Saturday, 3 April 2010

How hard is it to give up your seat?

If you’re the sort of person who studiously looks at their feet when an elderly or disabled person gets on the bus so you don’t have to shift your bum out of your seat then, to borrow a phrase from The Inbetweeners, you’re a ‘bus wanker’. In fact, I think you’re just a bit of a wanker, bus or not.

My local bus company started life as a student shuttle service running between the university and the halls of residence. Those days are gone and it now serves most of the city and carries a huge range of passengers. Some of the students can’t seem to get their cloth-eared little heads round the fact that not all the passengers are lazy students rolling in to 9am lectures. Many have been known to get territorial about letting the ‘wombles’ (the charming name given to the elderly passengers) onto the bus.

The students sit there gossiping loudly about who they want to pull and ‘like I’ve got so much work to do OMG’ and, as soon as someone who could actually do with sitting down gets on the bus, they either shut up and become engrossed in their phones or they talk even more loudly as if they’re deaf as well as blind.

When I offer my seat to someone more in need of it than me, nine times out of 10 they will politely decline, forcing me to engage in a battle of wits to get them to take my seat whether they like it or not. I can’t just sit there even if they decline the seat because I always imagine them to be thinking that I’m an ill-mannered lout. One thing is for certain, if my stepmother ever caught me not offering my seat to someone I’d get a clip round the ear, even if I am 28 and haven’t lived at home for 12 years.

The other thing that winds me up about bus travel is being stuck sitting next to men who feel compelled to sit with their legs as wide apart as is humanly possible. Are they trying to make the entire bus stare at their crotch? On the way home recently I sat next to an imbecile doing this, legs akimbo and a look on his face that said “Yeah? And?” His inability to sit properly left me clinging onto my seat with half my bottom and digging my heels into the floor to stop myself sliding down the aisle of the bus as it took a rather sharp corner. The temptation to elbow him straight in the gonads was overwhelming, but unfortunately, or fortunately for him, he left the bus before I got a chance.

It’s not difficult to exhibit a little common courtesy so, next time you’re on a bus, why not give it a try? Yes, students of Southampton University, I am talking to you! A slight word of warning, though: do be careful offering your seat to someone you think is pregnant without being absolutely sure it is a baby in there and not just a food baby. I was mortified when that happened to me in Rome; that’s the one time I did wish the lad had just stayed in his seat, staring at the floor. Read more by Alice.

Image: Journal of Public Transit in Ottawa.