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June 29, 2005

Giving up your seat in rush hour

The thorny issue of giving up your seat on the train or tube has been raised in the London Metro letters section this week. Far from being an arbitrary decision, I think it's an interesting problem that needs careful thought.

Historically, it was very rude for a gentleman to remain seated when a lady was standing. Thankfully those days have gone and the only gender related seat swapping to contemplate now involves pregnant women - more later.

If you are reasonably young and healthy, then the advice to give up your seat to someone who needs it more than you would logically lead to you standing almost all the time. As you've paid the same fare, is this really fair? Of course it isn't. So you have to use your judgement. Commuter trains in the rush hour are notoriously overcrowded. My controversial take on this is that if you cannot stand for your complete journey, then you should wait until rush hour is over. If you see a packed train and you must have a seat, just don't get on. I'm 'lucky' that I live near the start of the line for my train journey - so always get a seat to work. I see people at later stations down the line piling in every day and suffering the nose to armpit degredation. But when I say 'lucky', what I mean is I made a conscious decision to live further out of London. It makes my journeys longer, more expensive, but more comfortable. I don't feel guilty about sitting every day. If the people in Putney have a problem with it then they have a choice don't they? Get a later/earlier train, or move jobs or home.

Pregnant women are a problem though. Whilst it is really their own fault for getting into that condition, we do need to ensure that the human population endures, and so offering them a seat is inevitably something you will be expected to do, and should not shy away from. If they are goig to work like you, they have no choice but to be on that train/bus. The problem is that some fat people look like pregnant ones. The embarassment on both sides of offering a seat to a fat person is appalling. Not only that - imagine how annoying it is for you if they actually accept. The only foolproof method if you are unsure is to keep your head safely hidden in your paper and pretend you haven't seen them - if they really are pregnant, then they shouldn't be afraid to ask. Perhaps 'Baby On Board' badges should be given out at ante natal classes.

I know I'm coming across as a very selfish person, but it's a dog eat dog world out there, and I'm not planning to be the puny pekingese the pack. I'm more than happy to help people who genuinely seem to need it, but they really should consider alternatives if they cannot cope with the daily discomfort that has become city commuting.

So if you are very old, or carrying very young children, try and think if your rush hour journey is really necessary. Someone has spent thousands of pounds on a ticket to get them to work on time, they deserve that seat more than you do, and your trip can probably wait.

Posted by se71 at June 29, 2005 10:37 AM

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