Thursday, January 03, 2008

Do the right thing or just mind my own business?

An interesting situation happened today. All the seats were taken in the train and in comes an elderly lady at West Oakland. She was standing precariously and carried with her 3 different bags as she tried to grasp on to the safety pole. You can tell she wanted to sit down. I was standing near her. The 4 handicapped seats around her were all occupied: 3 by gray-haired riders (noticed how I didn't quite say senior citizens) and 1 young man.

I felt bad for the elderly woman as the train started moving at a faster pace. She was struggling to keep her balance, especially with her multiple bags. I typically always give up my seat, if I have one, to someone who looks like they need it more, but only about 75% of the time would I actually ask someone else to give up their seats to someone more entitled. Today, I felt like I should say I asked the young man if he wouldn't mind letting the elderly woman sit down.

I said: "Hi, would it be alright if you let this lady here sit in your seat?"
He said: "You talking to me?"
I said: "Yes, I think she could use a seat. Thank you."
Elderly woman said: "Oh thank you."
He said: "Uh, I have a fractured toe, my doctor told me to stay seated as often as possible."
I said: "Oh, OK, I see."
Elderly woman looked at me and said, "It's OK," and shrugged.

It was awkward. I didn't know if I should believe him or not....there's no reason not to I guess. Meanwhile, the 3 gray-haired non senior citizens in the handicapped seats pretended they didn't hear the conversation. I couldn't quite ask them to get up since with their gray hair, they *could* be entitled to the seats although they really should have known better because it was obvious the elderly woman was older than them by at least a decade!

Should I have just minded my own business? I don't think so. Who knew the young man was going to come back with a fractured toe reason? Sure....West Oakland is only about 5-6 minutes from Embarcadero where she would get a seat for sure, but seeing the way she was struggling to balance herself, I didn't think she could last even 2 minutes. Well, she heavily swayed her way through the Transbay Tube and made it to Embarcadero where she finally sat down.


dndgirl said...

Absolutely you did the right thing in asking the young man to give her a seat. I also would have spoken up to ask (not directed to any particular person) if anyone else could give her a seat. Failing that, I would have asked the lady if I could hold her bags. (I'm kinda pushy that way.)

Anonymous said...

I am an infrequent BART rider but have been reading your blog for about a year now.

I usually ride the Transbay bus from Alameda and am amazed at how much more civil the bus riders seem to be compared to BART riders. Or at least compared to what I've read on your blog.

I have never seen an elderly rider fail to get a seat on the Transbay. Usually several people will get up and offer their seat.

This morning there was a school group going on a trip to the museum. They looked like Junior High School kids. Many of the kids stood up and left the seats free for adults. I don't know if they did it on their own or if the chaperones instructed them. But when I got on the bus many of the kids where standing up leaving the fronts seat free.

My experience this morning brought to mind your many posts about BART riders refusing to yield seats to the elderly. And wonder why the experience seems to be the opposite on the bus.

Anonymous said...

umm. first of all, there is such a thing as casual carpool.

secondly, if this old lady can't stand for 6 minutes, she has much bigger problems than not being able to find a seat on Bart.

during commute hours, i'm of the opinion that its every man for himself. don't take public transit to the grocery store if you can't stand longer than the amount of time it takes you to guilt-trip someone into giving you their seat.

i pay taxes to keep old people off the street and in their armchairs watching talk shows. in return for my funding of their decline, i expect, reasonably i feel, i expect them not to infringe on my productive life, and giving me bitter looks on public transit really infringes on that.

bartmusings said...

to anonymous 1- very good question! i really dont know why the difference between the bus and BART? BART is smoother too and should make standing easier. i've gotten used to standing now since ridership has been up since the connector melt-down and stayed up even after the freeway reopened. and really, standing is NOT THAT BAD!!

dndgirl- you are good! i'll have to be more proactive like you.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you handled it about right. If the seated person refuses to give it up, what next? Sometimes people get up with a little prompting, sometimes not. At least you made the effort on her behalf.

bartmusings said...

anonymous #2, do you have an older grandmother? my grandma can walk very slowly, even up the stairs, but she falls when there is sudden movement....just like the jolt we feel on BART during stop and go.

so this elderly woman certainly has the right to walk around and use BART like we do. It's those people who were seated in the handicapped seats who really shouldn't be that are to blame.

and how does standing on bart make you LESS productive??

Anonymous said...

anonymous #2, I can't tell if you are kidding or not, but in any event there is a federal law on the books that disagrees with you. That fact is posted right next to every easy-access seat. I advise you to read it.

SongMonk said...

You didn't do anything wrong, and the young man didn't do anything wrong. (I'll take what he said at face value. If he made that up then he has other issues to face.)

Personally, I wouldn't have said anything. But not because I thought you were out of line.

Anonymous said...

no, i don't have a grandmother. she did what old people are supposed to do, she died.