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?