Thursday, June 4, 2009

The death of chivalry

It's not like it's a new thing; I think chivalry's obituary was probably published in the New York times a few decades ago. But now that I am obviously pregnant, and don't just look fat, I have been noticing it more. Particularly on the Metro, which I ride every morning and afternoon, Monday through Friday. I have been offered a seat exactly twice - and once by someone I knew. Both times the offerers were women, and both times they were seated near young, seemingly able-bodied men who clearly saw me, but made no attempt to get up.

I don't think that the duty to give up your seat to the elderly, disabled or pregnant falls only to men, but I do think it astounding that the offerers seem to be exclusively women. (I've confirmed this with women friends who have ridden the Metro while pregnant). Shame on you, baseball-hatted-i-Pod-listening-boxers-showing guy! And shame on you, too, graying-templed-suit-wearing-reading-the-Wall-Street-Journal guy!

The Washington Post had an article about this a couple of weeks ago. You can read it here, but if you don't want to bother, the gist is that no one on the DC Metro gives up their seats anymore. They interviewed a blind woman who gets on the train with her seeing-eye dog, and often sits on the floor. Sometimes there are empty seats, but even then, no one will tell her where they are. It's outrageous.

And then I think back to my own behavior. Last fall, I was standing in a crowded Metro car, and there was a very obviously pregnant woman standing near me. Of course, no one offered their seat. I considered asking someone to do it. But I didn't. I didn't want to embarrass her by causing a scene. Thinking it over now, though, I have decided that if that opportunity were to present itself again, I'd do it. Not because it would change the behavior of this city's rude residents, but because it might make some Wall-Street-Journal or boxers-showing guy a little uncomfortable. And that might make me feel just a little bit better.

1 comment:

  1. From my own experience on the metro and heavy rail, your assessment is correct. At first, when I started riding the metro I wouldn't take a seat, because I knew I'd give it up eventually, but after noticing that nobody would give their seat up, I chose to take a seat and hold it until someone who I thought needed it would come along. And after that I'd nudge others to do the same. That was interesting, because people typically responded quickly when called out. Just my 2¢.


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