Thursday, 4 December 2008

Please be seated.

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. 


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. 

9 comments:

stu said...

Win some, loose some. Social graces maketh the man in the first place. Go with your first instincts ...

Emma said...

Good to know I am not the only loon who agonizes over this sort of thing.

PS, Klansman.

John Finnemore said...

With a capital K, you mean? Duly noted.

Persephone said...

The only time I ever encountered an awkward moment offering my seat to someone was when I was a teenager and offered my seat to an older lady. "Oh, have my grey hairs earned me a seat?" she asked pleasantly. I nearly died of embarrassment, because how do you respond to such a remark?

(Stu's right; don't over think it. I've never, at any age, been upset when someone offers me his/her seat. Whether I accept or not, I always thank them for their thoughtfulness.)

Brob said...

Good work sir. The Daily Mail would be proud.

Anonymous said...

Urgh, I get this all the time. I used to consider for too long if it would look like I was insinuating that they were old, or considerably larger than me, that by the time I had decided to get up, I felt I had left it too long, and it would be awkward.
Now, if a train looks like it has any chance of becoming crowded, I just choose to stand.

Anonymous said...

*crying*
This is pretty much my life- waiting too long to do something I should have done, then realizing it's too late.

peetapen said...

that's always my dilemma because I'm a girl. I want to give seats to most people but i want to give men a chance at chivalry (*evil grin*)

Janet Paderewski said...

Points for trying! On my most recent trip to London I had on a black walking cast for a broken foot, but my coat is so long it nearly covers it. Several men *thought* about getting up - I could see it in their eyes. "Is she as old as I think she is? Nah, she's heavy so she should probably stand up and work off some of it...oh, bollocks, look, she's got a broken leg..."