This morning I boarded my usual New York City subway after the normal rush hour which meant that the train wasn’t jam packed.  Crowded yes but not jam packed.  All the seats were taken so I stood in the middle of the car (where I normally stand anyway) and prepared myself for the 15 minute ride to my destination.

While standing there I felt a tap on my arm. Looking down I saw the face of a young lady smiling up at me. What struck me was her shocking pink hair and the metal studs sticking out of her lips and ears.

I asked her, “Yes?”  She then asked me, “Would you like my seat?”  I said, “No, thank you, I’m fine” and she went back to reading her book while I stood there swaying and balancing to the motion of the subway.

As I stood there I stared to wonder why she would offer me her seat. There were other people standing nearby but she singled me out.  I looked up and that’s when I saw it. The NYC subways now have signs posted saying, “Be courteous. Offer  your seat to a pregnant, disabled or elderly person.”

I know I’m not pregnant. I know I don’t have a disability. So the young woman must have looked at me and thought “elderly!”

Me? Elderly? Like in senior citizen ready to be put out to pasture or being fitted for a new casket-sized home?  ME????

My first reaction was, “Is that what people think when they see me? I don’t even have much grey hair.”  My second reaction, and I’m glad I didn’t act on it, was to show this young woman and everyone else around me who were thinking “look at the old guy” that they were all wrong. I was going to start doing chin-ups on the subway overhead handrail or knock off a dozen or so one-handed push-ups on the subway car floor.

So what did I truly do? The train pulled into the station and the young woman stood up to leave. As she passed by me she smiled and wished me a good day. Standing there I looked down at the now empty seat and debated with myself whether or not to sit down, even though I only one more stop to go.

Thinking that if I sat down I would be surrendering to public perception. Before I had to prolong the debate with myself I looked over and saw a pregnant woman get on the subway. Motioning to her I smiled and said, “Would you like my seat?”

Congratulations to the NYC subway system “be courteous” program. The signs work.


About nhbrownlee

Advertising copywriter, Creative Director and state of New York college professor. I love true stories. Who doesn't?
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