Chivalry Is Dead On the Busses of Melbourne

by admin on July 11, 2011

So, this didn’t happen to me, but my eldest sister, who was – at the time – seven months pregnant. She was used to rude people on public transport, but this was a new low for the collective intelligence and manners sector. On a bus, on a hot day in Melbourne, there was no were to sit. there was, however, a whole lot of blokey-bloke guys (you know the kind – short hair, play football, totally neckless?) there, probably half-drunk on awful Victorian beer. So there was my sister, bulbously pregnant, ankles swollen, uncomfortable from the warmth. How many people offered her their seat on the hour-long trip?

Not one. Not one, single person. She tried the whole “discreetly-lean-pregnant-belly-in-til-they-just-move-already” trick, and no, no one got it. She asked outright for a healthy young man to move so she could take her weight off her feet – and my sister is a small girl, that is a lot of extra weight on her small bones. Everyone refused to move for a pretty, pregnant woman – except for one elderly lady that smooshed up next to one of the beefy men (after telling him off to no avail with what I suspect was a lot of “what would your mother think”) to make room. My sister now shares my adoration of old women. 0709-11

What is with this cultural epidemic of healthy, able men refusing to yield their seat to an obviously more needy person? But on a another level, aren’t we happy that men can display their true selfish colors in almost billboard like fashion so sensible, considerate females can avoid them altogether?

{ 120 comments… read them below or add one }

airlinepass06 July 11, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Another part of offering the seat is to thank the individual. I’m expecting my first child in several weeks. Several days ago I went to a car rental office to return a vehicle. An elderly man offered me his seat in the waiting room. I thanked him and we chatted a bit. The clerk was ready to receive my car. I said good bye to the gentleman and he called out, “Thank you for the ‘thank you’. It’s been a while since someone said that to me. I appreciate it.” Made my day even better. :)

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Another Alice July 11, 2011 at 2:33 pm

I am certainly not someone who thinks pregnancy should allow people to get away with anything they want, but I don’t think that’s at all the case here.

What it comes down to is: How about being NICE?! It’s just NICE/polite to offer your seat to someone who could really benefit from it.

And it does extend to lots of people, not just pregnant women. I’m not/never have been pregnant, but I take the bus every day to work. I teach, and often have HUGE bag(s) full of supplies that are very heavy/cumbersome. Believe me, I’ve tried every which way to avoid taking them on the bus, as I’m sure it annoys everyone, not just me, but it just isn’t possible sometimes. Anyway, one day (and granted, this was a dumb fashion decision) I was wearing heels and carrying two huge, heavy bags, plus my purse – and stood on the bus the whole time. I felt so ridiculous; I kept falling because the weight of the bags would shift each time the bus turned. In addition, the bags were getting in people’s faces and I was apologizing the entire time. Anyway, besides being surprised no one offered me a seat, I made a vow then that I’d try to do so for others in the same situation.

I really think that, regardless of the reason, it benefits EVERYONE on the bus to offer those in need a seat. For those who are pregnant, I mean, do you really want a pregnant woman falling down and hurting herself to be on your conscience? Same for those who are older adults. And as for those with a lot of stuff, frankly I’d rather let them sit down then have their belongings blocking the aisle/in my face. It’s just common sense.

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Edhla July 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Melbourne commuters are rude. I lived there for nine months and I am still horrified by most of them. (Yes, I’m from north of the border, sue me.)

Incidentally, in Melbourne, there are seats on buses and trains with a huge sign “PLEASE VACATE THIS SEAT FOR AN EXPECTANT MOTHER, DISABLED OR ELDERLY PASSENGER.” So it’s not just rude, it’s violating the rules.

I am disabled and walk with a distinct limp. I cannot think of ANY occasion while I was living in Melbourne that a soul gave up their seat for me (biggest offender: businessmen on their way home. Not only did they want a seat, they insisted their laptop/bag needed one too. And ignored those who needed a seat by hiding behind a newspaper. So much rage.)

I half deserved this, though, as I am non-confrontational and never asked. My best friend is far more assertive, and on several occasions when we travelled would outright, pleasantly and loudly say, “excuse me, could you please allow my friend to sit down? She has a disability.” Worked every time.

I have to admit that the whole leaning-forward passive-aggression would have made me think twice about offering a seat to her… and this isn’t a matter of chivalry. This is a matter of giving a seat to someone who, regardless of gender or whether she was “pretty”, had a physical reason to want to sit down.

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Yet Another Laura July 11, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Back before the turn of the millennium, I was on crutches having had knee surgery. I managed to get the last seat in the “let the disabled/elderly/otherwise special needs people sit here” section on the bus going downtown. The other riders in that section included a middle-aged healthy-looking woman and the seat next to her was full of her bags. The bus got crowded a couple stops later – standing room only. Then a woman looking to be in her 90s got on. She had a cane, walked slowly, and clearly needed a seat.

No one offered her a seat.

The bus took off and the elderly woman struggled to keep her feet. She asked the middle-aged woman to please move her bags and free up the seat. The middle-aged woman refused.

The elderly woman stood for her entire ride downtown – about two miles. She held on for dear life to the pole and still not one person moved. I even considered getting up myself – crutches and all – so she could sit. She got off one stop before me or I’d have made sure she got my seat when I got off.

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Ista July 11, 2011 at 2:53 pm

The first time my mother went through New York City, she and my dad were adopting a sibling group from Russia. She came home and told the story that she was on public transit, with three non-English-speaking children under the age of 6, and no one gave up their seats to the stick-thin and pale children.

I don’t know where I’m going with this story except that it’s similar to the topic, and it always left an impression on me regarding public transportation and manners, to the point that I was holding doors and giving up my seat even when I was pregnant myself, if I thought someone looked sicker/tireder/frailer than I was (am). I have always wondered, what if that person is here for the first time? He/she should have a good experience, and I don’t really need my seat anyway, as I minimize my use of public trans.

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Anonymous July 11, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Snowy, it’s kind of you to look at things in the best light; however, from the submitter’s cast of ugly, bad-beer-swilling portrayal of the “bad guys”, I’d venture a guess that she DID mean pretty, as in attractive.

Add me to those who wouldn’t budge from my seat if a woman shoved her belly at me or others.

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LonelyHound July 11, 2011 at 3:09 pm

sidi-ji –
A lot of malls here have parking for pregnant/expecant mothers. I will tell you, never in my life have I seen so many pregnant men. ;)

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Enna July 11, 2011 at 3:24 pm

@ Queen of ALL Things. I thinkt here is a difference between offering a pregnant woman a seat as pregnancy is a medical condition and offering a woman who isn’t pregnant a seat. There are often signs in coaches requesting passangers to give up seats to those who are vulnerable e.g. heavily pregnant women, those with poor moblity and with disablities, with children etc.

When and where I was at university the student bus that went from the student village to the university if an elderaly person got on all the students, (normally at least half the bus) would get up – and I was one of those people. My housemate did ask once if it was patronising to offer an eldery lady her seat, I said so long as it was done in a non-patronising way: I also said with the elderly people they are more likey to suffer serious injury if they fell over the same going for pregnant women and those with disabilities and young children.

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danielle July 11, 2011 at 3:36 pm

A few months ago I was riding a bus which was packed full we had both wheelchair spots occupied so there was even less room then usual when two mothers got on the bus with 5 kids between them including two in strollers. All the kids were young under 8 at least and the driver made the moms take the kids out of the strollers. When the driver finally got moving again the moms started making a huge fuss out of no one getting up so there kids could sit, I was already standing having given my seat up for an elderly person who deserved a seat. Again the bus was at full occupancy and the moms refused to move towards the back of the bus where there was a little more room instead they spent the whole ride complaining loudly about how no one was giving up seats for there kids. My question to everyone is this: do you give up your seat for an 8 year old? I don’t because I was raised to give up my seat for older people and as far as I was concerned during the bus trip kids have better balance and they heal a lot faster so they are the last people I or most people I know would give up a seat for.

Just to explain the context I was employed by the bus company counting people as they got on and off the bus so I was required to sit in the front by the door so I could count but I did get up whenever an older person got on if there was no room left, also I am 24 and have absolutely no balance so while I did get up for the elderly I was not going to give up my seat for someone younger then myself unless they were handicapped or pregnant.

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AS July 11, 2011 at 3:53 pm

The men were mean. But, was that old lady the only woman in the bus? If not, why didn’t any other woman get up? Let us not blame the men alone when the other women share equal blame.

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Giles July 11, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Although I don’t deny someone should have gotten up, it’s a little mean to describe a group of people as ugly and probably drunk because you’re peeved at them. Also, are ugly, pregnant women less entitled to seats?

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badkitty July 11, 2011 at 4:07 pm

As for the “so what if she’s pretty” issue, I will say that it’s more surprising that not one person on the bus was willing to treat her decently. Should the attractive have special rights and privileges? NO. Do they get treated differently in most situations? Yes, and many times by people who are unaware that they are doing it. That is why it was an extra surprise that she was treated so shabbily. I didn’t read the author as condoning special treatment for the pretty, and I’m surprised at the venom of those who did.

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Kali Ravel July 11, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Tinytx, why on earth did you think it appropriate to harangue a complete stranger rather than getting up yourself?

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Bint July 11, 2011 at 4:23 pm

I would always give my seat up for someone else. I agree it’s not gender. Someone who is elderly, heavily laden, has children or eg a cane – someone who looks like they may be finding it hard – should get the seat. It doesn’t matter whether they are pregnant or not. All that ‘they’re pregnant, not ill’ is just ignorant. Being pregnant can be physically exhausting. Really, what does it cost you to offer a pregnant woman your seat if you’re perfectly healthy and able-bodied? Naff all to you, possibly a lot to her. If she doesn’t need it, she can decline.

Although I always found people on the train were brilliant at offering me a seat, but I’m just one of those short, stocky girls that people offer seats to. I don’t know why. It’s just the way it is. I’ve always offered my seat to people. I don’t really care what other people are doing – I don’t tell men to give up their seats, I would rather give up mine.

I also suspect the OP said her sister was pretty as in ‘why don’t these young men have more sympathy given she is attractive’? Because it is more likely that they will help a pretty girl, let’s be honest.

I am surprised though. I commute into London and nobody ever left me to stand.

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Raven July 11, 2011 at 5:30 pm

I agree that an obviously pregnant woman has the right to ask for a seat – heck, anyone has the right to ASK for a seat, regardless of gender, ability, or what’s in their belly.

It’s certainly a kindness to offer a pregnant woman your seat (if you’re lucky enough to have one yourself!!) but, as others have stated, it’s not always easy to tell for sure if a woman is actually pregnant. Now of course relating to this specific story, her pregnancy was stated, but I’m talking more in the general sense. (Assuming that the preggo sister actually said, “I’m pregnant and my feet are killing me, can I sit down?” and not “I’m tired (like everyone else) can I sit down?”)

No, pregnancy is not an illness but some women do suffer more than others, and it’s a nice gesture to help out an expectant woman where you can.

However, I just want to add one thing, as someone who has lots of friends/family members pregnant lately – being pregnant doesn’t make you special or better than other people, and I have to wonder if that’s where some of the reader hostility is coming from. I’m tired of pregnant women expecting everything, all the time, right away, because they’re pregnant. I had one friend whose response to EVERYTHING was “I’m pregnant!” whether it was why she taking food at the table before everyone else, snapping wildly at everyone, or ordering them to bring her things – this, from the very beginning of her pregnancy, before you could even blame the belly. Longest 9 months ever.

You’re pregnant?! I’m thrilled! But please stop behaving like a princess; you are still just a human being.

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jessiebird July 11, 2011 at 6:07 pm

We have this same problem in Japan, a big public transportation society. There are seats reserved on every car of every train/subway and bus for the pregnant, elderly, injured, or people with small children. And we all know Japan has a massive elderly population. Unfortunately, these seats are often taken by young people. They avoid eye contact by putting on their makeup or listening to headphones. Once, I got on the train in Osaka with my 60-ish MIL, who happens to be quite overweight and not used to all the walking in Japan, my DH and FIL, and my 1-year old son, who I was carrying in a baby carrier on my back. Four men, ages ranging from 18 to 50, were sitting in the priority seats. We were standing right next to them. They avoided noticing us. Finally, my wonderful, assertive, very fluent in Japanese DH asked them to give me and my MIL seats. They were shocked they had been confronted (not typical in Japan) but gave us seats.

On the other hand, in March, I spent three weeks in the hospital (still in Japan) with serious pregnancy complications. My daughter was born by c-section at 33 weeks gestation and sent directly to the NICU because she only weighed 2 pounds. I had a week to recover in the hospital and then was immediately on the train and buses getting to the hospital an hour from our home so I could visit my daughter and bring her milk. I was exhausted, severely anemic from blood loss, and in pain, being only a week from major abdominal surgery. I sat in the priority seats, too. If anyone looked at me, I looked like a healthy 30-something woman, but in fact, I was very recently post-partum and post-operative. Not to mention sleep-deprived from waking up to express milk ever few hours to keep supply up. It was appropriate for me to be in those seats, but the only way to prove it would be to lift my shirt and show them my wound. :) As an aside, after that ordeal, I understood the cultural practices in many societies, including Japan and DH’s Romania, of post-partum women staying home with their babies for a month. And that’s after normal childbirth.

When I started feeling better and stronger during the seven weeks I had to commute to the hospital, I gave up my seat again for the elderly. And now I feel great but am carrying a beautiful, healthy 8 lb, 3 1/2 month old baby. She’s so tiny, I don’t need priority seats yet. ;)

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ellesee July 11, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Yes, she did ask for a seat, only AFTER she shoved her belly into the passengers. I don’t think it’s that they didn’t get the “hint,” but rather tried to ignore her invasive and rude behavior!

I don’t really care that OP’s sister was a small girl or pretty…..small or pretty girls don’t get it harder when they are pregnant. They suffer the same general amount like every other pregnant woman. This smells like entitlement.

Lastly, OP described these men to be drunk….quite possible that they were not aware of the situation or did not have the balance to stand up. Guess they weren’t able-bodied….?

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Miss Raven July 11, 2011 at 6:22 pm

I agree that this is not at all a gender issue. I have offered my seat to elderly men (and once, a Dad and his little boy), although I’ve found the elderly men have a firm sense of chivalry and will frequently refuse to take my seat. It is a human issue. The problem was not that these were male beefcakes refusing to stand up for a frail girl. The problem was that these were large, strong, young, seemingly healthy people who refused to stand up so that a pregnant person may sit down.

The fact that only women can be pregnant does not change the matter. If men could get pregnant, I would expect any healthy young woman to yield to his delicate condition. Pregnancy is not an “illness” and pregnant women can do much more now than was previously thought. But that doesn’t mean it is not a condition that needs care and tending to, and anyone who argues otherwise is just being contrary. Pregnancy comes with an insanely long list of side effects and medical surprises that should make anyone wince, the most common of which are swollen feet and exhaustion. She wasn’t asked to be fawned over, carried about, or waited on. She just wanted to sit down.

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Eternal Dreamer July 11, 2011 at 6:35 pm

I was in a somewhat similar situation to the OP, but on the flip-side. My friend and I were enjoying some frozen yogurt in a crowded Fro-Yo, and managed to find one of the few empty tables in the building to sit down at (it was very busy). After eating/sitting for about 20 minutes, we were getting ready to leave when my friend answered a phone call. I ended up making a call myself at the same time. Well all the while, there was apparently a woman with several very young children (including a baby) standing right next to our table, trying to keep control of her kids while making sure everyone ate their treats. Unfortunately, I was completely oblivious to this and it didn’t register to me that these people would be much better off with the table than my friend and I. Fortunately, a man standing next to me politely tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I bet that lady could really use the table.” Flustered, I said something like, “Oh absolutely. We’re actually heading out right now.” 30 seconds later we moved from the table while my friend finished her phone call.

The point of the story is that sometimes people can be foolishly oblivious, like myself, and not necessarily rude or selfish. It wasn’t as if I saw the lady and her family and thought, “Why should she get the table? I was here first!” It was more of my eyes seeing someone in need but my brain not registering the situation due to idle chat with my friend and on the phone. It was still regrettable on my part, and has reminded me to be more vigilant in public settings like that, but let’s try to keep that in mind next time we hear/see of a similar situation.

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stephanie July 11, 2011 at 6:57 pm

It’s not just Melbourne. My friend (young and pretty, none the less) was 8 months pregnant and having to take the train around Sydney. Not one person offered their seat and it was obvious how much discomfort she was in. Another friend who has a baby and uses a stroller, also lives in Sydney and uses the train. She has been pushed out of the way so that people can get on the train or on the lift to get to the platform. It’s unbelievable. I lived in North Qld when pregnant with my first and I had people offering to hold my groceries whilst I boarded the bus. People gave up their seat. Asked how I was. I thought that was how it was Australia wide (boy was I wrong). I now live in a country town in Victoria and I have a toddler and pre-schooler. I always have people offering to open doors for me. Asking if I need any assistance. I think there’s a big difference in how people treat others in rural and regional towns versus capital cities.

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shari July 11, 2011 at 7:17 pm

The term ‘pretty pregnant’ would mean very well into the pregnancy, not the usual reference to one’s attractiveness.

I also have to take offence to the way the men were portrayed as half drunk and with no necks.
I would much prefer these ‘half drunk’ men catching public transport than being on the roads in their own vehicles.

I don’t know why on earth you would want to use public transport if it was that hot a day, I would be either catching a taxi, asking for a lift or staying inside in the air conditioning.

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SV July 11, 2011 at 8:32 pm

I agree with several of the posters- this should be a humanity issue, not a preganat woman’s issue, but speaking as a woman who has been preganat several times, I can say that although I never considered myself “ill” in any way I certainly was uncomfortable, exhausted, nauseous and clumsy. I always appreciated any kind gesture that was offered to me because of my pregnancy. I have always given my seat or place in line to those who quite obviously need it more than myself. That being said, the description of the bus’s occupants as being drunken college boys and the woman as being pretty should not factor into the story at all. SOMEONE on that bus, besides the elderly lady, should have offered their seat- any man or woman who was able bodied and had good manners.

In regards to statements about people not wishing to inadvertantly offend someone…I work in a place of business that frequently requires me to carry heavy ( 50lbs) bags for clients. I have had many somewhat awkward situations where I am carrying something quite heavy ( which I can do with ease) and am faced with the choice of giving it to the man who has asked for it or carrying it out to his car for him. I have found that many older men have been insulted by both the suggestion that they cannot carry the item in question ( if I offer to carry it) or embarassed because they cannot, in fact, do so. I solved this dilemma by simply not giving them the choice if I felt there might be any question of them being able bodied enough to lift it, and carrying it to their car without asking. I would make a statement like, ” Which car is yours? I’ll just keep going, I’m on a roll now!” to cover any awkwardness they might feel. In the situation of offering someone a seat but being unsure if they are indeed pregnant or in need, I think I would simply catch their eye and say, ” Would you like a seat? I don’t mind standing for awhile to stretch my legs. ” If they decline no harm has been done :)

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AS July 11, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Adding to my previous comment – (I remembered some incidences on my way back from work), I thought of two incidences that I would like to share.

First the bad one. I lived in a town where there were some seats reserved for women, and the front two seats near the door were for disabled people, though very often it wouldn’t be specifically mentioned (paint got rubbed off or something) and hence some people considered it as ladies seats. Once I was traveling back from my college, and I saw a heavily bandaged man sitting in one of the front seats. I saw him, but didn’t think of telling him to get up, even though there weren’t any other empty seats. But after some time, a pregnant lady got into the bus, and a few women started yelling at him saying that it was very rude of him to be sitting in women’s seats when there obviously a person who needs to sit was around. I was like… what??? And several of the women accusing him were actually sitting too! Finally, the gentleman got up from his seat (he had one hand and leg in plaster – so standing in a crowded, moving bus was no easy feat for him). When the men realized what was happening (took a while to realise because the bus was crowded), they led him to the men’s side, and someone got up to let him sit.
My question is – why did the other healthy women in the bus feel so entitled as to not offer their seat for this pregnant woman, but still make an obviously injured man (who needed to sit as much as the pregnant woman) get up? The pregnant woman was feeling bad though, and kept telling that she did not want him to get up – but the other women overpowered her.

My second story is a sweet one. I once saw an old lady, and gave her my seat on the bus. You should have seen her reaction! She almost had tears in her eyes, thanked me profusely, held my hand like what my (late) grandmother used to do in buses… I just can’t explain. We were brought up to leave the seat for people who need them more than us. But this old lady’s reaction not only made my day, but I still smile whenever I think of her. She renewed my faith in humanity.

BTW, I once mistook a girl who had a pot-belley to be pregnant. OOPS! That was a foot-in-mouth, and I had to apologize profusely!

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Liz July 11, 2011 at 8:43 pm

I can’t work out if the OP and Edhla are referring to Melbourne, Australia, or Melbourne, Florida, lol.

If it’s Melbourne, Aus, then I’m surprised that a pregnant woman was was not given a seat and that Edhla has experienced a lot of rudeness from Melbourne commuters. In my experience the average Aussie Melbourne commuter is excessively polite! Pregnant women and elderly passengers have almost always declined to take my seat when I offer it (and I do so almost everyday on my commute), saying that they’re fine and the they’re only going a few stops anyway, and aren’t you tired and sore too? :P Then when there’s a spare seat able bodied passengers will often say “you take it”, “no thank you, you take it”.

I’m an able bodied young woman, one day I was taking the tram home with 6 huge marketing text books in my arms. There were no spare seats on the tram, but a man about my age told me that they looked heavy and gave me his seat. I was so thankful, because they were heavy! I agree with other posters, sometimes it’s about being nice.

Of course there are rude people sometimes… I once saw a cyclist get on the tram with his bike (you can’t take bikes on the trams, only the trains) because he didn’t want to ride home any more, the driver asked him to get off and the cyclist proceed to swear at and abuse the driver. He then propped his bike up to go an yell at the driver some more after the drive had given up and continued the trip, allowing the bike to fall on other passengers. So rude.

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Sonya July 11, 2011 at 8:47 pm

I use a cane, and have difficulties with my balance. A lot of the time when a bus pulls up and it looks like it’s standing room only, I’ll wait for the next time as I’m not very steady on my feet and find it difficult standing on a moving bus. Occasionally someone will offer me their seat, but I hate to ask and would prefer to avoid the situation altogether. I get self-consicous about my disablity, as it’s only a recent development. One time a lovely elderly gentleman offered me his seat, and we were both insisting the other take it. A case of too much manners perhaps? My point being, that most of the time I cannot rely on the kindness of strangers, which is a little sad. Which means I must get over my self-consciousness and get better at asking.

When I was fully able bodied, I would always offer my seat to someone who looked like they needed it. And have never subscribed to the men offering to give up their seat for the ladies (of which I am one, sorry forgot to mention). I do however believe that children/teenagers should give up their seats for adults. The exception being kids under 5 or so who should stay with their mother. Often on the way to work, many are standing on the bus, and when it stops at the high school there’s a mass exodus and suddenly plenty of seats are available. There is a policy on our public buses that kids stand for adults, which is reinforced by the bus driver asking them to give up their seats. They pay a cheaper fare, and if they are able bodied it is just the manners that I was brought up with.

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AS July 11, 2011 at 8:55 pm

The “pretty , pregnant” put me off too. I thought the comma was a typo, but if the OP meant that men should offer seats to a girl just because she is pretty – well, you just lost all my sympathy. I don’t know what exactly went on here, but if the girl acted like a princess and entitled brat just because she is pregnant, even I might hesitate to give her my seat, and give her the seat and a piece of my mind.

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Chicken July 11, 2011 at 9:10 pm

I have to say I think the belly in the face thing is rude and wouldn’t give up my seat if someone was doing that. If you want a seat just ask me and I’ll get up.

I will say I’m schocked to hear a bus full of men just sat there and didn’t even offer a seat. In fact whenever we take public transport unless the bus is pretty much empty my fiancĂ© won’t even sit down. I myself am capable looking and young but men always offer me their seat while traveling. I just chalked it up to most men liking that “hero” feeling. I guess none of the men on that bus are familiar with it, quite sad.

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Zhoen July 11, 2011 at 9:36 pm

I remember in a Boston paper a lively discussion about giving pregnant women seats on the T. The initial complaint was from a woman who’d gone shopping, and wasn’t offered a seat, even though she was obviously pregnant. Older folks, disabled people, or those of us simply getting off a long day of work, objected to automatically giving up a seat to an otherwise healthy woman who did not have a job, just because she was pregnant.

When I had a shoulder injury, I had great difficulty holding on with only my left hand, so when I got a seat, I kept it for my own safety. I never asked to sit, but took my chances with everyone else. If a pregnant woman had tried to guilt me into offering her my dear seat, after my ten hour shift on my feet and the hour+ ride home, I would have politely refused. Not all disabilities are obvious.

Yes, there are breathtakingly rude people, who hog seats and ignore the real needs of those around them. Some of them are pregnant. I’m glad chivalry is dead, I don’t like some man being patronizing because I’m a weak and feeble woman. We just need kindness and humanity.

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Liz July 11, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Oh, having re-read the OP, it’s obviously Melbourne, Australia, with phrases like “bloke” and “Victorian Beer”

Still surprised by the rudeness of Melbourne commuters mentioned in this post and comments… hopefully they’re just isolated incidents!

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Harry July 11, 2011 at 9:45 pm

WHOA!! Hang on here a minute. I am a man with severe arthritis. I cannot stand more than a few minutes without being in excruciating pain. I have to sit down. Don’t paint all men with the same brush. I’m not condoning the actions of healthy, able bodied people but there are exceptions.

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bunnyface July 11, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Danielle- I was reading the whole thread and kind of thinking the same thing that you asked- people give up seats for kids? As a child I was taught to give up my seat for elders, and now as an adult I am usually surprised when mothers don’t give up their child’s seat for an obviously infirm adult, or take the child onto their lap to make room. I have never, ever heard of or seen adults giving up seats for children (and I’ve taken public transit in a lot of US and European cities), but I have often overheard ‘that child should move for that man with the cane/ that old lady’ etc. I will always give up my seat for an elderly or infirm person, but I do not plan on giving up my seat for a child, no.

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tinytx July 11, 2011 at 10:24 pm

@Kali Ravel – I was already standing. Hence being able to catch the child as she started to fall. If I had a seat when that child got on, she wouldn’t have fallen because she would have gotten my seat.

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Sarah Jane July 11, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Echo what badkitty said…I don’t think it was being insinuated that mom-to-be deserved better treatment because she’s attractive…I thought maybe the OP might have been pointing out a sad-but-true fact: the “pretty” people get noticed. Those boys saw her, all right.

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miss-em July 11, 2011 at 10:58 pm

I understand the initial hesitation to offering her a seat to start. Sometimes, even thought YOU think it’s obvious she is pregnant, there may be some men (and/or women) out there who have been polite enough to offer someone he thought was pregnant, but wasn’t, a seat and it lead to a bit of a situation which has now left him unsure about what to do…. allow me to explain:

I happen to carry a lot of weight in my belly area and it can lead to some confusion sometimes, especially dependant on what I wear. For example, a longer flowy top leads to a more ” is she or isn’t she pregnanat” look. I, and those who know me, know full well that I am not. However on bus trip home one night I had a gentleman offer me a seat. I sit down most of the day, so I wasn’t particlarly phased about sitting on the bus ride home, so politely declined his request. However, he proceded to jump up while exclaiming “No, no, please, a pregnant woman should always sit down”. I should have shut-up and sat, but my brain-mouth filter failed me, and I responded “Actually, I’m NOT pregnant, but thanks”. I have since learnt that if a guy wants to get up so I can sit down, I will just accept rather than make that kind of scene again. (This has also happened to a friend of mine, also on a bus).

I now imagine that this gentleman would be very hesitant to offer a seat for “pregnancy reasons” just in case he has the same kind of incident. Perhaps some of the people on the bus in this story have had, or have seen someone else have the same experinence as I did. Also, I know sometimes on my bus ride home I can become very quickly oblivious to what is going on around me, espicially if I am reading. Maybe some of the people on the bus in this story were in the same kind of “zone”.

As for the men described in the story, I would say it was more of a “don’t want to look like a wimp in front of my mates so I’m just gunna act dumb” thing. Seems like the little old lady set them straight though.

I disagree with her prodding her belly into other’s personal space. To me, that is just rude. I wouldn’t put up with someone’s bag or elbow in my face, so no way is your belly gunna fly.

And, lastly, and it is just a technicallity, but anyone who sits in the priority seating SHOULD pay more attention to their surroundings, and make way for those who need it – pregnant, elderly, injured. However no-one else on the bus is really “obliged” in any way to move for someone. It’s more or less the mentality of first in first served. How they were raised, and their own personal morals and ethics mean that some may still move for others, but techincally, they don’t actually HAVE to….

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Rug Pilot July 11, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Many years ago I was working in San Francisco temporarily and had to ride the busses and trolleys to get around. One time I injured my ankle and broke my foot, and had to wear a large bulky leg brace. On one trip out on the bus the driver jerked the bus forward before I could find a seat in the back. I was thrown to the floor and had to have help to get myself up again. On the way back I sat in the front where the disabled people can sit. An elderly man questioned whether I was sitting in the “right” place. I told him about the fall. He still questioned me. It was only when he saw me limp heavily off the bus very carefully one step at a time that he gave up.

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Jayne July 11, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Wow. I actually never had that problem in Melbourne. In fact, the last time I was there, a guy got off the bus to help me lift my suitcase on, and then helped me lift it off again the second I stood up, and wished me a nice stay in the city. Sydney is pretty bad – I got physically shoved out of the way by one young woman to get to a seat.

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danielle July 12, 2011 at 12:46 am

@bunnyface
After the women who wanted people to get up for thee kids got off the whole bus basically started talking about them (rude I know but I still think they kind of deserved it after they harangued every bus rider throughout there ride) and how nobody had ever been told they should give up a seat for a child, and actually while the women complained an elderly man got up and offered his seat to the kids who took the seat and did not get up when the mom basically screamed at the man for getting up for her kids-like the rest of us I think he just wanted her to shut up but instead she got louder

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Alex July 12, 2011 at 1:16 am

I truly don’t care if people think they should not get up because woman fought for equal rights. It is absolutely rude for someone to not offer their seat to a pregnant woman, elderly or anyone else needing assistance. Now is it against the law to not offer a seat? No, of course not but there are a lot of people lacking common courtesy. But then I do agree with people assuming and being rude about it is just as rude.

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RayChee July 12, 2011 at 1:57 am

Ok, so she asked one person to move, and they didn’t. What’s to stop her asking someone else? Perhaps people didn’t notice her. I know that when I am on public transport I am in a world of my own. Perhaps no one could see that she was pregnant. Perhaps they weren’t *pretending* to look somewhere else, perhaps they actually were looking somewhere else.

Really, if you want a seat, ask around. Someone will give you one eventually. Take control. The ‘poor poor me’ mentality is unfortunately growing stronger here however don’t be put off visiting – Melbourne is a great city and some of our Victorian beers are lovely!! Some of the men DO have short hair – hope that is not as offensive to others as it seems to be to the OP.

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Quieas July 12, 2011 at 5:32 am

Oh and I’d like to add ‘what an interesting assumption’ that those men were ‘probably drunk on awful Victorian beer.’ >(

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CC July 12, 2011 at 8:11 am

It’s not just on public transportation that these situations come up. My husband and I were at a popular chain restaurant one afternoon and the place was jam-packed. There were chairs along the wall in the lobby and there was a family of five seated in the majority of them. Mom and Dad each had a seat along with their three children. An elderly couple came in and saw that it was standing room only and saw that none of the three kids was really sitting in their chairs, so they asked if they might sit there. The kids started to move away to let the couple have their chairs, however, the mother told them to get back to their seats because they had been there first, leaving the couple, and all the surrounding people, with their mouths open. The family’s table became ready about that time, so they stood up to go, leaving their seats open for the elderly couple.

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Katie July 12, 2011 at 9:19 am

Quieas, do you really like Victorian beer? It IS pretty awful! Speaks the South Australian, of course ;-)

I agree, sometimes it is hard to tell if a woman is pregnant or not. If I’m not sure and the woman is near me, I usually just get up quite casually and move to stand near the door. (That way, they don’t know if I was just getting up because I was really to vacate the bus, so even if they’re not pregnant it doesn’t result in an embarrassing situation.) But as soon as she actually says it, all bets are off. I can’t believe NO ONE stood up. As I said above I’m an Aussie and I’ve always found people to be pretty cool on public transport here, including in Melbourne. Hope it’s not becoming common behaviour – it’s really disappointing :-(

To add a little perspective to the whole belly-pushing thing, I think this girl couldn’t have won either way. If she’d marched onto the bus, waited ten seconds and then started demanding a seat from all and sundry, she would’ve been considered even more pushy and entitled. It must be a pretty embarrassing thing to ask – particularly if you’re not a very forthright person, and particularly if you’ve got a good idea that at least some of the surrounding people will have noticed that you’re pregnant and not bothered to offer you their seat already. I can imagine a shy person having a hard time just continually asking until she got a seat, so I get her trying to make it obvious that she’s carrying a load rather than coming right out with it. It may seem rude, but she was likely embarrassed and tired and not sure of what to do.

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The Elf July 12, 2011 at 9:36 am

As a frequent public transportation rider, I have run into this fairly often. The bus & train ride is my opportunity to zone out and relax. I read or listen to music. Sometimes I nap. What I am not doing is paying attention to every single person boarding the train/bus. I’m happy to give up my seat to someone in greater need, like a pregnant woman. But first I have to notice that you are there.

Just ask. That’s it. Just ask. Don’t passive-aggressively loom or sigh dramatically or shift your weight uncomfortably wishing so hard that someone would just notice you. I won’t. I’m too deep in my book and it isn’t my duty to maintain ever-alert for pregnant women.

The woman in this story did ask, and the only person to get up was an elderly one? I find that odd, but that might be American vs Aussie culture. I would be shocked if an obviously pregnant woman asked for a seat on the DC metro and got zilch from everyone in the car. Those guys were clearly rude to have not gotten up when asked, but that does not negate the onus on the person in need to ask for assistance rather than assume that it is to be granted to her.

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Jillybean July 12, 2011 at 10:00 am

@Harry – that was exactly my point in an earlier post. Not everyone who NEEDS a seat has the benefit of looking like they need a seat (pregnant belly, cast, crutches, cane, etc). Miss Raven above said, “Pregnancy comes with an insanely long list of side effects and medical surprises that should make anyone wince, the most common of which are swollen feet and exhaustion.” To that I’d say, that LIFE, not just pregnancy, comes with an insanely long list of side effects and medical surprises, and that many people (particularly those who have jobs where they are on their feet all day) deal with swollen feet and exhaustion. Someone else mentioned nauseau and other symptoms. People undergoing medical treatments can suffer from the same thing. Someone with the flu or who had a bad lunch can suffer from that as well. They just don’t have the benefit of the pregnant belly alert system. I more often than not get up for pregnant women, older travelers, those that look like they need a seat. And when I’m feeling at my best, I don’t take a seat at all, so while I read I don’t have to pay attention to every new person who gets on the train to see if I should get up. But I also suffer from crippling migraines and vertigo. To look at me, I’d look able bodied, but sometimes, being able to sit down is the only thing that keeps me from falling down and/or hurling all over the train as I try to make my way home to bed. I’ve seen many an elderly person and pregnat woman refuse seats, because they didn’t actually need them. In the same way, many “able bodied looking” people actually do need seats.

Oh – and as for giving up a seat for a child – I do usually offer to let young children sit, or for their parent to take the seat with the child in their lap. The reason? On a crowded train, with a small child, I always fear they will get crushed by those who can’t see them, or due to their height get elbowed in the face, etc.

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Lisastitch July 12, 2011 at 11:43 am

One other issue with pregnancy that I haven’t seen mentioned is that your center of gravity changes and continues to change throughout the pregnancy so that you are much less stable and more likely to be thrown off balance when trying to stand in a moving bus.

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Wink-n-Smile July 12, 2011 at 12:28 pm

The thing about pregnancy is that it affects people differently. Both my mother and my aunt were sick from day 3. Falling down, fainting, throwing up, the works. From day 3. And that lasted the whole nine months.

My personal strategy is this – when I am unwell and on public transport, I play it up. I don’t moan and groan, but will hold my head or something, so that it’s obvious I’m unwell. If I have a seat, I continue, so that no one expects me to give it up. If I am unwell and need a seat, I’ll ask. If I’m well, and have a seat, and see someone who looks unwell, I will ask if they need a seat. If they say they do, I’ll offer mine. I’m a female, and not young nor healthy, which is why I’m more inclined to offer a seat, when I can. When I’m unwell and need it, I use it. If I’m having a good day, and don’t need it, I have a whole lot of sympathy for those who do, and will offer it, accordingly.

It’s hard to tell who is healthy and who is not, just by looking at their bodies. Their behavior, on the other hand, is quite telling. When in doubt ask, “Are you well?” If they say they’re fine, then great. If they say no, you don’t need to ask questions, just offer your help.

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tinytx July 12, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Me again. I do believe in giving my seat up for a young child because the primary people who need to sit are those for whom standing is potentially more dangerous. This means the elderly, the physically handicapped, pregnant, etc. (and as a former pregnant lady, I can attest that your balance isn’t so great when you’ve added a giant medicine ball to your abdomen in a relatively short span of time!)Little children cannot reach most of the straps or bars to secure their stance, and they often don’t have the strength or coordination to hold themselves upright. I’m young & healthy, so I don’t feel it’s right to sit when someone needs the seat more than me. That said, when I’m tired, I make a point of sitting all the way at the back of the bus. It’s highly unlikely you’ll feel compelled to give up your seat when it’s difficult for newcomers to even get to it!

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Mike Johnson July 12, 2011 at 2:08 pm

I have been dismayed by the large number of comments on here that the “men” didn’t get up for the OPs sister. Where there no able bodied women on the bus? Is it only considered rude if a “man” doesn’t do something polite? Seriously, there is something wrong when it is only considered the males duty to do the right thing or are the posters that stated that the men were rude all so delicate that they couldn’t be expected to stand on a bus.
I also have to agree with the idea that not all disabilities are obvious. I have had three heart surgeries and to outside observers I look completely healthy but believe me I’m not so the judgement call has to be tempered with the knowledge that not all disabilities come with a neon sign stating so.

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Nicole July 12, 2011 at 2:30 pm

People don’t always know if you’re pregnant or just fat. I was both, so I would sway side to side, and rub my belly fondly. Then someone would give me a seat.

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Leslie Holman-Anderson July 12, 2011 at 3:07 pm

I’m surprised at all the negative comments at the word ‘pretty.’ As it was juxtaposed with the description of the young men on the bus, I assumed it was mentioned because macho young men tend to give preferential treatment to pretty women and these didn’t.

Though if they were as drunk as OP surmised, it may have been best for all concerned that they remained sitting — I can just see them rolling like ten-pins down the aisle the next time the bus lurched!

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