Neighbor to Neighbor: Manners take one-way bus ticket to yesteryear

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Sometimes people amaze me. There are those who are constantly doing good, creative things to make this world a better place, and then there are others who are seemingly oblivious that anyone else has any problems or rights.

More and more lately when riding public transportation in Queens, I see riders who pay one fare and use multiple seats in very crowded situation.

I am not concerned about my own needs, since I am not shy in such situations. There are people who are timid, however, and I am not happy watching such situations. At times I have given up my own seat to a standee and then claimed one of those illegally staked out seats for myself.

One recent evening, I boarded a bus with many others. I was fortunate enough to get a seat. As often happens, I was carrying a fully packed, heavy backpack which I held on my lap. A woman who had been standing farther back on line boarded, sat down a couple of seats away from me and immediately put her pocketbook and a small bakery box on the seat next to her.

As each additional rider boarded, that person would look longingly at the bakery-box occupied seat, whose owner stoically stared straight ahead. Most of them kept moving, but one man dressed in neat work clothes stood in front of that improperly filled seat.

Block after block as the bus went forward, the seated woman ignored him. She looked my way and I suspect noted my disapproving glare. She pulled her pocketbook closer to her.

I thought to myself, “Maybe she is getting ready to vacate that space.” She finally picked up the pocketbook and put it on her lap; unfortunately, she then pushed the box further to the middle of the seat and looked my way again, giving me a look that seemed to say she was not going to be moved by anyone.

She was so selfish I could not stand looking at her anymore.

As I started to turn to look out the window, she looked at me again as a little smirk began to appear on her face. I blurted out, “Why don’t you hold that box so that someone else can sit?”

She put her finger to her lips and said something I could not hear.

“What did you say?” I asked

“He has a mouth,” she answered. “If he wants to sit down, let him ask me to move it.”

I was further annoyed. Her accent indicated she was not native to our shores and yet it had not crossed her mind that he might not speak her language or might have some physical disability that would prevent him from speaking, or he might feel embarrassed to ask a woman to allow him to sit down, even though he had paid for that seat and she had not.

As I got off the bus, I was surprised and disappointed that the woman with the bakery box also got off the bus at my stop. She eventually walked in the opposite direction, glancing back at me as I followed her down the steps.

If we ever see each other again, I hope she isn’t littering or doing something else illegal, or we will probably have another encounter. Of course, occupying seats illegally with things is not the only common way to prevent someone else from getting his or her rightful seat. There are those who always sit on the aisle seat, leaving the window seat empty and daring anyone to try and get it.

There are also adults who bring small children aboard and let them occupy seats, sitting standing or lying down while others stand nearby. Adult laps were made for holding little children, or at least they were when I was little; now that is seldom seen, thus depriving today’s children of a wonderful memory.

It was always nice to feel closer to Mother or Daddy when one of them would pull me up on a lap in a crowded bus or train, and the person taking the seat I had would smile and say “thank you.” At that tender time in life, I learned that you get a good feeling when you help someone else. Even now, as a confirmed busybody, I still enjoy that feeling and only wish others would feel the same way. Try it, you might like it.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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