1.09.2006

(Self) righteous indignation, or what gets my goat

I was (self) righteously indignant about this this morning, but haven't had a chance to post it since I've been busy at work. In the intervening ten hours (yes, I work long days--I'm here for another two hours tonight, and I've gotta' work for all of it, since I have a lot to do), my righteous indignation has dissipated.

Nonetheless...Here is a wordy, mostly boring story that explains this now somewhat dissipated (self) righteous indignation.

This morning, as I was about to board the bus, I saw a blind man making his way from the street to the sidewalk (which is the curb--the street part or the sidewalk part of that interface?). It was difficult, since the sidewalk was crowded with people waiting for the bus, so I remarked to him, "There sure are a lot of people here," so he'd know to move further back, away from the bus, or go to the front to get help. I don't generally offer blind people help when it looks like they're managing fine on their own, although if I can make offhand, helpful comments within their hearing range, I do. I feel like a lot of blind people who use dogs or canes are rightfully proud of their hard-won independence and don't appreciate people either grabbing onto them or insisting on helping them. Indeed, a kind of screechy woman called out, "Sir! Let's go to the front of the line and I'll get you on the bus!" and he politely declined her offer and waited his turn in line with the rest of the grumpy commuters. Clearly, if someone looks like they need help, I offer it without qualms.

HOWEVER, upon entering the bus, five of the six front seats--the one reserved for the handicapped--were taken. Now this man had a red-tipped cane and was also elderly. He would have merited a first seat on either issue alone, but certainly with that combination! And at least two of the people in the most-forward seats had entered the bus immediately before him (after cutting me in line--harrumph!) and certainly knew that there was a blind man boarding the bus. I expected someone to get up for him as soon as he got on, but, no. He had to fumble his way past the first few rows and then, finally, a woman stood up and said, "Would you like my seat?" And he said, "Any seat," but really, there weren't many seats on the bus.

I have a few hot-button issues. One is gratuitous food wastage. I hate to see people throw out perfectly good food. There are so many people in this city--in my neighborhood--who don't have food that there's no need to resort to the "starving children in Africa" to feel guilty tossing good food into the trash. (Food pantries in NY turn away 2,500 people/day.) You can go ten blocks and give the hungry people the food! And if you find yourself throwing out spoiled food often, buy or make less in the future. You can also freeze some foods to eat later, if you can't eat them before they spoil. (Check on the individual food, though--I'm mostly thinking about bread here. With other things, you might risk food-poisoning.) With the money you save not buying or making food destined for spoilage, you can feed hungry people in Manhattan or the starving children in Africa. One reason that I think this pisses me off so much is because it's such a terrible problem--people not having enough to eat--and so easily rectifiable.

My second hot-button issue is people not standing up for the elderly or disabled on buses and trains. It really gets my goat. I noticed it in Boston and New York. Repeatedly. I will admit, that when I am especially tired, I go all the way to the back of the bus to get a seat and to reduce the likelihood of having to stand for someone. But people who need seats more than I do get to the back, I stand for them no matter how tired I am. If I'm sitting in the middle, I stand. And I never sit in the front of the bus--those seats are for the elderly or disabled.
I'm always surprised by how many youthful lads and lasses plop themselves down in those seats and make themselves nice and comfy, letting older people stand.

The only problem with trying to stand for older folks in New York is the prevalence of youthful dress and cosmetic surgery. Sometimes I can't tell if someone's old, and I don't like insulting people by standing for them if they're not old. It's especially touchy with some of these fancy people who the redone faces and the mink coats. Part of me feels that if you buy into the youth culture to the extent that I can't tell if you're 40 or 70, then you don't deserve my seat. You want to be young? Be young! Stand! Most of me thinks that's ridiculous, and, in general, I try to check out their hands--if they're old-looking, I get up for them. You can't fix the backs of your hands with cosmetic surgery, at least not yet.

It's also not clear to me, in general, what the age cutoff is, even assuming I can accurately guess their ages. Do I stand for the average 50-something? (Parents, don't kill me. I don't think you need a seat on the bus, but maybe you do.) 60-something? 70-something and older--the answer is obviously yes. For me, I think it's more an issue of their ability than their age. I stand up more for practical reasons than any sort of "respect your elders" reasons, although I do, usually, respect my elders. I will stand up for anyone who looks like they need a seat or would have difficulty standing--pregnant, carrying a small child, carrying a lot of bags, older, wobbly, holding a cane, on crutches, etc. I am always astounded by how many people don't. How far back in the bus does the lady with the cane have to creep before someone stands up and offers her a seat?!

Anyway, that's all the ranting I have time for today. Back to the grindstone. The good thing about working these long hours is that there's always a seat on the bus going home!

5 comments:

David said...

I am so totally with you about standing - I've gone so far as to receive stinkeye for standing for women (sorry, chivalry dies really hard).

Now, if there's seats available, I feel no particular compunction to stand so that someone can sit not-next-to-someone else, but I really don't get the idea of sitting when there are people who need the seat more than I do...

Avi said...

I'm a youthful lad who takes any seat if it's available (even in the front of a bus), and stands up if someone old (hands that look 60 or older) gets on the bus. What's wrong with that? If there are empty seats at the front of the bus and I don't sit down, other young lads and lasses will sit there, and I'll be stuck standing.

ALG said...

David-- Regarding standing for women. I said that I stand for anyone who looks like they need the seat more than I do. Assuming these women you stood for were not elderly, infirm, pregnant, or carrying large packages, perhaps they were upset by the implication that they were less able to stand than a man.

Chivalry does die hard. I hold doors open for men and women, and have no problem with anyone holding a door open for me. It's just polite. However, when men offer me their seats on the bus, I always decline unless I'm shlepping groceries or something, in which case I feel that since they offered, and since it appears that I need the seat more than they do, I accept. Also, it makes the ride more pleasant for everyone if the bags are on my lap instead of in the aisle. When I'm not carrying anything, the offer seems condescending. "Honey, here, take my seat." Blech.

The same thing when people see me carrying things and offer to help--like luggage or boxes or whatever. I always decline unless I genuinely need the help, in which case, I accept. I have offered people help with heavy things sometimes, but that usually feels like a not-so-safe thing for me to do on the street, so I often don't.

I feel grateful and lucky to be blessed with a strong and healthy body that can stand on the bus and carry duffel bags in the street. I hope, with God's help, to live to a ripe old age during which I will actually need people's help. Besides, weight-bearing exercise is good for bone density, which should help me live to a ripe old age.

ALG said...

Avi--Okay, but do you pay attention to who gets on the bus? Even giving those fine young people the benefit of the doubt--they intended to get up for the old, infirm, pregnant, etc.--I think some of them zone out or forget or something.

And you also get up for people with canes or crutches no matter what their age, yeah? And pregnant women? I hope so.

You really sit in the front of the bus if there are seats available in the middle or back? Or did you mean you only sit there if the other seats are taken?

Avi said...

I get up for anyone who looks like they need it. And I sit near the front even if there are seats in the back because I get less sick that way. I never did well on buses, even the city ones we're talking about here.