I rode the New York City subways for years. Uptown, downtown, summer, winter, day, evening. Thousands of times. And never — not once — did a guy ever offer me his seat. Of course, I was in my 20s and 30s then and not in need of a seat (not that I am now, either). But it would have been nice if once — just once (sigh) — a gentleman would have proven that chivalry was still alive and well.
Imagine my surprise, then, when not one but two such gentlemen showed up on the LA subway. B. and I were on our way downtown one day last week to have a most excellent adventure. There we were on the Red line (I don’t know, I’m not sure I can take seriously a subway system that has color names for its lines vs. New York with its no-nonsense-to-the-point numbered trains). Since seats were few and far between, we stood as the train started to roll. As I was getting into my “subway sway,” a buff young guy popped out of his seat (the seat marked “please relinquish for senior or disabled persons”) and motioned me over. “Thanks,” I said, smiling graciously. “But I’m fine standing.” “Please,” he said. “I’m getting off at the next stop.” Not wanting to appear rude, I sat down, knowing full well that the next stop was at least 10 minutes down the track.
B., able to read my mind for, oh, I don’t know, several decades now, smiled at me with that irritatingly obnoxious grin that said he got why I was not a happy puppy. A couple of stops later, when the train emptied further, he sat down near me. Me: “Don’t even. He: “What?” (Obnoxious grin again) Me: “Don’t make me hurt you.”
At the next stop (11 stops in all), finally, finally, an elderly woman with a cane got on the train. I stood up at warp speed, before B. even had the chance, and offered her my seat, which she gratefully accepted. So there I was, standing, holding on with one hand, doing my subway happy dance (in my head, at least).
And then — what are the chances? — it happened again. Another young man started to get up to give me his seat. (Who knew there were so many annoyingly well-mannered guys in LA? Or were they all just on the subway that day?) I couldn’t help it. I had to shut him down. “No, thank you,” I said firmly. “I’m getting out at the next stop.” Fortunately, he didn’t persist — I would have had to kick him in the shins with my cute little sneakers (again, only in my mind). By this point, B. looked so much like the cat that swallowed the canary that there were practically yellow feathers sticking out of his mouth.
When we finally arrived downtown, I was pouting like a child (see, I’m still young).
B: “What’s the matter? Those guys were just trying to be nice.”
Me: “Nice? What’s nice about making a 50-something woman feel old by offering her your seat — your senior-or-disabled-person seat?”
B: (Coughs to cover a laugh) “I’m sure that’s not why they did it. They were just being polite.”
Me: “Really? Did you see them being polite to any of the younger women on the train? That second guy offered me his seat instead of offering it to the pregnant woman standing in the aisle!”
B: (Pivots) “So where do you want to go first? Disney Concert Hall or MOCA?”
Me: “I want to go back to being 30 when no man would even consider offering me his seat!”
It was too pretty a day for me to brood for too much longer. And you know what helped? A guy who didn’t hold the door, one who cut ahead of me in line for a lunch order (okay, those two were just rude) — and one who made a huge effort to pretend he didn’t see me standing next to his seated butt on the train home.
Isn’t it funny how the things we thought we wanted when we were younger turn out to be things we’d rather not have as we get older? And how, while others may perceive us as old enough to deserve some special treatment, we see ourselves as 20 or 30, in our youth, and a little put off by the gesture. (Even if I qualify for the 55+ discount, do I really want it? I guess so.) So to all you very polite young men out there, thank you, but, if you don’t mind (and even if you do), no thank you for now.
I like standing on my own two feet.
ⓒ 2015 Claudia Grossman