How to deal with an offered seat

When you use public transport as I do daily on my way to work and home you can experience all sort of strange things.

You can listen to all kinds of music – from live music as a band of three people march through the train and torture their guitars or accordions, thereby torturing your ears, or from some young man who’s listening to his i-pod, wanting you to listen to it too by turning the music up.

You can smell all kinds of funny smells – dogs coming in from the rain or somebody biting heartily into something quite garlick-y or a young woman who must have taken a bath in her perfume.

To sum it up: taking an underground train can be quite unpleasant.

But today it was different. I entered the train, backpack on my back and full plastic bag in the right hand. I moved away from the entrance in order to look for a place where I could stand comfortably. Suddenly a young man jumped from his seat and offered it to me. I had to change trains at the next station, so I said “Thank you, I am getting out at the next station”. He shook his head and pointed to the now free seat. It was obvious that he hadn’t understood me properly. For a moment I thought about taking the seat in order not to be impolite, but decided against it.

On the way home I was still thinking about the young man’s offer and my feelings.

  • Why was I so surprised? What prejudices did I have concerning young men who looked a bit – let’s say – non-european?
  • Why was I offered the seat? Did I look old, in need of help? How did I actually look like?
  • Why did I keep on thinking about this simple sign of politeness? Why did I have difficulties to look at it in this way – somebody wanting to be friendly and polite?

About Ulla Hennig

I live and work in Berlin. Taking photos is one of my hobbies, and writing is one of my hobbies, too. So I decided not only to show some of my pictures here but also present some of the thought which came wth the pictures.

2 responses to “How to deal with an offered seat”

  1. Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach says :

    In today’s world, it’s often very difficult to be trusting of complete stranger’s motives; I can certainly see from where you’re coming.

    I’m handicapped meself, and have decided that whenever anyone offers to make things easier for me (except in karate! 🙂 ) I’ll happily take it. There is no dishonor whatsoever in acknowledging I’m no longer 20 years old (and wow, do I ever feel that! 🙂 ).

  2. gregoryno6 says :

    Empty seats on buses are something travellers here in Perth are almost embarrassed to acknowledge. The days are gone when a lady would take any seat that was either vacated or offered to her. Nowadays it’s not unusual to see five or six people standing within a step of an empty seat, just pretending it isn’t there.

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