Since I’m not a driver of motorized vehicles, I partake in a lot of public transit. And since it’s summer vacation season, it’s not unusual for me to be toting a piece or two of heavy luggage along with me. I feel guilty doing this at the height of rush hour. But there’s not a lot of choice: Planes, trains and buses don’t exactly sit idle waiting for me to grace them with my presence.
The bright side of travelling this way is that, most of the time, I’m pleasantly surprised by how thoughtful and accommodating my fellow subway sardines can be under these circumstances. A couple of weeks ago, as my daughter and I struggled with our suitcases aboard crowded transit vehicles, a number of passengers offered us seats, offered us spaces, offered us a helping hand.
I say “most of the time” because we did encounter one slightly less sympathetic commuter. It happened on a long staircase leading from the subway tunnel to the street. In some sort of twisted version of the game chicken, a businessman in a suit and tie – he was going down while my daughter was going up – decided he wasn’t going to move two feet to the left to let her pass. So my kid ended up having to haul her hefty load out of his majestic path.
Yet she’d barely gotten higher before another fellow hustled to help her, this one several leagues friendlier. In broken English he repeatedly offered to carry my daughter’s suitcase to the top of the stairs. We politely refused until we were three-quarters of the way to the top, but finally gave in. And as soon as he had hers done, he was back for mine – no small favour, since it weighed about seven hundred pounds. With his kind smile and not insignificant arm muscles, he made our morning.
Conclusion: Considerate transit riders wildly outnumber any selfish ones. Don’t take just my word for it. Not long ago, a colleague of mine was moved to post on Facebook about her positive subway experience. It seems a pierced, beheadphoned girl lost in her own music snapped out of it long enough to come to the aid of an older lady struggling to stand up. We see examples like these all the time.
Ever doubt the compassion of the human species, buy yourself a bus ticket. And then take yourself on a ride.
I wholeheartedly agree with you, Lisa, about the kindness of most transit passengers. However, when in Toronto this past Monday, I had to speak to one teenager on the subway about giving up his seat at rush hour so a visibly pregnant woman could sit down. He was oblivious to this and immediately gave up his seat, no questions asked. It wasn’t until I realized that his father was standing right in front of him that I became thoroughly disgusted. Dude, do I have to do your parenting for you? It was only three subway stops, but I’m sure to that mom, it meant a lot to be off her feet for the duration.
Maybe you set a good example for dad! Your story’s funny because I do that, too. Once, when my daughter was just a baby, I saw a pregnant woman standing… who also happened to be deaf. Fortunately, I knew enough limited sign language to ask her if she wanted to sit down – she did. I couldn’t give up my seat with the baby on my lap, but I kicked the person beside me off of hers so the pregnant woman could sit down! All was right with the universe.
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