Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Give It Up For The Little Guy (Or Don't???)

People are always saying things on the Internet. But they are such teases! So we have to ask.

Dan! So what happened here?
I was standing on the N train, and I just happened to look over as a middle-aged man of average height was offering his seat to a middle-aged little person. (I am going to use “little person” throughout this piece even though I’m not 100 percent sure that’s the most appropriate terminology. But it’s the name of a TLC show, so I feel like I’m on pretty solid ground. Please direct all angry tweets and emails to TLC.) The entire exchange took place entirely through gestures: Seat Man did that thing where you half-stand and point to the seat and look at the other person expectantly, as if to say, “Hey, you want this?” The little person, who was holding on to the pole about a foot away, gave him a “No thanks, I’m fine” wave. And that was it.

How would you answer the question you posed in your tweet? Put another way: What would you suspect is the appropriate manner of proceeding in that situation?

It’s a difficult question! The etiquette surrounding seat priority is complex and ambiguous. Obviously you should get up for a pregnant woman, an elderly or frail person, a young child, or an injured or handicapped person. But it’s not always so clear who fits into these categories. How young is young enough? Am I getting up for a 7-year-old? And how old is old enough? It’s not as if people walk around with name tags reading “I’m 68 and have a bad hip and have trouble standing for extended periods of time.” Dan, why not just err on the side of being a nice person? Okay Mother Teresa, settle down over there.

The little person scenario is not one I had thought about before, and it’s more fraught than most. On the one hand, Seat Man was trying to be selfless and courteous, and hey, all other things being equal, maybe a little person would get more benefit from the seat than an average-sized person. However, I personally wouldn’t have offered my seat to the little person because I would be worried about embarrassing or insulting him by *assuming* that he required my act of charity. As with the seemingly pregnant woman who isn’t actually pregnant, this is one of those situations in which trying to be nice can backfire.

Lesson learned (if any)?

I learned nothing from this. I have more questions than ever before.

Just one more thing:

My hope is that a little person advocacy group sees this post and announces some kind of ruling before I get on the subway again.

Matthew J.X. Malady is a writer and editor in New York.

10 Comments / Post A Comment

r&rkd (#1,719)

"Please direct all angry tweets and emails to TLC."

I always do.

Speaking as a young-ish (well, almost middle-aged), healthy, not particularly little male, my default position on a train that doesn't have plenty of seats to spare is to stand. This is because a) there very likely is or will be someone else on the train who needs a seat more than I, and b) because I don't want to worry about having to ascertain who that person may or may not be.

ejcsanfran (#489)

@Captain Bringdown: And don't forget c) because there is likely to be urine, feces, blood, vomit or some other bodily excretion in the seat.

SuperWittySmitty (#6,160)

@ejcsanfran What train do you ride? I use the 7 a lot, and use the subway in Manhattan weekly. I rarely have body fluids to deal with like you're implying. I'm betting you live in some backwater suburb and riding the subway is a rare but occasional thrill for you.

Peteykins (#1,916)

Hmmm… I think it seems a little patronizing? Like, I would offer my seat if the "little person" had mobility issues or some kind of handicap, or was pregnant, but I don't see being a little person in and of itself being a handicap.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

"What's the etiquette there?"

Just stay away from the subway, weirdo.

justhere2upvote (#233,597)

"Obviously you should get up for a…young child"

I disagree! If the kid can stand on his or her own why are they more deserving of a seat than a middle aged person? Plus kids hate sitting. F them I say!

@justhere2upvote I've never heard anyone before suggest we should give up our seats for children. It's a subway not a lifeboat.

likethestore (#32,383)

@My Number Is My Address Little kids have trouble keeping their balance. But "It's a subway not a lifeboat" has had me giggling for a good five minutes.

SuperWittySmitty (#6,160)

If they are riding for free, they should be sitting on someone's knee.

Post a Comment