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Parenthood, Young Married Mom

May 26, 2010

Won’t You Please Give Your Seat to the Needy or Disabled.

I had a major breakthrough in my New-Yorky-City-Mom-ness this week.  I accepted someone’s offer for a seat on the subway/bus.  This, my friends, is huge.

Over the course of my pregnancy, I’ve had a troubled relationship with my fellow commuters. I’d always thought that one of the perks of being pregnant and riding public transportation was the guaranteed seat.  In the earlier months of my pregnancy, I anxiously looked forward to what I expected would be a daily reprieve from reaching for a bar that’s almost too high for me while crammed into a sweaty, hot subway car with a whole mess of strangers.

Once I was finally showing, I was excited to embrace this built-in bonus to being a new NYC mom.  I was thrilled when the first woman glanced at me and offered me her seat.

But then something strange happened.  As ready as I thought I was for this moment, I froze.  I found myself unable to accept the seat.  “Oh, I’m fine, thank you,” I said, as I refused the paradisal seat for which I’d pined for so long.  I was shocked; I was confused.  But for some reason, I kept doing it.

Time and again, I was offered a seat, but the three- or four-stop rides that I’d so looked forward to sitting through suddenly didn’t seem as arduous anymore.  There were a few times when accepting the seat would have meant asking a half-dozen other people to move out of the way just as the train started to move, so the utilitarian part of me could justify that.  But more often than not, there wasn’t any excuse at all.  People were being kind and generous, and all I could say was, “No, thanks.”

A week or so ago, I hit a new low.  A woman, who may or may not have been wearing scrubs, saw me and proceeded to physically shift over a seated man who looked like he might have been sleeping.  She confirmed that she did not know this man, or his equally restful companion, by getting off a few stops before they did.  Before she had a chance to do that, though, she turned to me, gestured, and said, “Here.  You can sit down.”

“No, thanks,” I said, “I’m fine.”  As kind as she was, and as awkward as I felt, it had become my automatic response.  I wasn’t even thinking anymore.

I quickly noticed the woman was less than pleased with me.  She tried again.

“Go ahead.  Sit.”  Ack!  I didn’t know how to accept once I’d declined, so I tried to make it better.

“Thank you very much, though, I really appreciate your offer.”  While on the inside, I’m thinking, this stranger-lady just verbally and physically moved a full-grown man, also a stranger, in order for me to sit.  Kind lady?  Or crazy lady? Or maybe I just need to get over myself?

The seemingly paradoxical part is that if there is a seat free, I will absolutely take it.  As long as there isn’t a child in the vicinity, I’m all about pushing my cardigan back, rubbing my belly, and taking a seat.  I like to do this before I board the train, too, so that my fellow passengers know I mean business.  I’m not sure it’s had much effect, but I can dream.

For weeks I struggled with why I could take the already free seat, but not one that someone offered to me.  I’ve been very blessed to have an easy pregnancy and I never feel that horrible.  Plus my subway rides are rarely longer than seven minutes.  So if someone asks me if I want a seat, I always figure I can just bear it, no big deal.  I keep telling myself that in coming months, I will take people up on their offers.  As time passes, I’ve started to wonder if that is ever going to happen.

Yesterday, it did.  I’d expected to get a seat on the bus, but because I was trying out a new route to work, I wasn’t sure of my chances.  Turns out, they were not as good as I’d imagined.  I stood for a few stops, surrounded by parents and their children. I didn’t make eye contact with anyone around me, for fear, of course, that I would be offered a seat.

Over the corner of my book I managed to see the father just in front of me trying to convince his six-year-old son to give up his seat for me.  They were speaking in another language, which I could barely identify over the noise of the bus, so I couldn’t be sure of what they were saying.  A couple of times the boy stood up, still hovering over his seat and swinging a bit on the bar separating him from his dad.  Eventually, he must have been persuaded and he went to sit on his dad’s lap.  A moment later, his father offered me the now vacant seat, and guess what?

I took it!

I was so proud of myself and grateful to the little boy and his father.  I realized that I can accept a seat if either it is fully vacated or the offerree does that hover thing over it, so I know it’s really okay to take it.  When people just ask and don’t move, I feel like I’m being an inconvenience, which, as mentioned above, is maybe something I just need to get over.  And I’m getting there.

Tonight on my way home, I hoped that someone would offer me a seat so that I could take it. But unfortunately, no luck.  Guess that’s something to look forward to for tomorrow!  Until then.

P.S. I know the punctuation of this title’s post is wrong.  This is what is printed on NYC buses (or something close to it).  Sad, right?  Super sad.  But for another day.

  1. 2blu2btru says:

    I find this sign very sad. Maybe they meant to make it sound politely commanding, or could it be a very expensive typo? Either way, as an English major/ grammar minded individual, I did cringe a bit!

    Yay for an easy pregnancy; most women only have bad things to say about the whole process. I’ve never been pregnant, so I haven’t the foggiest notion.

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