone will recognize that you are in need than to risk asking the wrong person for their seat. But again, I've not been on that end of the situation yet.
posted by ml98tu at 1:08 PM on September 21, 2006

My rule is even simpler. Train fills up… I stand up. I'll do that until I walk with a cane. for as long as I can.
posted by Dick Paris at 2:09 PM on September 21, 2006

Speranza, I was really hoping for your sake you'd left the conversation rather than try to defend your self-righteous position. It doesn't really matter whether it's a choice or a necessity to be pregnant - you get up because someone's obviously suffering more than you. That person with the cast? Who knows he didn't get it sloleming down Vail, which I consider a complete ecological waste of time? I don't care; his leg is busted, he needs my seat. That old granddad with the cane over there? Freaking child molester, who knows? Not all pregnant women will decide to get an abortion for the sake of an easier commute; not every person with a child is necessarily that kid's parent, but dragging around all that flesh is hard freaking work that you, Speranza, you swinging free and easy in your reproductive-free state, don't have to do, regardless of how tired and cranky you are, but that somebody else did for you. Pay it fucking forward.

You live in a city; you must operate through manners, custom, civility, and that's your job as an urban citizen. If you don't like the rules, take the goddam cab you would banish the workers to, or better yet, move the suburbs where you won't have to interact with the great teaming breeding masses.

So, thanks, Tommoris and Speranza, for not contributing to the Mathusean future that is an overpopulated soylent-green USA, but cold are you?
posted by DenOfSizer at 2:12 PM on September 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

For the record, I play by the rules of manners. I get up for the people who need it.


You live in a city; you must operate through manners, custom, civility, and that's your job as an urban citizen.

I really wish that a single person I encounter in my daily commute (1 hour each way) would show some manners or civility. It gets awfully tiring being polite and never getting anything in return. It happens once in a blue moon and I feel beaten down from it.
posted by agregoli at 2:16 PM on September 21, 2006

Ditto to everything DenOfSizer said. And I would add that when you find yourself using the same rhetoric as the religious right -- "She chose to have sex, she should deal with the consequences" -- it might be time to rethink your position.
posted by oliver at 2:20 PM on September 21, 2006

I'm not saying that pregnant women shouldn't be able to get seats on trains. I'm saying they just need to ask politely - in the same way that I'd ask them nicely if I wanted a small favour - and I'll be happy to get up for them. It's a matter of two people conversing on an equal level rather than a complex, bullshit network of implied entitlements.
posted by tommorris at 2:29 PM on September 21, 2006 [2 favorites]

I really wish that a single person I encounter in my daily commute (1 hour each way) would show some manners or civility. It gets awfully tiring being polite and never getting anything in return. It happens once in a blue moon and I feel beaten down from it.

I can TOTALLY relate to this, and it's a big problem. I am overly polite by most standards -- especially in NYC. If someone holds a door open for me, I rush through as fast as I can, so they don't have to hold the door open for too long; if I'm lost, I go up to a stranger and say, "Excuse me. I'm sorry for bothering you, but..."

And I expect the same treatment from others.

But I rarely get it. I hold the door open for people, and they slowly meander through it; lost strangers come up to me and blurt out, "How d'ya get to 88th Street?"

It makes me angry, because I grew up with the (absurd?) believe that life should be fair and that good behavior should be rewarded. Yet most of the time I feel like I'm the only one being polite, and that I can go on being polite to people all my life, but I'll never be treated that way myself.

At times, that makes me want to say, "Fuck it! I'm not holding the door for anyone, any more!" (Maybe if I was a Christian, I would learn to "love my enemy", but I'm an atheist.)

I struggle with this all the time, and -- when I have a calm moment -- I try to think about the implications: I get mad when people don't treat me the way I treat them. This is natural, but it implies that I'm NOT being polite just because I think it's good to be polite. I'm also being polite because I expect something in return.

That doesn't make me a bad person, but it's worth thinking about. I would LIKE to be someone who feels that "virtue is its own reward." I'm not that person. But that's a goal I'd like to strive for.

Also, when I feel like throwing in the towel, I think about what that would mean. So because I'm pissed off about the way people treat me, I start being rude? So I turn into this uncaring, rude guy? Is that really the way I want to be?

I don't want to be the selfless guy who gets walked over. But given that alternative vs. being an angry, rude, asshole, I'd rather be the former.

Note: my biggest problem is with (some) other males. Both men and women can be (and often are) rude -- just because they are busy, tired and thoughtless. But in a male/male encounter, I often feel like there's an additional dynamic: a fight for superiority.

No one wants to be the beta dog, and being polite (especially apologising) is perceived as beta-dog behavior. More and more, I'm taking the beta-dog role, so that the exchange can have a polite ending. But again, I expect other guys to do this for me, and they rarely do. So I get pissed off.
posted by grumblebee at 2:52 PM on September 21, 2006

I'm going to ignore most of the really stupid pregnancy comments and just say to those ladies who have mentioned they were surprised how few people got up:

I imagine I've inadvertantly ignored a lot of pregnant women on the train. I am very, VERY dense about noticing these things, for whatever reason. Friends and coworkers have been noticebly pregnant before I figured it out. But if I do notice, I stand. And if you asked me, I'd stand, too, but no one ever has.

Dudes, just believe people when they say they need a seat. The vast majority of the time they'll be telling the truth, and it will be better for everyone.

grumblebee, on preview: I very much relate. Commuting in New York is a daily struggle between getting walked all over, being an angry jerk, and just getting lucky. Sometimes, when the idea that virtue is its own reward just isn't enough, I try to remind myself of the other side of that--being a jerk is its own punishment. Although, on the whole, most New Yorkers are actually pretty benign, just trying to get where they're going and mind their own business. It's just that it only takes one jerk to darken the commute of a whole carful of others.
posted by lampoil at 3:09 PM on September 21, 2006

It happens once in a blue moon and I feel beaten down from it.

Maybe, like many peeves, it's just a big example of confirmation bias. No-one would call me a pollyanna by any means, but I'm often surprised and delighted by the small acts of graciousness and kindness I see on public transport, either towards myself or others.
posted by desuetude at 3:13 PM on September 21, 2006

I always like it when people forbear the raving religious nut. You just wonder what's going through everyone's mind when somebody is shouting that we're all going to hell for whatever reason. But then again, I also like it when somebody dares to take said religious nut on---free show.
posted by DenOfSizer at 3:26 PM on September 21, 2006

I'm not shy about making strangers get up to make room for those more deserving.

I was at a convention a few weeks ago and made people get off of a crowded elevator with me to make room for a lady in a wheelchair.
posted by Megafly at 3:29 PM on September 21, 2006

oliver, word.
Compassion and warm-heartedness are not, to broadly quote the Dalai Lama, borne from a sense of he-deserves but he-does-not. There is no scale of deservedness when one has compassion. Pity tied to charity is garbage.

Compassion is the recognition that all sentient beings have the right to comfort and happiness. Sometimes that means you as a sentient being extend warm-heartedness, and sometimes that means you receive it. And this istotally irrespective of your deserving it as determined by some smaller set of rules- you are human. Give it. Receive it.

If I sit in the first place, I simply stand and move when I see the train/bus filling up.
posted by oflinkey at 3:59 PM on September 21, 2006

Mod note: a few comments removed, metatalk will give you a seat any time
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:39 AM on September 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

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