Tuesday, November 29, 2011

To Sit or Not to Sit?

From Jamie:
We all think we know when to give up our seats on Metro. The elderly, the pregnant, the disabled – obviously they get priority. I think every last one of us would leap to our feet for an 80-year-old pregnant blind lady on crutches.

But there’s a big gray area, and every time I’m faced with it, I don’t know what to do. I need help from my fellow riders to figure out just exactly what constitutes proper seating etiquette. In most of these cases, my habit is to let the person take a seat if one opens up (as in, I won’t race them for it), but I’m not likely to actually get up and offer them my seat. But maybe I should ...

The obese
Let’s get this tough one out of the way first. I am an avid runner, and as such, my rear fits comfortably into a Metro seat. Some days, when training for a race, I will rack up 8-10 miles before heading to work. My legs are tired, and if I get a seat, I sink into it blissfully. One such day, I was reading the newspaper in the aisle seat near the middle of the car when an obese woman waddled up and gripped the pole next to me. She was in her mid-30s and didn’t appear to have any other physical ailments except her size, so I ignored her and went back to my reading. A few minutes later, the guy in the window seat next to me asked to get out. Turns out he was giving his seat to the large lady, which made me feel like a real jerk. Am I really expected to give up my seat to someone just because they’re 100 pounds overweight?

The suitcase-wielder
I have had the pleasure of taking Metro to the airport during rush hour with a large suitcase. It sucks. I did my best to wrangle it through the station without blocking anyone’s path or running over feet, and I think I did alright. One thing I did NOT expect, however, was for anyone to give me their seat just because I was fool enough to bring a big suitcase with me. When someone did that, I thanked them profusely and gratefully sat down with my suitcase in the aisle next to me. While I appreciated the gesture, is this the standard? Am I supposed to surrender my seat to people with suitcases? This category also includes people who are carrying a lot of stuff (I usually give them my seat if possible, to improve my karma for next time I need to bring six shopping bags and a box of cupcakes on the train).

Moderately-sized children
Obviously if someone has wee little babes with them on the Metro, they should sit. But what if the kid(s) are old enough to hold on to the poles, and actually seem to be enjoying it? Should I give up my seat for such families? I often feel bad when I don’t, but I’m not sure they even expect people to do it.

Pregnant or chubby?
When someone is eight months in, you know it and you give them your seat. But what about that awkward stage at 4-5 months when you’re not sure if they’re knocked up or just need to switch to lite beer?

Ambiguously elderly
Let’s say there’s a man in his sixties on the train. He isn’t frail, he doesn’t seem ‘old’ … maybe he’s a member of AARP, but does he count as elderly? Does he need to sit, and more importantly, is he going to be offended if I offer him my seat?

I’m sure this is only a small fraction of the whole gray area, but these are the cases that drive me crazy the most often. Help me out here, people!
Other items:
Preliminary 2013 budget has $124 million gap, get ready for fare hikes (PDF/WMATA)
Get ready for the yearlong closure of Dupont's south entrance (PDF/WMATA)
Track work this weekend (WMATA)
Fireworks shot off at Farragut West (Examiner)
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