This article was first posted on The Offline Citizen.
So I boarded the train yesterday and was standing around the reserve seat area. There was a young girl (late teens) seated there, chatting to her friend, another girl, wearing blue, standing next to me.
For some strange reasons when the train stopped at the next stop and a middle-aged Indian lady came onboard, the girl gave up the seat to her. And then at the next stop, the passenger in front of me, ie – next to the reserve seat now occupied by the Indian lady got up and left.
I looked around, saw that there wasn’t anyone in real need of a seat, and sat down. I was exhausted so i closed my eyes for like… 30 seconds. When I opened, there was an old lady who really looked like she needed a seat. As I was about to offer the seat to her, the Indian lady got up first. So the old lady took the seat, and me, feeling bad for the Indian lady who only sat for like, one minute asked, if she wanted my seat.
And that was when the girl in blue muttered under her breath rather unpleasantly, “of course she wants the seat.”
Anyway, I got up and the Indian lady sat down. And when the girl in blue said what she said, something in me just snapped.
Maybe because a seat on the train has become a rare commodity nowadays regardless of time of day.Maybe because every corner you turn, there are always someone else who need a seat more than you do. (Let me say categorically, that when I’m aware of it, I almost always give up my seat to whomever who needs it) Maybe because you no longer know exactly who qualifies for a seat. Maybe because you’ve stood up and offered a seat to practically anyone who has just that bit of grey hair – and was told they prefer to stand – making you look like a fool for offering. (Thank God I haven’t had the opportunity to encounter a woman whom you thought was pregnant and turned out to be just… fat, and your offer is met with a basilisk glare.)
Or maybe because the unspoken rules and rituals of train etiquette have become a cause of stress.
Imagine sitting on the train and not being allowed to sleep when you’re tired, or lose yourself in a book. Imagine having to look up from your book every other stop to see if anyone who needs a seat has boarded. Imagine being genuinely tired, dozed off, and then having your picture appear on STOMP the next day with a pregnant woman’s belly in the foreground and the caption saying- “Young man pretends to sleep while depriving seat to pregnant woman”.
And imagine self-righteous train-etiquette Nazis purposely verbalizing their superiority within earshot of the person who broke the perceived ‘rules’.
So I guessed, something had to give. Pity the young girl.
I went up to her and just said, “I didn’t see the old lady.”
She sneered not looking me in the eye, “Yeah, that’s cos you were sleeping.”
“Yes. Cos i woke up at six in the morning.” (It was only half-true. I woke up at six, went to pee and went back to bed and didn’t wake up until nine.)
She kept quiet. For some unknown reason I felt compelled to continue-
“So stop being a bitch about it.”
Then I turned away.
Yes. She was probably only 18 years old. Yes, it appeared incredibly petty and ungentlemanly of me. Maybe she wasn’t even guilty of the intent which I ascribed to her, and she was the unfortunate target of my bottled up frustrations at the daily rituals you still to observe in perpetually over-crowded trains. Yes, I think God just gave me a few demerit points and I had just confirmed my reincarnation into a lesser animal in my next life.
But it felt good. Something I haven’t felt in a long time.
For I had suddenly discovered the true purpose of my life.
Watch out train-etiquette Nazis. Here comes the Inglourious Train Bastard.