I Was a Bystander

http://stevehirano.typepad.com/blog/2012/10/how-do-you-say-please.htmlI like sitting at the back of a bus. The seats there are slightly raised, so I have a better view of the scenery as we pass. That makes it easier for me to know when I have to ring the bell to get off at my stop.

While sitting at the back of a bus yesterday, I noticed a frail elderly woman get on the bus at the front. She carried a cane and had to hold on to a pole to steady herself as the bus moved away from the stop.

All the local buses have an area at the front that has preferred seating for the disabled, the elderly, and for people with children in strollers. The seats are along the sides of the bus and face inward, so that it is easier for those people to seat themselves. This is a fairly normal arrangement for buses and other forms of public transportation, so most people are familiar with the concept.  Even if someone didn’t know about this norm, there are signs and diagrams on the windows of the bus to make it clear.

As such, it came as a surprise to me to see a young man—probably in his early twenties—sitting on the seat closest to the driver in the seating assigned for people with limited mobility.  Not only was he sitting there, but he had a bag on the seat beside him, thus taking up two seats.

He watched the elderly woman enter the bus, and continued to watch as she struggled to get to the bench seats. She was holding on the pole near the driver and was reluctant to let go as the bus trundled along and swayed slightly to change traffic lanes.

I kept expecting him to stand up and offer her his seat, but he didn’t. I thought he might lift his bag off the seat beside him, but he didn’t. Perhaps he considered that, since there were three seats and he was using only two, there was no need for him to move.  I wanted to help the woman, but I was too far away to be able to easily be of assistance. I hoped someone closer would give her a hand.  But none of us did. Not the young man, not the people seated nearby, and not me.  None of us helped.

She eventually was able to sit down, and I was relieved. Then I was surprised that the young man left the bus at the very next stop!  Surely he could have stood up and waited that short distance to enable the woman to take the closest seat, couldn’t he?

I’m still bewildered by this. It is tempting to go into a rant about how manners have changed since I was young, or how young people now have a sense of entitlement, but I won’t. Mostly, I’m mad at myself for watching it all happen and doing nothing.  I was a bystander, and I know better. I hope that if something like this happens again I’ll get up off my backside and do something instead of making excuses for letting rudeness go unchecked.


Image source here.


  1. Sadly, the man’s behaviour is normal in some cultures, where women are considered second class citizens, although there is generally a respect for elderly people.
    It can be quite dangerous to intervene in bus situations in Vancouver because of the prevalence of drugs there.

    1. I didn’t feel as though the situation was dangerous. The young man just looked oblivious. Your thought about women’s status is well taken, but I like to think that most people in Canada still respect each other equally.

  2. Yep,the term ”When I was a lad” immediately springs to mind.
    I would have been tempted to make a polite but pointed inquiry as to whether his manners were in the bag he held.
    Sadly,no matter how one addressed the bloke the result was not likely going to be pleasant.
    It would have been heartwarming to see the woman give the lout a rap with her cane and yell: ”Oi, dipshit! ( or local equivalent ) How about a little courtesy?”

      1. Do you remember the Monty Python sketch, ”Hell’s Grannies”? ( A skit on Hell’s Angels, of course)

        If you haven’t seen it, see if you can find it on Youtube.

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