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June 11, 2012

Transit Chivalry - a Lost Art?

Recently on this blog, I wrote about whether "chivalry" can exist in the modern day, or whether it's an out-dated concept.

Little did I know that the question would come up again so soon, and in a context that I hadn't even thought about. Maybe because the idea of not doing this is so alien to me?

Over the weekend, I came across an article in the Washington Post by Dana Hedgpeth, entitled "Pregnant and Hunting for a Seat on the Metro." In it, Dana says that she's 9 months pregnant, actually past her due date, and has gained a lot of weight due to the pregnancy. She talks about the time last month where she was sitting in a senior citizens seat when a blind woman came onto the bus. She tried to give her seat to the woman, and each ended up doing the "no, you go ahead" tango before finally somebody else gave up their seat for the woman.

But this instance is what really got to me.
"Another time, a friend’s husband and I boarded a rather full rail car during the evening rush hour. In a rather loud voice he said — “Excuse me, my friend here is very pregnant. Can someone give up their seat, please?”

Three people in the first row of seats looked up. Two businessmen looked me dead in the eye and then looked back down to their newspapers. A 30-something professional woman appeared to glance at me and then look back out the window."
Has society gone insane?

It seems that basic courtesy has gone out the window these days. I can't even imagine not giving up my seat to a pregnant woman, especially if she was so obviously that far along.

I have to wonder whether it's a gender thing of some kind. Would these same people have acted the same way if a doddering 76-year-old man or woman had struggled onto the bus? Do they think the pregnant woman can fend for herself because she's not struggling to walk around? (and I'm sure some women do struggle to walk around, depending on the pregnancy, so that point may even be moot).

She talked with a fellow pregnant woman on another metro ride, and they agreed that it seemed the most likely to give up their seat were young African-American men and middle-aged women (who may be doing it from remembering their own problems). The least likely seemed to be women in their 20s and middle-aged white men. Of course that's all anecdotal, but it does speak from these women's experiences.

There are two other great articles linked to from Dana's post, so I encourage you to go read that and click through to those as well.

Has it come down to the point where a pregnant woman has to *ask* for a seat on a bus or subway? And even if they do, Dana's experience when her friend's husband loudly demanded it sort of implies that it may not happen even with that. I wonder how much those people felt ashamed afterwards.

Or are they just that oblivious?

It seems that people will go out of their way to make room for mothers with kids in tow, but if you're towing a kid inside you, all bets are off. Lynn Harris asks "where were you people when I was pregnant?"

It's really sad.


  1. I read your other post about chivalry as well. I must admit, I am a pushover when it comes to chivalry and appalled at bad manners. Any able bodied person who does not give up their seat for an obvious pregnant woman is just plain RUDE. If my significant other was the one who did this I would honestly reconsider our relationship, thats how strongly I feel about it.

    Maybe I am lucky living in the Midwest because I find most people here to be courteous. Then again, we don't have a metro and I couldn't tell you the last time I took public transportation, so maybe I'm living in la-la land? Just my humble opinion....

  2. I know you would give up your seat for any woman pregnant or old. I raised you right. Being a woman myself I would give my seat up to anyone. I was raised right to. Aren't you glad you had such wonderful parents. LOL
    Your blog not long ago about men opening doors for women. If a man is behind me I hold the door open for him. To me that's just polite. If a man holds it open for me I always say thank you. It's to bad those kind of curtesies have gone away.

  3. Raquel, I'm glad you're a pushover for chivalry. If I ever see you in person again, you'll see it in action. :)

    I completely understand how you feel about this. It's just incomprehensible to me that somebody wouldn't do this. You could be living in la-la-land, but if so, I'll come and join you. :)

    Mom, I totally agree with you. You did raise me right. :)

  4. A friend of mine who was very pregnant on New Years Eve had to stand for an hour and no one gave up their seat in the waiting area of the restaurant even though it looked as if she was getting tired quickly and leaned against the wall. Chiverly seems to be lost. Why else would we have commercials about it? If someone is nice, we notice only because it isn't happening anymore.

  5. Some of those people might not be giving up their seats because they assume the woman is fat rather than pregnant. Apparently, some people can't tell the difference! I've never been pregnant, but have been asked if I was.

    Seriously, though, it's sad that a person would have have to ask people to give up a seat to an obviously pregnant woman... And it's even more sad that after someone asks, no one volunteers.

    On the other hand, I was once asked to give up my seat on a bus trip because I was traveling alone and a young mom showed up late with her toddler so there were no seats left together. I had gotten to the bus early precisely so I could choose my seat and was annoyed that just because I was traveling alone, I got put on the spot. Thankfully, someone else gave up their seat before I ended up having to move. Yeah, I'm selfish, but it wasn't my fault young mom showed up very late with her child. I think being considerate is a two way street.

  6. This was a great read Hist, though it was disappointing to hear people acting like this. What else will people think of lol?


  7. Sorry for the delayed responses to comments, ladies! I still don't know why Gmail's considering these spam now, and I thought I had whitelisted these emails.

    Oh well.

    Nikole, thanks for stopping by! I think you're right that it's becoming noteworthy when it happens because it's becoming rarer than it should be nowadays. What happened to your friend is just horrible.

    Knotty, if they're in doubt, they should just get up anyway. If there's even a chance that they're pregnant, I would get up. I'd rather err on the side of politeness.

    In your case, I completely agree with you. I'd be hard-pressed to move in that situation, though part of me would feel like I should. I'd weigh it long enough for somebody else to do it, though. :) You're right, consideration is a two-way street.

    Ace, welcome! Yes, if you explore the blog, you'll see a lot of idiocy like this. :)

  8. I agree that people should err on the side of politeness. But unfortunately, a lot of people don't have a lot of consideration for people they perceive to be too fat. When I read Internet comments people leave about heavy people, I am truly appalled. It amazes me how mean people can be, particularly when they think they're anonymous.

  9. My apologies in overlooking this very important post, Dave. You know it's one of my personal peeves, the deterioration of courtesy, manners and politesse in our society. I will always embrace courtesy and being polite, and I'm not above nudging people in a public setting if they refuse to step up. I'm not rude about it, as that's sort of defeating the purpose, but if I see a man sitting when a lady, someone elderly or physically challenged is standing, I'm going to politely ask them to relinquish their seat. I'm going to hold doors. I'm going to help with heavy packages or a grocery buggy that's unwieldy. It takes so little effort to simply be polite and do the right thing, you know? And the rewards are self-evident. You receive sincere smiles most of the time, and occasionally you make a new friend. Most importantly, you have the sense of satisfaction that you've done the right thing. I wish more felt this way and recognized it as the simple thing it is.

    Great post, Dave!

    - Dawnie

  10. Hey Dawnie! With everything going on, it's not a tragedy that you overlooked the post. Don't worry about it. :)

    I love your attitude to the whole thing. What's the typical response when you ask a guy to relinquish his seat?

    I do agree that the awards are so much better, much more than the comfort of the chair that you're not giving up, or anything like that.

    Great comment! Thank you!


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