The train car is is standing room only at the first stop. All seats filled, and several people standing. I am disappointed that I’ll be hanging on to the straps the whole way in to work. But not nearly as disappointed as a hugely pregnant woman who has no seat either.
I am incredulous. All these people — able-bodied men and women of all ages — are oblivious to the big lady in the middle of the train car. Or if they’re not oblivious, worse, they are not willing to get up and give her a place to sit. She is not giving them stink eye or sighing like a martyr — she is busy with her phone. I imagine she is texting friends, outraged that this well-dressed man is comfortably seated in the handicapped seating, that a put-together woman is snoozing next to him, that a young man is lost in his earbuds — also seated. Every seat taken. Every seated person ignoring not only all the people around them, but in particular someone who would clearly be more comfortable taking a load off.
We stop at the Fort Totten station and the passengers rearrange themselves as a handful of people disembark. A seat comes open, the pregnant lady moves toward it. It is snatched up quickly by a middle-aged woman. Who is not pregnant. Or disabled in any visible way.
I often give the benefit of the doubt to the folks seated in handicapped area; they may seem able, but not all disabilities are visible. This is different. I can guarantee that not every person in those seats — and the rest of the dozens of seats on this train car – was disabled. Not. Every. One.
I think about this on the way to the next stop and consider saying something to my fellow passengers. The authority of (my) middle age should be good for something, I think. The poor woman is probably too embarrassed to speak up for herself, I think. So I plunge in at the next stop: “Do you want to sit?” I ask the still-standing pregnant lady. “Yes,” she says gratefully, as if I can magically conjure up a seat for her despite my also-not-seated status. “Can someone give up their seat for the pregnant lady?” I ask, looking around. at the dozens of seated passengers. And finally the magic happens. There is a shuffling and squirming, and a frail-looking woman sitting in the nearest seat gets up and offers her spot. She apologizes for not having done it sooner. Meanwhile the men, every one of them, and all those able-bodied women too, remain seated.
“We all get in ‘the zone’ on Metro,” says the woman who moves, looking at me in a way that implies that the other people in the car were simply not paying attention, that they should be forgiven.
It’s a poor excuse. Come on folks. Be present. Engage a little. And give up your seat for someone who needs it.