The other day, I was on the tube. It was busy, but not crowded - all the seats taken, one or two standees. I was seated. The tube stopped, and a middle-aged woman got on, and stood near me. And at once, I was thrown into my own private episode of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'. You see, I quite like giving my seat up for people. It's easy, it's courteous, and it makes you feel at once youthful and self-righteous, which is an excellent combination, just ask Joan of Arc. I wish we still had the rule that a man automatically gives up his seat for a lady. But we don't, and so just as I was about to get up, it occurred to me that this woman might not be pleased if I did. She was quite overweight, so it was hard to judge her age- she could have been anywhere between 40 and 55. And if she was only 40, it might be really depressing - 'Oh God, I look so old someone actually offered me their seat on the tube!'. Or worse, what if she thought I was offering her it because she was so overweight? So I stayed sat down (and so did everyone else in the carriage, to be fair), but felt bad about it. Then, at the next stop, salvation. Another woman got on, who was definitely over sixty. Brilliant. I could prove to the first woman that I was the sort of person who gave up my seat to ladies of a certain age, but that her obvious youth and beauty meant she didn't qualify. I sprang to my feet with olde world charm, and the second lady, thanking me prettily, sat down.
Thursday, 4 December 2008
It was at this point that it occurred to me there was another possible interpretation of what I'd just done. Because the first lady was black, and the second was white. It might be that by sitting stolidly in my seat whilst a black woman stood, and then leaping up the moment a white woman boarded, I had come across as just a little bit... Klansman-y. I looked over to see how the first woman had reacted. And that's when I noticed that she wasn't quite as overweight as I'd thought. She was pregnant.