Wednesday, July 02, 2003

On etiquette

On a rush hour subway train last week, my friend told me that while she thinks that all young people should give up their seats for the elderly on public transportation, she holds young men to a more stringent standard. If she sees an elderly woman standing, and young men and women sitting, my friend would expect that the young man give up his seat. "I know, it's not fair," she confessed. "But it's just the reaction I have. I get mad if girls stay seated, but I get really mad when guys do."

Fine. But the thing is, I have almost never seen a man stay planted in his seat when an elderly person (usually a woman, some of the elderly men are insulted by the offer of a seat) is standing. But those bitches are another story.

Yesterday at rush hour, I wedged myself into an already crowded bus. Following me was a grandmotherly woman with her polyester blouse, grandmotherly white soft leather purse, and those tan orthopedic shoes that look rather like mocassins. She stood right next to the sideways seats near the front of the bus, the ones that are priority seating for her age group since it is easy to get in and out of them. Sitting in those seats were three young girls, not a one of whom should legally be served a drink, if my guess is on. The bus was so crowded, that there was really only one person who could have given up her seat for the woman without a massive reshuffling of people. Grandmother was practically falling on this girl. But I watched this young lady set her gaze firmly, fiercely straight ahead. She would not acknowledge the woman bumping into her legs with every convulsive jerk of the bus. I was aghast. If someone made my grandmother stand on the bus I would be enraged. She could fall and break a hip. I've seen men in their prime go flying on these rattle trap buses. The road rage I used to experience in my more mobile days has since been replaced with bus rage, and today it was roaring. It probably didn't help that the little princess in question was clutching a Prada bag, had a lime green sweater tied buffy-style around her shoulders (a pet peeve), and was shielding her guilty eyes behind Gucci shades. The eyes, they say, betray the soul. So best to wear dark glasses if you don't have one.

Of course I quickly felt complicit in this little scene. I was smooshed about five people back from grandma and princess. I could have said something like, "Excuse me ma'am, do you need to sit?" or "Can someone offer their seat for this woman?" or "Bitch, you better have a broken foot, because that's the only reason I can think of why your little ass didn't pop up in the air the moment that woman stepped on this bus." Instead I went for plan B, passive aggressive glaring. But the soulless one was remarkably determined in her oblivion. Eventually, the standing-room-only crowd thinned to the point to where the people across the aisle could see the affront to justice that was taking place. Instantly, a young man popped up, walked over to grandma, and insisted she take his seat.

The boys are alright. Somebody needs to teach these girls some manners.


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